Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
It was reported by The Tennessean and subsequently confirmed by the Nashville Predators that they had reached deals with restricted free agents Cal O'Reilly, Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, and Chris Mueller Thursday afternoon. Spaling and Halischuk signed 2-year deals for $2.1 million and $1.425 million respectively. O'Reilly's 1-year deal is worth $1.05 million. Mueller signed a 2-way, 1-year deal for $550k.
Late Friday morning CBC reported that the Nashville Predators also avoided the arbitration ruling with Sergei Kostitsyn when they signed him to a 1-year 2.5 million deal. The Preds have regained their leading scorer from last season leaving once again the top priority....
All-star defenseman Shea Weber has also yet to sign. David Poile said in an interview with 104.5 The Zone that he and Weber's agent will resume talks next week.
Monday, June 27, 2011
It's official. Steve Sullivan will not be a Nashville Predator in the 2011-2012 season. The organization has chosen not to resign him, and he will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft in the 9th round, and after stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks, he found himself with the Nashville Predators. Nashville acquired Sullivan on February 16, 2004 from Chicago for a couple of second round picks, and the rest is history. Here are Steve Sullivan's top 5 moments as a Nashville Predator.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Everyone that pays the slightest bit of attention to the Nashville Predators knows the team's greatest need. Offense. The top goal-scorer for Nashville in the 2010-2011 season was Sergei Kostitsyn who tallied 23 goals in the regular season. Only one other Predator passed the 20-goal mark last season. Patric Hornqvist notched 21 goals, 9 shy of his '09-'10 total. The Predators need goal-scorers, and it's no secret. The organization has hung their hat on defense and goaltending since the franchise's birth leaving no immediate need at those two positions, but depth never hurts, of course. Still you would expect Nashville's first selection to be based on the need for offense.
The acquisition of Mike Fisher in February left Nashville without a first round pick, but there were many speculations and rumors surrounding a trade by Nashville to move up to get a first round pick. Teams kept making picks, and eventually the first round concluded. David Poile decided to stay put and not give up any key late round picks or prospects. The prospect that everyone suspected Nashville wanted to trade up for, Alexander Kokhlachev, was still available, however, heading into the Predators' first pick. But of course, like a true Nashville professional sports franchise, they surprised us all with this pick.
ROUND 2, PICK 38: G Magnus Hellberg Sweden Almtuna, Sweden-2
Like many in Pred Nation, I was absolutely shocked when I saw that Nashville had taken a goalie with their first pick. I thought that the pick was a no-brainer, but that's why I'm not a general manager. Hellberg is said to have the height of Anders Lindback and the skill of Pekka Rinne. With the plethora of promising net-minders in the Nashville Preadators system, I'm still left scratching my head at this one. Yes, Hellberg had a GAA of just 2.04 and 5 shutouts in 31 games played last season with Almtuna, but I feel that Nashville may have passed up on a key component to the future of this team in Alexander Kokhlachev (picked subsequently by Boston). He's a goal-scorer and a Predators type player. Only time will tell if this was a good decision by Poile and company.
ROUND 2, PICK 52: F Miikka Salomaki Finland Karpat, Finland
The 5-11 winger is certainly not know for his offense. He put up only 4 goals and 6 assists in 40 games last season. He's described as "rambunctious" by The Hockey News. He tallied 3 points in 6 games in the World Juniors Championship with Finland, so he's not inept when it comes to offense. I see him as a Jordin Tootoo type player, being a pest to opponents. He was also drafted in the KHL by Dynamo Minsk, so it will be interesting to see if he heads to Russia or to North America to develop his skills.
ROUND 4, PICK 94: F Josh Shalla Canada Saginaw, OHL
Round 4 finally saw Nashville select a goal-scorer. In Shalla's last two seasons in the OHL, he racked up at least 30 goals and 25 assists, including his 2010-2011 campaign where he tallied 47 goals in 68 games. The sooner he can get to Milwaukee and then to Nashville the better. Shalla can fill an immediate need if he's physically ready to take on the NHL.
ROUND 4, PICK 112: D Garrett Noonan USA Boston University, NCAA
Noonan is a stay-at-home defenseman but did put up 11 assists in 38 games in his first year at Boston University. He had only 4 goals, but offense isn't the reason he was selected. He put up good numbers in high school so with time he might be able to blossom offensively. This feels like a safe pick to me, and I think that Noonan will eventually put on the Nashville Predator sweater. It might take some time, but I have a good feeling about Noonan's chances in the NHL down the line.
