Laviolette named Jack Adams Finalist

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Call it coincidence, but on this date one year ago, the Nashville Predators officially announced that former Philadelphia Flyers coach, Peter Laviolette would be Nashville’s second head coach in franchise history. And now, Mr. Laviolette has been named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, an accolade given to the coach that helped push his team to success during the regular season.

Fellow finalists are Bob Hartley of the Calgary Flames and Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers. The winner will be announced June 24th at the NHL Awards, which will probably be aired on NBC Sports.

Preds Sign Marek Mazanec to One-Year Contract

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Late this afternoon, the Nashville Predators announced that they had signed goaltender Marek Mazanec to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 on the AHL level. Here are some more stats on Mazanec from the official press release:

Mazanec, 23 (7/18/91), played his second full season in North America in 2014-15, posting a 2.26 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in two appearances with the Predators during the month of January, and an 18-18-9 record with four shutouts, a 2.76 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in 48 appearances for Nashville’s primary developmental affiliate, the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

Nashville’s ninth choice, 179th overall (sixth round), in the 2012 Entry Draft, played the fifth-most minutes of any rookie NHL netminder (1,369:32) in 2013-14, appearing in 25 contests for the Predators and being named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for November 2013 after going 5-4-1 with two shutouts, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. The 6-4, 194-pound Mazanec also ranked second among AHL rookie goaltenders, and 10th overall, in point percentage after posting an 18-10-3 record (.629, min. 700 minutes) in 2013-14.

 

Preds of the World(s)

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Now that the season has officially ended (whether we want to cope with it or not), some of the Predators aren’t finished hitting the rinks just yet. Six – thus far – of Nashville’s players will be taking off to the Czech Republic to represent their home countries in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Here’s who we have thus far:

TEAM SUOMI (FINLAND): PEKKA RINNE
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  • Pekka was named to the World Championship All-Star team in 2014 and also won MVP that year as well.

TEAM SUISSE (SWITZERLAND): ROMAN JOSI & KEVIN FIALA
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  • Kevin Fiala may be young, but he is no stranger to Team Switzerland. Fiala has competed for Suisse in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
  • Roman Josi has a number of accolades from participation with Team Switzerland, including IIHF World Champion MVP, Silver Medalist, Media All-Star Team, and Best Defenseman in 2013.

TEAM USA: Seth Jones
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  • Seth Jones, like Kevin Fiala, is no stranger to the IIHF Worlds for Team USA. Jones helped lead Team USA to gold medals in 2011 (WJC18), 2012 (WJC18), and 2013 (WJC). He played alongside teammate Craig Smith last year and helped bring Team USA to 6th place.

tre kronor (sweden): filip forsberg & mattias ekholm
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  • Filip Forsberg has never seen less than second place while suited up for Tre Kronor, winning the silver medal in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Forsberg helped lead his World Juniors team to overall victory in 2012. In 2014, Forsberg was named World Junior Best Forward and MVP. Surprisingly, this will be Forsberg’s first bout away from World Juniors.
  • Mattias Ekholm has had as lucrative of a career with Tre Kronor has Forsberg has, but he did help Sweden collect the bronze medal last year.

Since the tournament officially begins Friday, I do not if any other Predators will be added to their country’s rosters, but who knows.

As I mentioned, the tournament kicks off Friday with Team Latvia vs. Team Canada (4:15PM) and Team Czech vs. Team Sweden (8:15PM) in the O2 Arena and Team USA vs. Team Finland (4:15PM) and Team Russia vs. Team Norway (8:15PM) in the CEZ Arena. Let me elaborate on those puck drop times, too. Those times would be relevant to those within the Czech timezone; the Czech Republic is seven hours ahead of the Central Timezone. Needless to say, the first games would start at 9:15AM our time, and the second games would start at 1:15PM. Here’s a TV listing of where you can view the games:

