Monday, June 27, 2011

Top 5 Steve Sullivan Moments

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.

5. December 14, 2009. Hat Trick at Columbus

Steve Sullivan loves to play against the Blue Jackets. That was never more apparent than on that Monday night in central Ohio. It was Sully's 7th career hat trick, but what makes this impressive is when it happened. At age 34, anytime you can score three goals in one game, it's noteworthy. It is not surprising that age was not a problem for a guy who was drafted with the 233rd overall pick and was doubted for his size. The word "can't" does not seem to be in Sully's dictionary which is one of the reasons he is so beloved by the Nashville Predator fanbase and across the NHL.

4. April 24, 2011. Sully Gives His Team the Lead vs
. Anaheim in Game 6

With the most important game in franchise history tied in the 2nd period, Steve Sullivan found the back of the net. J.P. Dumont found Sullivan, who was sneaking behind the defense, and Sully faked the forehand shot and calmly slid the puck behind Ray Emery. Though it was not the game-winner, the goal gave Nashville the momentum for the rest of the game which lead to the first playoff series victory in franchise history.

3. January 10, 2009. The Return

After a back injury that kept Sullivan out for much of the '06-'07 season, all of the '07-'08 season, and the first half of the '08-'09 season, Steve Sullivan made his much awaited return against his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, on a Saturday night in Smashville. Many believed that Sully would hang it up and call it a career. He proved all of them wrong that night and beat the odds.

2. June 18, 2009. The Bill Masterson Award goes to...

So what is the reward for the hard work that Steve Sullivan put in throughout his rehabilitation process? The Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy. This award goes to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey." Perseverance- Sully never gave up on himself during those two difficult years. Sportsmanship- Sullivan has always been classy and has always had a team first attitude. Dedication to hockey- It would have been easy for Sully to hang it up in and say "I'm done." but he loved the game so much that he knew he had more left in him to play the game he loved.

1. February 18, 2004. What a Debut!

This one goes back so far that I could not even find a video of it. Steve Sullivan's first game as a Nashville Predator was not a quiet one. Sully wrote the perfect story for a perfect debut that night with the hat trick- all three goals coming on the power play and all three goals being assisted by Scott Walker and Marek Zidlicky. Nashville went on to win the game 7-3 over the San Jose Sharks that Wednesday night and then went on to their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

You will be missed Sully. Good luck in the rest of your career and life. Thank you for your time in Smashville.

Photo Credit: Nashville Predators

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nashville Predators 2011 NHL Entry Draft Review

In the last two seasons, the Predators have ranked first in the number of players on the final roster that were drafted by that team. David Poile and the Nashville Predators have always pride themselves on home-grown players. Nashville's first ever draft selection, David Legwand, sealed the deal on the franchise's first second round appearance. But the draft that everyone remembers is the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, which was held in Music City. The 2003 draft seems to be the standard set by the organization both intentionally and unintentionally. With picks such as Ryan Suter and current captain Shea Weber, Pred fans are always looking for a repeat of the '03 draft.

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,,

Photo Credits:,,,,

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Roller Coaster Season Part Vii: The Final Ride

It's April 28th. The phrase "unmarked territory" is now a dime a dozen around the Nashville Predator fanbase. While overused, the phrase is extremely correct as Nashville is about to play its first ever game in the 2nd round. The Preds are facing the Vancouver Canucks, winners of the Presidents Trophy and the odds on favorite to raise Lord Stanley. Vancouver is coming off of an emotional game seven victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Canucks nearly choked a 3-0 series lead but scored 5:22 into the first overtime period to put away the defending champions.

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:

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Roller Coaster Season Part Vi: The Final Ride

When each NHL team had played 82 games, the Nashville Predators had landed a #5 seed in the Western Conference. Nashville had earned its six playoff birth in franchise history, but the fact remained that the Predators had never reached the Western Conference Semi-Finals. The 2nd round had somehow or another eluded each of their previous post-season appearances, and it was the gigantic elephant in Bridgestone Arena. This year, the roadblock would be the #4 seed Anaheim Ducks.

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