ROUND 5, PICK 142: D Simon Karlsson Sweden Malmo Jr, Super Elite
The Predators once again turned to Scandinavia for their 5th pick of the draft. Nashville added another blueliner in Simon Karlsson. Elite Prospects describes him as "a very smart defenseman with good hockey sense and solid puck skills" who "contributes both ways" with "decent mobility." His stats aren't overwhelming, but does show potential stockpiling 21 points in 15 games in the J18 Elite league in 2010-2011. Karlsson also has a great chance in making it in the NHL but needs to develop physically. He weighs only 179 lbs and stands 6-2 in height. He's only 17 so he will have a long development process.
ROUND 6, PICK 170: F Chase Balisy USA Western Michigan University, NCAA
Chase Balisy is a 2-way forward that fits the Predator mold. He's got a nice shot and makes tape-to-tape passes. The freshman tallied 30 points in 42 games at Western Michigan last season and had 3 points in 7 games at the World Junior Championships. Balisy is also not afraid to make the dirty plays. He blocks shots, wins battles, and isn't afraid to deliver a check. Chase Balisy certainly has a good chance to eventually play for Nashville because of his style of play.
ROUND 7, PICK 202: F Brent Andrews Canada Halifax, QMJHL
The Nashville Predators took somewhat of an enforcer with their 7th round draft pick. He's dropped the gloves a few times and has shown to be quite good at it. He was not selected for his offensive skill, but we did see improvements in his offensive numbers from two seasons ago to last season. In the 2010-2011 season, he almost doubled his goals and assists from the '09-'10 season. He stands at 6-2 and weighs in at 201 lbs. Here is a video of Andrews coming to his teammate's aid as he faces off against Jeremy Gouchie.
No one will really know the success of this draft until four or five years down the line, but I like this group of guys that Poile and the rest of the staff have put together. I really like the chances of a good amount of these young players to don the blue and yellow (those are our colors, right?).
Sources: The Hockey News, eliteprospects.com, NHL.com
Photo Credits: eliteprospects.com, mlive.com, 123people.com, wmubroncos.com, metronews.ca
Friday, June 17, 2011
Game 1 in Vancouver was one of the most painful games to watch for Pred fans in a while. Pekka Rinne was playing out of his mind after a 1st round that saw the Predators' goaltender off his usual game at times. The Canucks piled on the chances on the power play in the first and most of the second period. Rinne had managed to smother them all until Chris Higgins found the back of the net on a goal which was initially waved off. 1-0 Vancouver at the end of two. During the first two periods, the Nashville Predators did not belong on the same sheet of ice as the Canucks. They turned it around in the third but were still unable to tally. The best chance came on a Mike Fisher short-handed breakaway. The Canucks lead 1-0 when the final horn sounded and led the series by that same score.
Game 2 was met with questions regarding the Nashville Predators' ability to win even a game against Vancouver. And the way the Canucks dominated every aspect of game 1, could you blame them? The Predators came to play, however, and had some great chances in the first period but Roberto Luongo stopped all 12 shots. Rinne was solid and stopped the Canucks' six shots in the first. Nashville had an early second period power play, but it was the Canucks that tallied on this power play. Sergei Kostitsyn turned the puck over in the neutral zone, and Alex Burrows didn't waste the opportunity. 1-0 Canucks. The Preds continued their offensive onslaught but still were unable to find a way to beat the Vezina Trophy candidate, Luongo. But finally with just over a minute left in regulation with Rinne headed to the bench for the extra attacker, Ryan Suter banked a shot off of the leg of Luongo into the net. In the first overtime, Pekka Rinne was the star once again making amazing save after amazing save and forcing a second overtime. After more fireworks from Pekka Rinne, Nick Spaling found Matt Halischuk who found the spot between Luongo's left shoulder and the crossbar. 2-1 Preds win. Series tied 1-1.
The Nashville Predators were welcomed home to a deafening and blinding crowd. For the first time ever, a Western Conference Semi-Final game was to be played in Nashville and Bridgestone Arena. David Legwand opened up the scoring in the first period on a shorthanded goal. Joel Ward found Legwand in the slot on a delayed Vancouver penalty, and Leggy had the wide open net and the Predators led by one. Luongo stopped a Steve Sullivan breakaway chance late in the first and that's how the period would end. The Canucks had an early power play chance and converted just a minute into the second period on the stick of Ryan Kesler. This goal was the start of Kesler's dominance for the rest of the series. Nashville had the best chance in the same period just as the second came to a close but were unable to break the tie. Chris Higgins was able to break the tie at 3:03 of the third period. Pekka Rinne was forced out of the net and Higgins put it in the virtually empty net. With 6:42 left in the third period, Joel Ward found a way past Luongo on the wrap around, and we were headed to overtime again. About midway through the OT period, Shea Weber was called for a very controversial hooking penalty on Ryan Kesler. Kesler then of course tipped in the game-winning goal to give Vancouver the 2-1 series lead.
