Kukla's Korner

Where’s my paycheck, Coach?

Last night’s come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins was sweet on many levels for Nashville fans; the offense finally sprung to life, the power play tallied the game-winning goal, and the team as a unit responded well when all hope seemed lost at the bottom of a 3-0 hole.

But for me, the game was like my Personal Request Night from Barry Trotz; the guy pushed the buttons I’ve been calling for over the last couple weeks, and each one paid off in spades.

Let me count the ways...

1. Send Antti Pihlstrom back to Milwaukee - look for this once Sully comes off IR. I like Pihlstrom’s hustle, but his lack of size just has him bouncing off opponents.  He played on a line with Fiddler and Tootoo, logging only 11:38.
2. Bench underperforming forwards, and open a competition for ice time: After Joel Ward sat Tuesday night, Rich Peverley and Wade Belak didn’t play against Pittsburgh.  Jordin Tootoo was also sent a message in practice Thursday morning, and skated the least of any Predator last night with 10:08.  Finally, ice time will be earned, not handed out.
3. Bench one of the Gregs on defense and let both VK and KK play: As my wife and I walked to our seats and I saw the scratches on the scoreboard, I was downright giddy; finally, for the first time all season, someone other than Ville Koistinen or Kevin Klein was sitting out (de Vries).  Trotz even paired the two on the blueline, and they fared reasonably well.
4. Use Peverley or Santorelli on the 2nd line, putting Legwand in a checking role: Instead of putting Legwand on the 3rd line (where I still think he’d be effective), Trotz lined up Leggy on the wing with Jason Arnott and Martin Erat, a surprising move that I really admire. That 2nd line, with Santorelli between J.P. Dumont and Ryan Jones, provided great support.  They didn’t get rewarded on the score sheet, but kept buzzing around the Pittsburgh zone and all three posted solid Corsi Numbers for the game.  All too often an offensively-oriented AHL call-up gets stuck (as Tom Callahan noted in the postgame show) “between two pluggers”, and fails because he’s not just being asked to step up to the NHL level, but to do so without the tools to do the job.
5. Recall Ryan Jones: Jones looked dynamic out there last night, making game-changing plays through pure hustle. On more than one occasion, Pittsburgh had an opportunity to clear the zone, but Jones kept moving his feet and turned the puck around to keep offensive opportunities alive. And yes, he drew another penalty as well, pushing his Penalty Plus/Minus figure to +14, which ties him for 7th in the NHL at this point.

It will be interesting to see how the lines continue to evolve in light of Steve Sullivan taking the ice Saturday night, in what should be a monster sports day here in Nashville (more on that later today).  For now, however, we can bask in afterglow of a big win last night. It’s not like the season has been turned around, but it was a very solid effort by both the guys on the ice and the coaching staff, with just one exception…

What was the deal with pulling Dan Ellis after a puck deflected off Jason Arnott to make the score 2-0 Pittsburgh? Ellis wasn’t at fault, and even the Pittsburgh fans sitting around me were befuddled as to why the goalie was getting yanked.  According to Brandon Felder, Trotz said it was to “change the luck” of the team, and didn’t reflect on Ellis’ play, but there are other ways to send a message to your team and shake things up (take a timeout, double-shift some guys and bench others) than to single out your goaltender and make him do the “Skate of Shame” to the bench.  Just check out the following from Brandon’s post-game quotes:

Felder - “Obviously the game wasn’t a great start but it was really bad luck goals. Were you at all frustrated by getting pulled there?”

Dan Ellis - “I think it was stupid. Bottom line. It’s the exact same thing as last year. So yeah I was frustrated. Absolutely. I can’t stop both teams.”

Dan, I can’t say I blame you; that move was perplexing, and the one sour note on an otherwise dynamite night at the Sommet Center.

Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink


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