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Brad Boyes, Brad Boyes, Whatcha Gonna Do?

Heading into tonight's game in St. Louis, you couldn't quibble with the Predators 2-0 start, except perhaps to say that both victories were games that a top team is expected to win, as both Colorado and Dallas had played the previous night and had to fly into Nashville on little rest. Against the Blues, the same argument could be made. Despite being a popular pick to return to the playoffs, St. Louis came in three defensemen short (Jay McKee, Erik Johnson and Eric Brewer) and goaltender Manny Legace was playing on a wonky knee.

The Recap
Early on, a rather pedestrian-looking 3-on-2 for St. Louis gave Brad Boyes a wide open opportunity coming down the slot. It looked to me like Greg de Vries failed to stay home on his man and take that crossing pass away. Chris Mason challenged, but Boyes flipped it in easily for a 1-0 lead. Darcy Hordichuk threw down with D.J. King shortly thereafter, battling hard to a draw with his much larger opponent. Nashville seemed intent on laying the body on St. Louis early and often, although ultimately that may have led to some early penalties.

Boyes made it 2-0 on a rebound opportunity, following up on his own shot to widen the St. Louis lead. You had to feel for de Vries this time, as he did stay home to protect the back door, only to leave enough room for Boyes to pick up that rebound as a result. Sometimes, even doing the right thing results in a puck in the back of the net.

The Blues pretty much stifled the Nashville offense through most of the 1st, including a strong, aggressive PK effort midway through the period. The 2nd didn't get off to any better of a start for the Preds, as Ryan Johnson put a nifty backhander over Mason's shoulder on the short side to stretch the lead to 3-0.

As if that wasn't bad enough, a Lee Stempniak goal a few minutes later pushed things to 4-0, and chased Mason from the net (although in his defense, he had Martin Rucinsky fall into him and his stick was pinned). Barely halfway into the game, it seemed time to warm up the bus for a quick trip out of town.

Comic relief came on a D.J. King breakaway, when he got off an incredibly weak wrister that made this longtime beer-leaguer feel a little better about himself for making similar flubs all the time. Considering the incredible amount of skill demonstrated by even the lowliest NHL player, when they slip up it makes reminds us how difficult the game of hockey truly is.

The Nashville offense finally sparked to life late in the second, as the Arnott/Dumont pair got some good chances and ultimately Jordin Tootoo slipped one through Legace's five-hole after a slick feed from Alexander Radulov to make it 4-1 St. Louis. Heck, if people don't like Radulov playing alongside Bonk & Gelinas, perhaps they need to line him up with Tootoo & Hordichuk?

Down by three heading into the final period, Barry Trotz answered the prayers of many Predators fans by lining up Radulov with David Legwand and Martin Erat. They immediately got some shots on net, but nothing particularly dangerous. During a 4-on-4 situation Erat and Dan Hamhuis set up a nice chance for Legwand, which left a rebound that lay right outside the crease for de Vries, but he whiffed mightily. The final score was 4-1 Blues, and the Predators headed home to kick the dog, err, the Phoenix Coyotes, tomorrow night.

Notes
Dan Ellis, who turned aside 14 shots in relief, is one active goaltender. He came way out to play a puck near one of the faceoff dots late in the 3rd, and spun around to fire it behind his net. Other times, he danced dangerously close to the dreaded Trapezoid of Doom, tempting a Delay of Game call.

Ville Koistenen looks pretty comfortable out there, and seemed reasonably efffective during some PP action.

While de Vries was the most visible D-man out there for a couple goals against, he also showed some savvy on the offensive end, sneaking through for rebound or back-door chances when the team was trying to make a comeback late.

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