Bridgestone Arena was fired up for game 4 on Wednesday, May 5th. The intro video was drowned out by 17,113 chanting "Let's go Predators!" But it was Vancouver that struck first. Christian Erhoff blasted a shot from the point late in the opening period to put the Canucks on top. Pekka Rinne wanted a goalie interference call but did not get it. The first period would not end that way, however. Joel Ward set up shop in front of Luongo and jammed home a power play goal to tie the game at one. Midway throught the second period, Alexander Edler broke the tie with a slap shot from the point that made it through traffic past Rinne. The Predators once again showed their resiliency as Cody Franson fired a slap shot past Luongo to tie the game for the second time of the game with 3:27 gone in the third period. But the Canucks proved to be too much for Nashville as Ryan Kesler split the Nashville defense in impressive fashion and beat Rinne for the game-winner. Henrik Sedin added a empty netter, and Vancouver took a 3-1 series lead.
Game 5 in Vancouver. The Canucks will surely finish off the Predators at home, right? Wrong. David Legwand set the tone with a shorthanded breakaway goal just 3:42 into the game. But Raffi Torres tied the game due to a bad turnover by Jonathan Blum and Ryan Kesler gave Vancouver the lead on a 2 on 1 rush. Under a minute into the second, David Legwand flipped the puck over the net, off of Alexander Edler, and into the net. Tie game. The third period belonged to Joel Ward. His two goals put up 4-2. Kesler cut the lead in half late in the period but Nashville was able to hang on and pull within one game of the series. This was Nashville's first win facing elimination. This win will provide future confidence for the Predators, knowing that they can win with their backs against the wall.
Game 6 saw new hope for the Predators. Two wins in a row and Nashville would be moving on to the conference finals. Vancouver had something to say about that as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead with Mason Raymond and Daniel Sedin doing the honors. The Nashville Predators could seemingly get nothing done. They went into the locker room trailing by that same score and almost went into the locker room again down by that score. David Legwand prevented that by firing a puck at the net from a bad angle that found its way past the goal line. The Predators missed on multiple chances after that goal both in the second and third period. Nashville's last push saw Shea Weber getting his shots from the point but none could find the back of the net. Game. Series. Season. But it wasn't the end of a normal season. A historic season. Much was accomplished and much is to be accomplished by the Nashville Predators.
Well thank you for joining me on this journey through the ups and downs of the 2011-2011 season. This has been my own way of extending the season and the memories. Here are some important dates during the summer for the Nashville Predators and the rest of the NHL. I will be rejoining you soon but this puts a cap on this season.
Photo Credit: www.nashvillepredatorsfansite.com
Friday, June 3, 2011
Anaheim showcased their top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and 50 goal scorer Corey Perry. The Ducks' first line was perhaps the best in the NHL. But the Ducks had a glaring weakness on their team- everyone else, excluding Saku Koivu and the ageless wonder, Teemu Selanne. When you get past Anaheim's four best players, you wonder how they made the playoffs. Their all-star goalie, Jonas Hiller, was injured for the majority of the second half of the 2010-2011 season, leaving the Ducks with Ray Emery and newly acquired Dan Ellis. Anaheim's defense corps was questionable other than the experienced Lubomir Visnovsky. You could say that the Anaheim Ducks were the anti-Predators.
The 2010-2011 Ducks were far from the best team Nashville had faces in the playoffs, and the fans knew it. They also were weary of the previous first round failures. A sense of cautious optimism was over the city of Nashville.
This series was by far the chippiest that the Predators had seen since the back-to-back Shark series. But this was different seeing as the first grenade was thrown by Orange County Register "sports writer" by the name of Jeff Miller. His "expert analysis" of the series to come turned out to be just trash. Whether players read this or not (they probably didn't) a controversial and physical series was in the making.
Game 1 was met with excitement on a much anticipated Wednesday night. Nashville stepped into the Honda Center in Anaheim with only a win in mind. The Predators tallied the first goal of the series, as Shea Weber shot a slap shot past Dan Ellis on the power play. Steve Sullivan then put Nashville up 2-0 converting on his own rebound on a semi-breakaway. Mike Fisher then put it in the refrigerator by scoring twice on absolute lasers past Dan Ellis. Ellis was then pulled in exchange for Ray Emery who had been recovering from a lower-body injury. Emery would be the Ducks' goaltender for the rest of the series. The 3rd period was anti-climatic but not uneventful. There were 13 penalties in the 3rd period alone most as a result of the Ducks trying to send a message seeing their chances of pulling out a win dwindling. On the power play, Selanne put the Ducks on the board finally, but Nashville took a 1-0 series lead on their 4-1 game 1 victory.