Date Game Network Game time (CT)
Fri., May 1 Team USA vs. Finland NBCSN (live) 9 a.m.
Sat., May 2 Team USA vs. Norway NBCSN (delay at 10 p.m.) 1 p.m.
Mon., May 4 Team USA vs. Russia NBCSN (live) 9 a.m.
Thur., May 7 Team USA vs. Belarus NBCSN (live) 9 a.m.
Fri., May 8 Team USA vs. Denmark NBCSN (live) 1 p.m.
Sun., May 10 Team USA vs. Slovenia NBCSN (delay at 2 p.m.) 10 a.m.
Tue., May 12 Team USA vs. Slovakia NBCSN (live) 10 a.m.
Thu., May 14 IIHF Quarterfinals NBCSN (live) 8 a.m.
IIHF Quarterfinals Live Extra app, TV TBD 9 a.m.
IIHF Quarterfinals Live Extra app, TV TBD 10:30 a.m.
IIHF Quarterfinals Live Extra app, TV TBD 12 p.m.
IIHF Quarterfinals Live Extra app, TV TBD 1 p.m.
IIHF Quarterfinals Live Extra app, TV TBD 10:30 p.m.
Sat., May 16 IIHF Semifinals Live Extra app, TV TBD 8:30 a.m.
IIHF Semifinals Live Extra app, TV TBD 12 p.m.
Sun., May 17 IIHF Bronze Medal Game Live Extra app, TV TBD 11 a.m.
IIHF Gold Medal Game NBCSN (live) 1:30 p.m.

I’ll update this list if anything changes or if any new players are added to their country’s rosters.

Injury Update: Weber

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Information regarding Shea Weber’s injury sustained during Game 2 of the First Round of the playoffs was released moments ago by the Predators organization:

Shea Weber suffered a subluxed kneecap during Game Two of the Nashville Predators playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks. After multiple evaluations, Shea underwent a medical procedure. He is expected to make a full recovery within four to six weeks.

Ouchies. Anything involving an accident to the kneecap makes me cringe; probably you, too. Though some would argue that Shea Weber’s injury ultimately caused the downfall of the Predators to the Blackhawks in Round One, methinks they may have been doomed either way. However, his physicality and leadership mentality was sorely missed after leaving the series in Game 2.

By the way, I will write a recap of Game 6; I am still gathering the right words to say.

Rinne named Vezina Finalist

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Earlier this afternoon, the NHL announced its nominees for the Vezina Trophy, an award given to the league’s best goaltender. Here’s an excerpt from the official news release:

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has been named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, as voted on by general managers of all NHL clubs. This is Rinne’s third career nomination for the award, given annually to the NHL goaltender judged to be the best at his position. Rinne was nominated in 2011 and 2012, but is yet to win the award.

After missing significant time due to a hip infection in 2013-14, Rinne returned to form in the 2014-15 campaign, finishing the season with 41 wins (tied for second in the NHL) and among the League leaders in goals-against average (2.18) and save percentage (.923).

Nashville’s nominee for the 2015 Masterton Trophy, awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, Rinne recorded two, six-game winning streaks and posted four shutouts during the regular season.

On March 14 in Los Angeles, Rinne made 23 saves to record his 200th career NHL victory, and the 600th all-time for the franchise, in his 370th career appearance, all of which had come as a member of the Preds. Against the Rangers on Feb. 7, the Kempele, Finland, native became the fastest (in terms of games played) goaltender to record 30 wins (39 games played) since the NHL adopted the shootout in 2005-06 and just the third goalie in the NHL’s expansion era to tally 30 wins in 39 games or less.

Also nominated are Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild. I totally understand Price, but Dubnyk? He has been exceptionally well when Minnesota has needed him, but so has a ton of other backup goaltenders. Strangely enough, I am not surprised he was nominated; too many writers discussing it these past few months. As much as I think Rinne deserves this award, I am afraid it will end up in Price’s hands. Not only is he heavily favored, he has been excruciatingly consistent.

The NHL Awards are slated for June 24th, time TBA, in Las Vegas.

