Off The Draw
News and notes from a great hockey weekend:
• There’s a widely-quoted (though entirely spurious) theory in baseball that a team that has too many former Cubs on its roster is doomed to failure.
Since the big trade that brought defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli over from Toronto, the wheels have come off in Nashville. Saturday night’s loss to the Jets was the Preds’ sixth straight, and their Central Division lead is down to just two points. The sudden slide came after five months of dominant consistency that never saw Nashville lose more than two games in a row—which finally happened for the first time in the middle of January. But starting on Feb. 26 with a 4–2 loss to the Wild, the Predators have hit a serious winless skid.
So yeah, the thought of a curse has probably entered the minds of their fans.
The problem, though, isn’t the new guys. Nashville has now allowed the first goal in 11 straight games. The team’s power play can’t seem to gain the offensive zone despite the fact that the Preds are aces when playing five-on-five. And suddenly they can’t get a big stop from goaltender Pekka Rinne when they need it. So their problems go much deeper than a couple of depth players bringing bad mojo.
If anything, Nashville needs to simplify its game right now. A couple of recent viewings suggest to me that they’re great at cycling, but not so good at getting bodies to the net to finish plays after they’ve created something along the walls. Throwing a few more shots at the goalie’s feet might help, too. Nashville made it too easy on Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson on Saturday, routinely firing shots directly into his gut instead of aiming them someplace where he’d be forced to make a play.
Fortunately, the struggling Coyotes are the Preds’ next opponent. If they can’t turn it around against Arizona, then it’s time to worry.
• Some amazing stats out of the Rangers’ 1–0 overtime win over the Blackhawks on Sunday. Cam Talbot’s shutout was his fifth of the season, matching teammate Henrik Lundqvist (who’s been out since early February with an injury). This is the first time in franchise history that two goalies have had five shutouts in the same season. Talbot also became the first New York goaltender to blank Chicago since the great Eddie Giacomin turned the trick on Jan. 25, 1969, and the first to do it in Chicago since Giacomin’s whitewash of the Hawks on Christmas Day in ’66.
• Nazem Kadri was the big news in Toronto this weekend after he arrived late for a team meeting on Sunday morning and was sent home from practice. He’ll be front and center again today as everyone waits to see whether Maple Leafs coach Peter Horachek will bench the 24-year-old forward for Monday night’s game against the Islanders. Whatever happens, it’s just more noise from Team Turmoil. The real story, the one that mattered the most, was Toronto’s decision to shut down defenseman Stephane Robidas for the season. Despite his short time with the Leafs, the veteran had established himself as an important presence in the dressing room, and as someone younger players could look to as an example of how to prepare for games and how to conduct themselves in the NHL. On a team where too many of the leaders do not lead, Robidas was the an arrow that was always pointing in the right direction. He’ll be sorely missed down the stretch.
• Expect the topic of emergency goalies to be discussed when the NHL’s GMs meet next week. League rules could be tweaked to allow teams to keep a third netminder on their rosters. The extra man would be on hand specifically in case a situation came up like the one that did in Florida last week, when both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya left a game with injuries. The spare goalie wouldn’t be a prospect, though, since those players are better served by playing regularly in the minors. Instead, you’d likely see former college and junior keepers, whose careers have no real upside and who would be willing to be with a team throughout a season in case of emergency. There probably wouldn’t be a lot of money involved in such a job, but there would nevertheless be lines out the door made up of guys willing to do it.
• Everyone loves a good ol’ hypothetical redraft, so Jack Todd asks this question about the Class of 2005: Based on the way they’re playing today, would you take Carey Price or Sidney Crosby No. 1?
• The greatest female hockey player in the world needs to find a job.