Game 2 was a must-win for the Ducks. Going down 0-2 heading to the opponents arena is not an option. Corey Perry got the memo as he tallied on the power play early in the first. Teemu Selanne followed suit as he put the Ducks up 2-0 only 6:02 into the 1st period. Early in the 2nd period, Shea Weber wristed a shot over the right shoulder of Emery after a few good chances by Nashville. Anaheim, however, responded with two more goals in the 2nd period from Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf. Nashville closed the gap to one goal after goals from Patric Hornqvist and Joel Ward, but Bobby Ryan sealed a Ducks' victory with en empty net goal. The teams were headed back to Nashville with the series tied at one. But a 5-3 Anaheim win was not the only headline. Bobby Ryan had stepped on Predators defenseman Jonathan Blum's foot in an attempt to free the puck behind the Nashville net. The result was a 2 game suspension for Ryan.
The Nashville Predators had been presented with and at the same time earned the opportunity of their franchise. With a key component of the Ducks missing in Bobby Ryan and a tied series, Nashville was in a prime position to win both home games and take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Predators looked to be on their way to doing just that pretty easily as they went up 2-0 on goals from Erat and Tootoo just 38 seconds apart near the end of the 1st period. But Teemu Selanne struck twice late in the 2nd period to tie the game and left Bridgestone Arena eerily quiet for the remainder of the period and into the intermission. David Legwand regained the lead for Nashville 5:25 into the 3rd period, but Matt Beleskey deflected a Koivu shot past Pekka Rinne just 83 seconds later to tie the game at 3. The air was once again let out of the arena, but Mike Fisher came to the rescue as he was on the receiving end of a Sergei Kostitsyn pass and easily put it past Emery. Nashville was able to hang on and was now two wins away from their first Western Conference Semi-Final appearance.
Game 4 was met with even more excitement in Nashville. A win would give the Predators a 3-1 series lead. For a team that had never even won three games in a series, a win would be a huge step but not THE step. But no steps, certainly not forward, were taken that night by the Nashville Predators. Anaheim tallied two early goals, but Hornqvist cut the Ducks' lead in half, and Ward tipped a Cody Franson shot to tie the game. Selanne once again rained on the Predators' parade by retaking the lead for Anaheim. Matt Halischuk shoveled the puck past Emery after a nice piece of skating by Kevin Klein. But the 3rd period came along and Nashville looked out of it. A shorthanded goal by Corey Perry early in the period seemed to do the Predators in as they gave up two more goals on their way to losing game 4 6-3. The series- tied at 2 games a piece.
Had the Predators done it again? Had they gotten up the hopes of their fans only to let them down with another first round disappointment? The biggest game in franchise history would prove otherwise.
Friday, April 22 would define the 2010-2011 season. Midway through the 1st period, Jordin Tootoo found Kvin Klein on a 2-1 rush who shoveled the puck into the twine to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. But Anaheim would tie the game at one when Jason Blake found the back of the net in the 2nd period. Then after a bad turnover by David Legwand early in the 3rd period, the previously suspended Bobby Ryan deked and dangled his way all the way to Pekka Rinne whom he fooled on the backhand and all of the sudden, the Anaheim Ducks were up 2-1. After a long 10:40, Joel Ward took a slap shot that missed near side. He found his own rebound, and his second slap shot found its way past Emery. Game 5 looked destined for overtime until a strange bounce appeared on the stick of Jason Blake. He easily wristed the puck past Pekka Rinne and the Ducks led once again with 5:34 remaining. All seemed lost on the season. Rinne was on the bench for the extra-attacker with under a minute left when Mike Fisher won the offensive zone faceoff back to Cody Franson. Franson found Captain Shea Weber who snapped the puck over Emery and game 5 was going to overtime, just not the way anyone had expected 10 minutes earlier. Then, just 1:57 into overtime, Tootoo found Jared Smithson in the slot who ended game 5 and put the Preds up 3-2 in the series. The unlikeliest of heroes had given Nashville a chance to make history on their home ice.
Easter Sunday, 2011. Nick Spaling would be the one rising on this day. After Selanne somehow found a hole between Pekka Rinne and the near-side post to give Anaheim a 1-0 1st period lead, Spaling received another excellent pass from Tootoo and Spals sniped the puck into the net to tie the game with under 30 seconds remaining in the opening period of play. Then just 3:29 into the 2nd, JP Dumont found Steve Sullivan who used his signature breakaway move to slide the puck past Ray Emery. 2-1 Nashville. But then it was Anaheim's turn to tie the game on late period goal. Jason Blake tipped a Bobby Ryan shot past Rinne and the Predators had to outscore the Ducks for the next 20 minutes to move on to the 2nd round. 4:53 into the period, Spaling broke the tie. Tootoo created the play by building the wall and inadvertently forced Anaheim defenseman Andreas Lilja into Emery. Spaling located the rebound and put the Preds up 3-2 with ease. That's when Pekka Rinne went to work and stopped every Anaheim chance. With 10 seconds left in the first round, the Nashville Predators' first draft pack in franchise history, David Legwand, sealed the deal. The Nashville Predators were moving on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals for the first time in franchise history.