Weber Sidelined for Remainder of Series

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It comes to must of us as no surprise that the Predators organization announced moments ago that Captain Shea Weber would not be available for the remainder of this series with Chicago due to a lower-body injury. Here’s an excerpt from the official press release:

The Nashville Predators announced Friday that Captain Shea Weber will miss the remainder of the club’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks due to a lower-body injury the defenseman suffered in Game Two of the series. However, contrary to erroneous broadcast and media reports over the last 24 hours, he did not suffer an ACL injury. Further updates will be provided as they become available

As you saw, his lower-body injury that he sustained during Game 2 of this series is not an ACL injury, despite NBC Sports reporting that is was during last night’s broadcast:

However, no ACL tear or injury is good news; that sort of stuff is bad news bears. More than likely, the Predators and Weber himself are erring on the side of caution. He’d really be useless if he returned before reaching 100% and injuring himself further or causing something to tear (or whatnot).

The Morning After: Game 5 – Don’t Snub the Prince

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Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

My brain is still at home sleeping and did not make the trip to work with me today. Why? Because the adrenaline from last night’s win to force a Game 6 still has me buzzing! …Well, for the most part – I am slowing entering zombie mode. Whether you were in the crowd or cheering from afar, last night’s game was anything but outstanding. The boost from the home crowd, the pressure on Darling, and the resilience of Pekka Rinne gave Nashville the 5-2 victory, providing the good guys a chance at another game.

  • Small Market Snubbed: Yesterday afternoon, the NHL announced who the PHWA had chosen as their nominees for the Calder Trophy, an award that essentially serves as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. A name most notably absent? Filip Forsberg. Per Pete Jensen, “since 1997-98, only one NHL rookie has posted 25+ goals, 60+ points, +15 or better & 200+ shots on goal: Filip Forsberg”. If the award is going to go to a player that sort of makes a showing during the latter-half of the season, then the trophy needs to be known as the “Rookie of the Latter-half of the Season” award, not year.

  • Return of the Fish: Mike Fisher was seen participating in practice yesterday morning, but as to if he’d be in the game was questionable. He even said himself that he wasn’t sure:

    However, he was on the ice during pregame warm-ups and was a starter for the game. No doubt his return helped boost some morale around the locker room.

  • The Real Deal Steal: James Neal gave the Predators their first lead of the night just 47 seconds in the third, opening the flood gates for Wilson and Forsberg.
  • Hey, Mr. Wilson: What a post season it is for Colin Wilson, collecting his fifth of the series last night & setting a franchise record.

  • Don’t Snub the Prince: Filip Forsberg’s a classy kind and he knows just how to retaliate in the right way against the NHL’s Calder snub. Intentional or not, it was truly poetic justice as Forsberg sunk two goals on his former roommate (Darling) and sealed the game winner and Hat Trick on an empty net.

  • First Time for Everything: The Predators are notching a bunch of franchise records this post season, which is understandably awesome. As the old saying goes, “There’s a first time for everything”.

    Nashville squashed that little fact into the dirt (thankfully) and look to squander a few other “never have I evers” before this series is over, too. The Preds are 1-4 in Game Sixes and have never been to a Game 7. As I said, there’s a first time for everything and now’s that time.

  • Three’s a Crowd: Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg, and Craig Smith are all tied for the team’s lead in points (5) during this post season.
  • All Business: Per Kris Martel of Fox Sports, the locker room after the game was all but celebratory.

    Though they deserve to wear the smiles on their faces, it’s still a job out there and their butts are on the chopping block. There’s no time to rest and the boys know it.

