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Friday, May 13, 2011

The Roller Coaster Season Part II: Out of the Gates

Any prediction, any preview, and any expectation means nothing. The game is played on the ice and on October 9th, the ice was ready at Bridgestone Arena and so were the Predators.

Nashville started off the season against the high-powered Ducks offense and the solid Jonas Hiller between the pipes. Okay so maybe their offense didn't strike fear into the eyes of defensemen at the beginning of the season, and Hiller wasn't spectacular, but give the Predators credit for capitalizing on team struggling out of the gates.

They started the season with a 4-1 victory, and for the first time in Bridgestone Arena, hands went up... and they stayed there!

This was the first of many high scoring games against Anaheim but the real story that night was not a 1-0-0 record. Pekka Rinne was injured in the 3rd period, and unproven rookie Anders Lindback was forced to step in for the remainder of the contest. Lindback was able to preserve the lead in his first NHL action.

This game marked the first of only 25 regular-season games in which the Predators scored four goals or more. They were 23-0-2 in those contests.

The Nashville Predator's first road game of the season was a tough test to say the least. They traveled to Chicago to take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, and with the rookie, Lindback, making his first NHL start, a Predator victory seemed unlikely. But conquering unlikely tests was a theme of this 2010-2011 Nashville Predator team.

Nashville went into the 3rd period trailing by one goal, but Colin Wilson tied the game at two early in the 3rd and Joel Ward won the game on a power play goal with only 26.7 seconds remaining. Lindback stopped 23 of 25 Chicago shots giving him his first NHL win.

The Predators then went to take down the St. Louis Blues who had also started out strong. Patric Hornqvist scored the deciding goal early in the 2nd period and Nashville was off to a 3-0-0 start.

The next three games found the Nashville Predators having difficulties winning games in overtime. They lost three straight overtime games to the Capitals, Flames, and Penguins. However, you can't complain getting a point out of all three of those games considering the level of competition faced in two of the three opponents faced in that stretch.

Nashville started the season with a 3-0-3 record, making them the last team in the NHL to lose in regulation. But goaltender Pekka Rinne was injured and Matthew Lombardi was out with a mysterious concussion injury. Could the Nashville Predators make this extraordinary start last?

Coming soon: The Roller Coaster Season Part III: November's Sudden Drop.

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