That's not the end of the story, though. There was no complacency in the Nashville locker room. The Stanley Cup was the only thing in the Predators' sights.
Photo Credit: Nashville Predators
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Matt Calvert opened up the game's scoring late in the 2nd period with a power play goal and gave Columbus a 1-0 lead. Shea Weber tied it up early in the 3rd and Jonathan Blum gave the Preds a 2-1 lead on his first career NHL goal. Kris Russell, however, subsequently knotted the score at two. After Nashville killed off a late Columbus power play David Legwand corralled a rebound created by a Martin Erat shot and backhanded the Predators to a 3-2 victory. This has been recognized as the number 10 moment in the 2010-2011 season by section303.com and rightfully so. Who knew that the Columbus Blue Jackets would ever be of so much importance to the Nashville Predators?
The 3-2 victory sprung the Preds into the month of March in which they posted a record of 10-3-2.
Nashville took down the Canucks in Vancouver on March 3rd. Blake Geoffrion scored the game-winner in the 3-0 victory, and Patric Hornqvist sealed the deal when he stole Dan Hamhuis's wallet, keys, and oh yeah... the puck. He then made a an impressive move to slide the puck past Robero Luongo, and that was all she wrote.
The Predators took on the best the Eastern Conference had to offer on March 17th. They came back to defeat the Boston Bruins 4-3 in overtime. Nashville and Boston went into the 3rd period tied but a Patrice Burgeron goal early in the period put the Bruins up 3-2, and that score held for nine minutes and fifteen seconds. The equalizing tally came with 9:04 left in regulation as David Legwand cleaned up two great chances by Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn by putting the puck past an ill-positioned Tuukka Rask. Shea Weber then put the game away with a slap shot to give Nashville their first overtime win of the season.
And speaking of Shea Weber, how can we discuss Nashville's stretch run without mentioning his "playoff beard." It was a sort of rallying cry for Preds fans "Fear the Beard!" The beard received national attention during the playoffs and was recognized as the most fascinating playoff beard in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs by Yahoo Sports. You could say that Shea Weber's beard got more national media attention in the playoffs that did the Nashville Predators during the entire regular season. You couldn't talk about the Nashville Predators without talking about Shea Weber and Shea Weber's beard.
Anyways... Back to the action.
The next huge win for Nashville came only two days later at home against the hated Detroit Red Wings. The Wings took a 1-0 lead into the locker room after the 1st period but hometown hero Blake Geoffrion tied the game in the 2nd period off of a great centering pass from Patrick Hornqvist. Jonathan Blum then scored the game-winner as he shot a Hornqvist rebound past Jimmy Howard and into the back of the net. Legwand added an empty-netter and the Preds beat their division rival 3-1.
Just over 12 hour later, the Nashville Predators took the ice in Buffalo to try to win back-to-back games against the odds. Rookie, Anders Lindback, got the call in net to try to secure a four point weekend for Nashville. The Predators opened up the scoring on an odd carom off a pass turned shot by Blake Geoffrion. The Sabres however, scored the next three goals, and Nashville was all but done. But Geoffrion jammed the puck between Ryan Miller and the right post to draw the Preds within one goal with under three minutes remaining in the third. Just over a minute later, Sergei Kostitsyn won an offensive zone faceoff back to Cody Franson who took a shot from the point which was deflected in by Geoffrion. Blake Geoffrion's first NHL hat trick could not have come at a more timely moment. Martin Erat did the honors of scoring the game-winning goal just 27 seconds into the overtime period to complete the comeback. This game was coined by many as the Music City Miracle II.
The month of April saw the Predators finally clinch the sought after playoff spot. A 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets at home was the clincher. Like I said earlier- Who knew that the Columbus Blue Jackets would ever be of so much importance to the Nashville Predators? A February win over Columbus started the stretch run and an April victory over Columbus started and finished the furious run by Nashville.
But the Predators were not done turning heads. The best part of the season was still to come- The NHL Playoffs.
Photo Credit: Getty Images via http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/The-10-most-fascinating-NHL-playoff-beards-of-20?urn=nhl-wp4705
Monday, May 16, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The Nashville Predators were coming off the most heartbreaking of losses. Nashville had the Chicago Blackhawks at their mercy in game five, threatening to take a 3-2 series lead back to Bridgestone Arena. But the Predators had hit their glass celing once again. After giving up the tieing goal with only 14 seconds remaining in regulationn, Marian Hossa ended the game in overtime giving the Blackhawks a one game series lead. That one game series lead, however, felt like a four game series lead, and Nashville wasn't able to recover as they fell once again in the 1st round of the playoffs. The Nashville curse once again took hold of the Predators and yet another disappointing post-season lead to a pesimistic offseason.
Will the Predators ever get over the hump?
On June 25 in Los Angeles, California, the 2010-2011 NHL season kicked off (sorta) with the NHL Draft. With the 18th overall selection, the Nashville Predators selected Austin Watson, a right winger out of Ann Arbor, Michgan. Watson brings scoring ability along with playmaking ability. He compiled 34 goals and 34 assists in 68 games with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL in the 2010-2011 season.
Now of course Austin Watson had no impact on the 2010-2011 season for Nashville, but it did kick off the best season in franchise history.
Just a week later, David Poile and the Nashville Predators made a move that everyone hoped for but no one expected.
On July 2nd, Nashville signed free agent Matthew Lombardi. The former Phoenix Coyotes center brought the speed and skill that the Predators needed. Lombardi gave Pred Nation a reason to believe that the power play would be affective. A few hockey writers even gave Nashville a chance to make a deep playoff run or take the central division. Kevin Allen of the USA Today called the Predators a "legitamate Cup contender."
Respect had been hard to come by for the Nashville Predators and their fans but whispers of admiration were in the air around the 2010-2011 Nashville Predators.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Home ice advantage has always been huge for the Nashville Predators. They were 24-9-8 in the 2010-2011 regular season season at home. But the unbearable 2-4 home record in this year's playoffs doomed the Predators and sent Vancouver to the conference finals.
Daniel Sedin scored the game-winning goal in the 1st period on the power play. The man-advantage was the result of a beyond borderline on Jordan Tootoo for embelishment, or diving. The Predators, however, have no excuse going 0-5 on the power play. This summarizes the semi-finals for the Predators. Their inability to convert on the man-advantage has haunted them not only in these playoffs but also in recent years.
The Predators lone goal came at 3:31 of the 2nd period when David Legwand somehow found an opening from a terrible angle. The play was reviewed and was deemed a goal.
A missed shot on a 2-1 oppurtunity before the goal celebration had ceased was Nashville's best chance to tie it up in the 2nd.
Mike Fisher squandered a golden chance in the 3rd when he could not coral the pass from the corner. He had the wide open net to shoot at, and most of Bridgestone Arena had already stood up anticipating the equalizer.
Pred Nation came through again with standing ovations and nothing but support for their team. It was by far the loudest I have ever heard inside the arena. No one wanted to see their team's season to end Monday night.
With the Nashville net empty, Shea Weber had a good look at the top right corner of the net but missed high and wide. The horn sounded as yellow towels fell to the ice and the 2010-2011 season had ended.
The Predators saluted their fans at center ice and quickily disappeared into the locker room.
Another season ends in a loss. Only one team can end their season on a win, but having the bitter taste of what could've been never feels good in the summer.
My 3 Stars of the Series: 1. Ryan Kessler
2. Pekka Rinne
3. Roberto Luongo
A season review is coming soon.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Raffi Torres and Ryan Kesler also scored in the first to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead heading into the locker room. David Legwand scored his second goal in the game in a less conventional form. After he gathered the puck behind the net, he flipped it over the goal, and it bounced off of Canuck defenseman Christian Erhoff passed the unsuspecting Luongo into the net. There are no flukey goals in the playoffs. Only rewards for hard work. The Predators gladly accepted this reward, and the game was tied at two.
At 1:14 into the 3rd, Mike Fisher found the afore mentioned Ward who buried the one-timer past Luongo. Jordin Tootoo made his entrance onto the scorecard as he assisted on Ward's game-winner which made the score 4-2. The Canucks carried play from about the six minute mark and were pressuring Pekka Rinne with a good portion of their 34 shots on net. Vancouver finally broke through on a Ryan Kessler shot from the top of the circle resulting in a 4-3 lead for Nashville. Once again, the Predators could not make things easy on themselves, trying to make things as interesting as possible.
But for the first time since 2007, a game five involving the Nashville Predators did not go into overtime. The Vezina candidate, Pekka Rinne, made all the necessary stops and the Predators did a good job of clearing the zone to prevent the Canucks from setting up their offense late in the game with Luongo on the bench for the extra-attacker. The final horn sounded with the scoreboard reading 4-3 in favor of the good guys.
Ryan Kessler continued to be the best player on the ice for Vancouver Saturday night, and the Sedin twins continued to be silent.
The Predators continued their year of firsts by winning an elimination game for the first time in franchise history. This first reinforces Coach Barry Trotz's view of his team as resilient. Never before has a Predator team won with the backs against the wall.
For the Predators to continue their 2011 playoff run, they must win Monday night at home to avoid another first: not winning one game at home in a playoff series.
A win results in the first ever game seven in franchise history.
History will be made no matter the result.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
At 7:28 of the 3rd period, Ryan Kesler split the defensive pair of Shane O'Brien and Shea Weber and beat Pekka Rinne far side to give the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 lead.
Cody Franson had previously tied the game at two with a shot from the point that beat Luongo and stuck in the back of the net.
The Bridgestone Arena crowd urged the team to tie the game up with a standing ovation late in the 3rd period, but Henrik Sedin fired the puck into the empty net to sign, seal, and deliver game four.
This marks the first time that the Nashville Predators have lost both game three and four at home.
The home ice advantage that the Predators speak so highly of has seemingly been a non-factor with Nashville playing uninspired hockey at times. The will to win has been at a minimal for a team that had to will its way in to the playoffs. Credit Vancouver. They have forced the Predators off their game and are just a minute away from having sweapt this series.
The Predators however have not been widely outplayed for the most part and are capable of winning game five.
The biggest question is: Do they want it enough?
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The initial expansion that included Nashville was questioned and criticized by many NHL fans and media across North America. Why would the NHL put a team in Tennessee? How will this ever work? The franchise then made its inaugural playoff appearance in 2004 taking a huge step as an organization to gain just a little respect as a team. But three years later, despite the growth in fanbase and the die-hard fans that supported their Predators every night, the Nashville Predators looked to be heading to Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. The NHL had become impatient with Nashville's inability to fill the arena night in and night out, but the Predators faithful would have none of that. On July 19, 2007, Pred Nation came through. A rally held at Bridgestone Arena answered any questions of whether the city of Nashville deserved an NHL franchise.
But the opposition was still there. The Canadian media continued to give Nashville the cold shoulder and often times just ignoring them all together. A team in Nashville, Tennessee could not be taken seriously. As the media continued to turn a blind eye to Nashville, something special was happening. Attendance was going up and the atmosphere was getting better game by game. Music City was slowly and quietly becoming a hockey town.
These playoffs have shed some light on the subject however. Predator fans have been credited by TSN's Farhan Lalji as one of the two loudest buildings in the league. Both TSN and Versus have now carried games in Nashville and have had high praise for Pred Nation. The Predators are also getting some respect. Pekka Rinne, in the shadows for most of the regular season, has now been recognized as what we in Smashville have known all along: one of if not the best goalie of the year. Shea Weber has also flown under the radar in every market not named Nashville and Vancouver. The Norris Trophy nominee and his beard has received national media attention for the leadership shown down the stretch of the regular season and these playoffs. Additionally, both Barry Trotz and David Poile are finalists for the trophies awarded to the best in their respective positions.
So yes, the Predators got a raw deal Tuesday night. Yes, they are down 2-1 in a series against the best team in the NHL. But resiliency says they are only three wins away from the series win. Hard work says who cares who we're playing. The Predator way says anything is possible. It has already shown that earlier in the playoffs when history was made. The Predators are a win away from evening the series, and we all know anything can happen in game five. Anything can happen when Nashville Predator hockey is executed correctly no matter who the opposition may be. Smashville, we must believe as we have all post-season. The team will feed off of that energy and can even the series Thursday night.
Monday, May 2, 2011
The Predators and their fans are getting love from the Canadian media and are looking to take their first ever lead in a conference semi-final series.
The experience seems unreal to many die-hard Pred fans who have seen countless first-round failures and an irritatingly large amount of moral victories. A new standard has been set for hockey in Nashville from the on-the-ice performance to the 17,113 that pack Bridgestone Arena when the Predators hit the ice. Nashville will once again take the ice on Tuesday night in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena in their first home conference semi-final game. The word around Nashville is that the intensity of games goes up the further you go in the playoffs. Predators fans have already witnessed this intensity but only from the friendly confines of the average American couch or perhaps one of the viewing parties around town. But Nashville will finally get to witness conference semi-final action up close and personal on 501 Broadway. The gold out will be in full effect with a chance of catfish and standing ovations when the Canucks come to visit Tuesday night.
Predator fever has even extended outside of Bridgestone Arena. Over the past two weeks, I have seen more Predators gear than ever before. I never thought I would see so many bandwagon fans either. Never before has there been a reason to jump on the Nashville Predator bandwagon. But more importantly, the interest in hockey has grown across the mid-state. The popularity of ice and inline hockey leagues have grown over the past few years. Tennessee ranks 4th in the nation in increase of USA Hockey registrations over the past 10 years. The popularity of hockey in middle Tennessee will only go up from here, already at it's peak.
The Nashville Predators are carrying a city that just 11 years ago did not know the difference between a hockey puck and a burnt biscuit and could not correctly pronounce the name Patrick Roy. The city has bought in to hockey and the Nashville Predators and is now behind them in their quest for The Cup. The glass ceiling has been raised. The question is if the Predators can once again rise and shatter that ceiling placed on them by low expectations and going up against the Goliath of the NHL Playoffs in the Vancouver Canucks.
If you're heading to Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night in hope of an offensive, high-scoring hockey game then you might want to sell your ticket. Just make sure it finds its way to a Predators fan with an able and ready voice.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
April 20th, 2011. Bridgestone Arena was buzzing, hoping to see their team take a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history. This was the biggest game in franchise history. Nashville did not start out well but got the crowd believing again as Matt Halischuk banged home a goal to tie the game at three. However, the Ducks dominated the third period characterized by defensive breakdowns, uncharacteristic play from Pekka Rinne, and a sheer lack of offense from the Predators. A 6-3 loss deflated the spirits of fans both inside and outside Bridgestone Arena, and flashbacks of past first round failures were deep in the collective mind of Pred Nation. All seemed to be loss.
But the phrase "Biggest Game in Franchise History" was not retired for the season.
Late Friday night the puck dropped in Anaheim. The Predators were granted yet another chance to win the biggest game in franchise history. Jordin Tootoo kicked off his career game with an exceptional move on the two on one rush to feed Kevin Klein for the opening score of the game. 1-0 Preds. No one really thought that would be the game-winning goal and Jason Blake proved everyone right in the second period by banging the puck just past Rinne to tie the score at one. The third period did not start well to put things mildly. Bobby Ryan made a great defensive play and scored on the backhand past Rinne after a couple of posterizing dekes through and behind the stickless David Legwand. Nashville Predator fans did not have to look back past Wednesday night to feel the need to worry. The Predators responded well this time, though with their hard work paying off in the form of a Joel Ward goal. The Predators took one more blow in the stomach as Jason Blake once again found the back of the net, this time off of a spectacular pass from Selanne in the corner. The word resiliency has never ringed so true. With Vezina nominee Pekka Rinne on the bench and the extra-attacker on the ice, Mike Fisher won back the offensive zone faceoff to Cody Franson who slid the puck over to captain Shea Weber who sent a snapshot straight for the twine, tying the game at three. It did not take long for the Nashville to put the exclamation point on the comeback as Jordin Tootoo capped his exceptional game with a spectacular feed to Jarred Smithson who put the puck past Ray Emery and put the Predators up 3-2 in the series.
Pred Nation has never had more of a reason to believe. If the Predators can win a contest such as game five, then they have an even better chance to win game six in front of their home crowd late Sunday afternoon. While the nonbelievers continue to pile on, there has never been so much support for this team both from a local and national standpoint. The Predators have never before been in a position to clinch a playoff series, but they are certainly used to being in "The Biggest Game in Franchise History."
Friday, April 22, 2011
Just another monkey to get off their back en route to getting the giant gorilla off of their back, which is winning a playoff series.
The Predators have been the better team in this series but have had two five minute stretches of bad hockey resulting in two losses. Their will be a few people skating around on the ice at the Honda Center in Anaheim come 9 PM central time, but if you truly want to see a battle and a struggle for victory, tune into the Nashville Predators' mindset. The mental war Friday night will largely outweigh any battle for the puck or the inevitable scraps in front of the net. For the Predators to win this game, they have to believe they can win this game. They believed they could win game four until a shorthanded goal by the the Ducks' Corey Perry early in the third period which lead to a 6-3 Anaheim victory Wednesday night to tie the series at two games a piece. Nashville must have a resilient attitude as they have had all year.
The Ducks have regained momentum in a way that I personally did not think was possible. Their dominant third period was just what the doctor ordered for a team that had been dominated just three nights before. They chased Vezina nominee Pekka Rinne with three goals in five minutes and twenty-nine seconds. This is really the first time Rinne has been off his game, letting in relatively soft goals and it is imperative that he bounces back and returns to his MVP form. It will also be interesting to see if Bobby Ryan will immediately compliment Getzlaf and Perry as he has all season. I expect he will. The Nashville defense will have to readjust to the RPG line and be on their best game to stymie the most dangerous line in hockey.
After the shock of Wednesday night, the locker room still sounds positive. After all, the series is tied, and it is now a best of three series. Win two out of three games against a team which you beat three out of four times in the regular season, and you move on to the second round. It all starts Friday night in Anaheim.
I hope just as much as I predict: Predators win 5-3.