Going back to Chicago is going to be tough tomorrow; there’s no easy way to put it. The odds are stacked against the Predators, but they aren’t called the Pesky Preds for nothing, right? Backs against the wall style hockey. If Nashville can pull out the win tomorrow night, I have no doubt in my mind that they can conquer Game 7 at home. They just have to get there. Tomorrow’s game with not only be a physical challenge, but one of mental strength, too. They broke Darling last night and they can sure as all get out do it again. Get through tomorrow night; get through the series.
A quote from Coach Laviolette: “Our back is still up against the wall, and we are still a team who needs to realize where we are at and our place in life right now. If we win, we can come back and play Game Seven, and if we don’t, then we start our summer. I don’t think our guys are ready to go home.”

Other Thoughts:

Puck drops for Game 6 at 7PM.
It’s far from over, folks.
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Preparing for Game 5

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Game 5 is upon us, ladies and gents and from here on out, it’s do or die for the Nashville Predators if they intend on hoisting that big silver Cup in the end.

I am not going to go into what the Predators need to do to win tonight (and those two other possible games); no, we know and the players, coaches, and whatnot know, too. It’s just a matter of getting the job done. Scott Darling is not invincible; he truly is all that has stood between the Predators and taking Round One. Chicago should be kissing his feet right about now because, without him, they’d be facing a quick exit out of the playoffs themselves.

Here’s what’s been happening since Tuesday/Wednesday’s Game 4:

  • Yesterday afternoon, the Predators recalled nine players from Milwaukee. No need to panic, everyone; this is not regular season so there is an unlimited amount of players you can have on a roster. Some may see some ice time, but really, they are just here for emergencies and/or experience. The players chosen? Joe Piskula, Rich Clune, Marek Mazanec, Magnus Hellberg, Anthony Bitetto, Johan Alm, Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, and Viktor Arvidsson.
  • No surprise, the Blackhawks have chosen to go with Scott Darling as their starter for tonight’s game.
  • No need to panic – Kris Martel quickly reported that Wilson did show up to the locker room looking fine.

  • Speaking of those participating in practice…

    Though Fisher was a game time decision Tuesday (and didn’t play), knowing that he’s back out there again is a good sign. Also, long time no see, Eric Nystrom! Though I am doubtful of his magical return for tonight’s game, his presence brings hope.

  • Anaheim becomes the first team to advance to the second round, sweeping the Winnipeg Jets. However, Jets fans stood tall with the sinking ship, giving their team an affable standing ovation for a tremendous season.

  • The Ottawa Senators live to see another day game, shutting down the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 last night.

I have been on edge all day so far and I hope you have been, too. The love for hockey is crazy like that, I guess. It’s going to be deafening in the Bridgestone Arena tonight; I hope you got your tickets. To say this game is huge for either team is an insane understatement.

Go Preds.

 

The Morning After/Of: Game 4

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Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

I’d be lying if I said I stayed awake for all three overtime bouts last night. The combination of my love to sleep and the whole “work” factor sent me snoozing in the intermission between the first and second overtime. In what was now the longest game played in Preds franchise history, it is disheartening to know that they came out with the loss. Unfortunately, this is more than a loss; it gave Chicago the 3-1 lead in the series, meaning it could all come to an abrupt end tomorrow night for Nashville. Eek.

This has been certainly a series about the goaltenders. Pekka Rinne, though a little rusty here and there, was carrying the team on his back last night. He kept the Predators in the game. The same can be said for Chicago’s Scott Darling. Neither Nashville or Chicago is doing exceptionally well in the offense/defense department. I mean, both are taking it to the net, but the majority of these bouts have come down to which goaltender is going to slip up first. Unfortunately for Nashville, it has been Rinne.

Colin Wilson has been the playoff superstar thus far, notching his fourth goal of the playoffs last night to give Nashville a short 1-0 lead in the first period. James Neal would finally make his presence known late in the second, giving Nashville the 2-1 lead going into the third period. I think a lot of us were too busy celebrating a successful second period that we forgot there was another period to go.

Welp, if the Predators play well with their backs against the wall, tomorrow should be no contest. I mean, they are practically hugging it at this point. Breaking Darling is really what Nashville needs to do now. He is trained on those long range missiles; let’s take it to the net. The issue with taking it to the net, however, is that the Predators are notorious for their terrible puck control, making it easy for Chicago to bat it [the puck] away from them, killing the focus. I’m going to keep it short today, as my brain has not recovered from the amount of caffeine I’ve just consumed and I do not want to cling to an outcome that cannot change. Come on home, boys.

Other Thoughts:

  • Rookie Kevin Fiala got his first taste of playoff hockey last night, becoming the sixth youngest player to do so in the organization. It was also – technically – his first away game, too.
  • Pekka Rinne just about stripped naked last night in an effort to locate the puck that was lost in his pads during the first overtime.

  • Mike Fisher participated in practice yesterday, but ended up bowing out of last night’s game. Still day-to-day with a lower-body injury, but maybe he’ll be ready for tomorrow?
  • What’s with Chicago (and the officials) not being able to count? Why does this keep happening?

  • Meaningless .gifs mean more fun for us… as long as they involve the Predators.

  • How was Pekka on point last night? Here’s a .gif of his last minute save that, without it, could’ve ended this game in regulation:

  • James Neal’s hit on Duncan Keith dislodged a panel of glass at one point. That’s cool.

The Morning After: Game 3

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If only it had ended as bad as these guys made it out to be. Source: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, the Predators certainly forgot to pack that momentum in their carry-on bags from Friday on the way to Chicago because… well, we all saw the outcome of yesterday’s game. Not a complete and utter beat down, but not the heat we hoped to had seen for sure. The two goals Nashville did muster were exciting, to say the least, as they responded almost immediately after Chicago. However, after those two, there were no more follow-ups and the Blackhawks took Game 3 by a score of 4-2.

So what happened? Well, some could argue that the United Center is just a tough atmosphere for any team. Well, yea – it is, but here’s the thing: the Predators have played enough times in that arena that this should no longer be a surprise. Yes, the atmosphere during playoff hockey is a little more… unique, but these guys aren’t fresh off the boat; they know what to generally expect.

Another argument is regarding the absence of pack leaders, Shea Weber and Mike Fisher. The Predators played just fine Friday without Fisher and lit the jet fuel after Weber went out of the game. Though Weber and Fisher play significant roles on the ice, injuries like this are bound to happen and the Predators have adapted well before; unfortunately, unlike regular season, they cannot take their time figuring out a game plan. I was asked yesterday via Twitter on the health condition of Pekka Rinne; surely, he must still be injured. As much as I want to talk myself into believing that is the root cause of his awkward mistakes, it just isn’t. The only discomfort I believe he is in is the frustration of his gaffes. Unfortunately, even the best find themselves in a rut – Chicago resorted to their backup, Scott “sold my soul to the Devil to get out of the SPHL” Darling yesterday because Corey Crawford is way off his game.

No offense to Carter Hutton, but Nashville does not have someone who will all of sudden become the brick wall needed for the playoffs. After his hip surgery last season and his lengthy injury this season, many have questioned Rinne’s performance as it is easiest to blame the goaltender in these situations. However, blame cannot be solely rested upon the shoulders of the net-minder, as it takes other factors (defense) to keep a breakaway from happening in the first place.

Honestly, you could sit there and watch the replay of the game over and over and nitpick every thing that went wrong last night; so easy. The sloppy passes, bad man-to-man coverage, whatnot, but to keep a positive mindset, the First Round is far from over and anything can happen. Now that they have one playoff game under their belts in Chicago, tomorrow shouldn’t come as a shock and they should be a little more level-headed and prepared. There’s a good chance, since he traveled with the team, that Mike Fisher may be back for tomorrow’s game. Not that he’s the saving grace that’ll set everything straight, but Fisher’s authoritarian presence may be the kick in the rear end Nashville needs.

Shout out to Mike Ribeiro and Mattias Ekholm for cracking the “Darling Dam” yesterday and at least keeping the game interesting, to say the least. Now that I think about it, I am sad I forgot to post this photo:
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Twitter Thoughts: