Game 1 Recap: Sharks Capitalize on Preds Exhaustion

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Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After winning the franchise’s first Game 7, the Predators hopped onto a plane and headed to Northern California to face the San Jose Sharks, who eliminated crowd favor L.A. Kings in five games. Underdogs yet again, the Predators would either see one of two things from the Sharks: a well rested group or a slow-to-go team. While knocking out your opponent in as few games as possible can be a good thing, it can also knock you out of your winning rhythm. And while going all seven games can keep you in that rhythm, it can also cause a burn out. So, how did Game 1 between the Sharks and Predators turn out?

PRE-GAME:

Well, Predators playoff savior Craig Smith’s nagging lower-body injury kept him from the lineup in Game 1 against the Sharks. With Craig Smith, the Predators are 4-0. Without Craig Smith? 0-4. So who did Nashville pull in to replace Smith? Eric Nystrom, who did not see any ice time during the first series against Anaheim. Pontus Aberg was initially recalled by the team from Milwaukee earlier in the day, but was ultimately scratched before game time.

Also, this happened right before the game:

No one is sure where this little black cat came from, but it wasn’t the thing superstitious fans wanted to see scurrying across the ice before the game.

FIRST PERIOD:

While neither team managed to score during the first, there were definitely plenty of close calls. This particular shot-on-goal had to be reviewed. Of course, there’s no way it would’ve been deemed a goal, there is still the rule that it could have been:

San Jose would send eleven shots at Pekka, with the Finnish wall managing to stop them all. Nashville would notch twelve shots against Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.

SECOND PERIOD:

Nashville would come out swinging in the Second Period, with Mike Fisher notching a “top cheddar” goal to take the lead on the power play:

Fisher and the Predators would hold onto that lead throughout the period, giving Nashville some glorious hope going into the third period.

THIRD PERIOD:

Ah, but that sweet lead by the Predators would be short lived as the Sharks found their rhythm and began attacking the net, while Nashville’s juice began to run out. At 2:37, Tomas Hertl notch a beauty of a goal, finding the one hole in Rinne’s armor to tie the game at 1-1 on the power play.

Former Nashville Predator Joel Ward would give San Jose the lead at 11:49 with a breakaway goal, pulling a feisty move to trick Rinne into giving him plenty of room. Shortly thereafter, Logan Couture would give San Jose a 3-1 lead with less than five minutes left in regulation. The wheels, it seems, had fallen off the Predators wagon and the Sharks were ready to bounce on their opportunities.

However, Ryan Johansen would give Nashville a glimmer of hope at 18:11 making the score 3-2 with plenty of time left to tie it up. Unfortunately, both Couture and Tommy Wingels would pound two empty-netters, sealing Game 1 in favor of the San Jose Sharks 5-2.

So what happened? It all came down to the fact that Nashville hit an exhaustive wall and the Sharks, who played rather steady throughout the first and second periods, hit the rocket boosters in the third period and powered past the worn out Predators. While some saw the first and second periods as being rather slow, the Sharks knew exactly what they were doing and made some seriously smart moves, which ultimately lead to their victory.

So what can Nashville do to avoid this tomorrow night? Honestly, it’s a matter of regrouping and coming out refreshed and ready to play a smart, even strength game. The Sharks feed on power play opportunities, and Nashville must stay out of the box on Sunday. I know that is definitely a common sense strategy, but sometimes you have to go back to the basics to seek victory. Nashville will also need to keep a consistent flow through all three periods to outsmart the Sharks. It was clear last night that the Sharks waited until Nashville began losing steam before taking charge and it worked well for them. Though coming out on fire is a good thing, hoping that one goal will keep the Sharks at bay is just not going to work.

Before I am finished, I do have to mention this that happened:

This should’ve been where the Sharks originally tied the game, but somehow, someway, the puck just stopped short of the goal line. Lucky for Nashville at the time, but the Sharks would find a way to score anyways.

Losing Game 1 is not the end of the series by any means. However, Nashville will need to take away some things from this game and apply them to Sunday night’s game to avoid going 0-2 in this series.

Moving On: Preds defeat the Ducks in Round 1

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Source: Debora Robinson/Getty Images

First Game 7 in franchise history? Check. Thousands of people booing you in Anaheim? Check. Feeling like your going to get a stomach ulcer thanks to stress? Check.

If you were feeling a cocktail mix of adrenaline, stress, and excitement during last night’s (this morning’s) game, then you weren’t watching Game 7 between the Anaheim Ducks and the Nashville Predators. After leading the series 2-0, Nashville managed to lose three in a row to Anaheim, thus bringing Game 6 back to Nashville to face elimination. Do or die for the Preds, Nashville took the ‘do’ and forced a Game 7 back in Anaheim, winning 3-1.

Anaheim was kind to Nashville in Games 1 & 2, but… not so much in Game 5. Nashville managed to survive one ‘do or die’, but could they muster the energy to do it again; especially with everything falling in Anaheim’s favor…

Except one little itty bitty fact: The Ducks have lost Game 7 (at home) four consecutive years. And this fact about goals that led to their losses:

As a fairly superstitious person when it comes to hockey, I was not banking on Anaheim to make the same mistake again. Or, for the fourth time. There was just no way. I am glad I was wrong. But we all should have known that Nashville had the series when this guy chose the Predators over the Ducks:

There’s no doubting that Pekka Rinne was on point in Game 6 and, from the first puck drop of the night, the Preds goaltender was blocking shots and taking names. The Ducks would bring the pressure, but it would be Playoff Wilson who would get Nashville on the board first at 6:19:

Yes Colin, you have every right to celebrate this goal. You disappear in the regular season, only to emerge from your cocoon a beautiful playoff butterfly. Fly, Playoff Wilson; fly.

At 15:35, off a deflection from the Shea Weber slapper, Paul Gaustad would tally Nashville’s second goal of the night, giving the Music City team an early 2-0 lead:

The goal would be reviewed to see if Gaustad tipped it with a high stick, but – as you can see – it was a good goal and the folks in Nashville celebrated:

The second period would be a test for Nashville’s penalty kill, as the Ducks were awarded three different powerplay opportunities in this period alone. I could go on about how questionable some of these calls were, but the NHL refs (on all levels, not just this game) are a story for another time. We will just notate that Ryan Kesler did not receive a penalty for this head smash, which was quite obvious:

Kesler would do this again in the third period but to a helmet-less Barret Jackman. Penalty? Nope.

With their multiple powerplay opportunities, Anaheim would notch 13 shots on goal during the second period, but Rinne and the Nashville PK and defense would hold the Ducks at bay for another twenty minutes.

The penalties would keep coming into the third period, with both teams receiving two powerplay opportunities. Unfortunately, Ryan Kesler managed to score on one of those opportunities, putting the Ducks both on the board and into the game. This goal, of course, gave Anaheim a boost, but it also boosted Nashville’s desperation as well.

Nashville would only get four shots on goal during the third period compared to Anaheim’s thirteen. If that doesn’t tell you how on point Pekka Rinne was last night, I don’t know what will. How about this?

After what seemed like a lifetime, the clock finally ran down and it was official: Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs belonged to the Nashville Predators.

The fact that I am able to speak today is a miracle in itself. Also, the fact that my neighbors did not call the cops is amazing (and slightly terrifying because what if I was in trouble). If you were down at the Plaza Party Lexus Lounge Party, you had an extra special treat to share with all your fellow Preds fans.

After all the bickering and questionable hits and no-calls, it still never ceases to amaze me how professional both teams can be after it is all said and done. It is, after all, a career that they all love:

So, now that we can all somewhat breathe, what’s next? Well, Nashville doesn’t have far to travel. After eliminating the Ducks, and the LA Kings losing, the San Jose Sharks are the last California team to survive… and their Nashville’s next opponent. Here is the schedule:

  • Game 1 – Nashville @ San Jose – 9:30PM – Friday, April 29th
  • Game 2 – Nashville @ San Jose – 7PM – Sunday, May 1st
  • Game 3 – San Jose @ Nashville – 8PM – Tuesday, May 3rd
  • Game 4 – San Jose @ Nashville – 8PM – Thursday, May 5th
  • Game 5 – Nashville @ San Jose – TBA
  • Game 6 – San Jose @ Nashville – TBA
  • Game 7 – Nashville @ San Jose – TBA

So, you made it through Round 1. Congratulations. Let’s move onward to Round 2.

Preds to face Ducks in First Round

Source: Harry How/Getty Images

With the Anaheim Ducks shutting out the Washington Capitals 2-0 tonight, Nashville finally knows who it will face in the First Round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Anaheim Ducks.

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Game 1: Friday, April 15th @ 9:30PM – Honda Center
Game 2: Sunday, April 17th @ 9:30PM – Honda Center
Game 3: Tuesday, April 19th @ 8:30PM – Bridgestone Arena
Game 4: Thursday, April 21st @ 7:00PM – Bridgestone Arena
Game 5: Saturday, April 23rd – TBA – Honda Center
Game 6: Monday, April 25th – TBA – Bridgestone Arena
Game 7: Wednesday, April 27th – TBA – Honda Center

Bold: If Necessary

The last time the Predators faced in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs was back in 2011. Nashville ended up defeating the Ducks, securing their first advance to semi-finals in franchise history.

Can Nashville do it again? There’s only one way to find out. See you Friday.

 

 

Preds are Officially Playoff Bound

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With the Colorado Avalanche losing to the Washington Capitals tonight 4-2, the Nashville Predators are officially playoff bound. Fourth time seems to be the charm for Nashville, as they’ve had the opportunity to clinch a spot since March 28th. Of course, as you are probably aware, the Predators have gone 0-3 on their last three games, so it took Nashville’s former head coach to get the job done by knocking off the Avalanche.

Whatever way, Nashville is officially in and since the Blackhawks won and the Wild lost, there’s a good chance the Predators will face either the Kings or the Ducks in the first round. It also looks like the Blackhawks and the Blues will face each other in the first round (if you care).

It’s officially time to #StandWithUs, Smashville. Oh, and finish out the last four regular season games, too.

Preds recall Stefan Elliott

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Image Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Late this afternoon the Nashville Predators announced that they have recalled defenseman Stefan Elliott from the Milwaukee Admirals:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Wednesday that the club has recalled defenseman Stefan Elliott from Milwaukee (AHL) under emergency conditions. He will wear No. 7 for the club.

Elliott, 25 (1/30/91), has 24 points (8g-16a) in 82 career NHL contests with Colorado and Arizona since the 2011-12 season. Prior to being acquired by the Predators on Jan. 15, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound blueliner notched six points (2g-4a) in 19 games with the Coyotes, and since the trade, he has 17 points (6g-11a) in 29 AHL games with the Admirals. Colorado’s third selection, 49th overall (second round), in the 2009 Entry Draft was a 2015 AHL All-Star, the 2011 recipient of the Bill Hunter Trophy as the WHL’s top defenseman and the 2009 CHL Scholastic Player of the Year while with the Saskatoon Blades.

ICYMI, the 25-year-old defenseman has been recalled in time to play against the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night due to Ryan Ellis suffering an upper-body injury in last night’s game against the Dallas Stars.

As you can see from this .gif, there’s no doubting why Ellis left the game last night. Ouch. While I am not sure how serious this injury is, I can assume he’ll be out for a few games – possibly the remainder of the regular season, which consists of just five more games.

The Predators will have their third chance to clinch a playoff spot tomorrow night with a win over the 43-25-8 Penguins. Also, if the Avalanche lose to the Presidents Cup-winning Capitals Friday, that will also give Nashville a spot in the playoffs.

Vesey shuns Nashville; Seeks UFA

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Portraits

Image Source: Google

Say it ain’t so, Joe Jimmy! #VeseyWatch is officially over as the Predators’ third round 2012 NHL Draft pick has chosen to go the route of unrestricted free agency instead of joining Nashville. TSN reporter Bob McKenzie was the first to break the news:

As you can imagine, the Preds Twitterverse was raging at this news with some people showing no surprise whatsoever, and others completely baffled.

While I wasn’t too surprised by this announcement, it was still very disappointing. As much as I think the Predators are doing fine without him and – who knows – adding him might throw off the chemistry and kill any chance of a deep playoff run (the kid has never seen a slice of NHL ice time), it is still frustrating to know Nashville will get nothing for drafting him.

It became even more frustrating when David Poile called an impromptu press conference during the first intermission regarding Vesey’s choice to wait out UFA.

“On Wednesday, we received a call that they were thinking about free agency. This was the first time that had ever been told to anyone in our organization. At that point, we kind of asked why and they just said it was the attraction of free agency. I said that I felt that this was a complete 180 and that I’d to have a meeting with Jimmy, his family, and his representatives. [I] spoke with his dad, I believe it was on Thursday, who seemed to be very much in favor of his son signing in Nashville and agreed to have a meeting sometime when the season was over. We called the agents and told them that Paul Fenton (Assistant GM) and I would come up to the game with Scott Nichol (Director of Player Development) on Friday to cheer Jimmy on. We met with the agents for about an hour up in Boston where we went over all their feelings and they thought it was good that we came up. [We] talked about a lot of things. We asked for a meeting and they said they would talk to Jimmy about that and hopefully we would have a meeting.

Paul Fenton and I came back here [Nashville] on Saturday. Scott Nichol stayed there in Boston because we invited Jimmy and his family and his representatives to come to Nashville whether he was signed or not, whether it be Saturday, Monday. Or, if not, Paul Fenton and I were going to go back to Boston to meet with all of them Tuesday. There’s been a lot of conversations, but never once did we ever get together to have a meeting.

Every indication was that he was going to sign with us. His dad had told me, Peter Laviolette, Scott Nichol, and Paul Fenton that his son was going to sign with us. And Jimmy himself told Paul Fenton prior to the trade deadline, which was an important time for us because it was our last opportunity to change our team. We told him if he was going to sign with us we were going to keep a position available for him, and he told us that he was going to sign with us.

So, for whatever reason, and after all the time and resources that we invested in Jimmy Vesey’s development, we could not get a meeting with Jimmy, his family, and his representatives all together. That’s the only thing I asked for after Wednesday and they would not accommodate us on that.”

The last two paragraphs from Poile’s press conference are what you need to take away from this. Both Jimmy and his father told David Poile that he [Vesey] would be signing with Nashville. Although Nashville made a move early before the Trade Deadline with the Jones/Johansen trade, Poile’s comments indicate that the organization would have possibly made more moves before the deadline, but were going by Vesey’s word that he would sign with the team once his season was over with Harvard.

Another important quote to take away from this presser is:

Now, take this information with a grain of salt. This does not mean Toronto or Boston or whoever put a little bug in his ear, but – on the other hand – who is to say they did not. Unrestricted Free Agency is a tasty little deal, but there is no denying Jimmy would’ve been given the best deal if he signed with Nashville. An automatic top 6 position in the lineup, playoff time, and the chance to burn a year on his entry-level contract? Yeah, there’s no doubt – if Jimmy wanted the best deal – he received bad advice, but if it really is all about the idea of signing wherever he wants, then here’s to hoping every team grovels at his feet for him to join.

Hockey is a business and the kid certainly has the right to change his mind, even after making all these lovely promises to the Predators organization. However, with business comes reputation and well, this making promises then tucking tail and not facing the music is a bit… sleazy. If he did honestly change his mind, he and his agents needed to man-up and explain their case to Nashville. That’s just my opinion, but I have a feeling some others would agree.

Honestly, I cannot blame the kid for seeking a chance to go wherever he wants, but I do not like how the negotiations were handled – or lack thereof. Vesey may want to find another set of agents, because their actions can reflect poorly on him and his character.

David Poile and his team still have rights to Vesey until August 15th, so the Predators GM claims he will continue to persuade Vesey to join the Predators organization. In my opinion, Nashville has plenty of up-and-coming talent in Milwaukee that should have a shot a the NHL, especially since these guys have already shown commitment to the Predators organization. If Vesey really wants to stay in Boston or play under the supervision of his father in Toronto, I say let him. The toughest part for Nashville is this loophole where players can go off to college or Europe and, after four years, hit UFA. And what does that team get after drafting the kid? Nothing. But that, my friends, is fight for another day.

Four Preds added to World Cup Rosters

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The World Cup of Hockey, an international tournament set to start September 17th, announced its preliminary team rosters throughout the day yesterday & some of Nashville’s best got the call.

Pekka Rinne (Team Finland), Filip Forsberg (Team Sweden), Shea Weber (Team Canada), and Roman Josi (Team Europe) will be representing their respective countries in this year’s tournament. Below is a full rundown of each team and its participants:

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TEAM USA
TEAM POSITION
Ben Bishop Lightning G
Jonathan Quick Kings G
Cory Schneider Devils G
Dustin Byfuglien Jets D
John Carlson Capitals D
Ryan McDonagh Rangers D
Ryan Suter Wild D
Justin Abdelkader Red Wings F
Patrick Kane Blackhawks F
Ryan Kesler Ducks F
T.J. Oshie Capitals F
Max Pacioretty Canadiens F
Zach Parise Wild F
Joe Pavelski Sharks F
Derek Stepan Rangers F
Blake Wheeler Jets F

 

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TEAM CANADA
TEAM POSITION
Corey Crawford Blackhawks G
Braden Holtby Capitals G
Carey Price Canadiens G
Drew Doughty Kings D
Duncan Keith Blackhawks D
Marc-Edouard Vlasic Sharks D
Shea Weber Predators D
Jamie Benn Stars F
Patrice Bergeron Bruins F
Jeff Carter Kings F
Sidney Crosby Penguins F
Ryan Getzlaf Ducks F
Tyler Seguin Stars F
Steven Stamkos Lightning F
John Tavares Islanders F
Johnathan Toews Blackhawks F

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TEAM RUSSIA
TEAM POSITION
Sergei Bobrovsky Blue Jackets G
Semyon Varlamov Avalanche G
Andrei Vasilevskiy Lightning G
Dmitry Kulikov Panthers D
Andrei Markov Canadiens D
Dmitry Orlov Capitals D
Artem Anisimov Blackhawks D
Pavel Datsyuk Red Wings F
Nikita Kucherov Lightning F
Nikolay Kulemin Islanders F
Evgeny Kuznetsov Capitals F
Evgeni Malkin Penguins F
Vladislav Namestnikov Lightning F
Alex Ovechkin Capitals F
Artemi Panarin Blackhawks F
Vladimir Tarasenko Blues F

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TEAM FINLAND
TEAM POSITION
Tuuka Rask Bruins G
Pekka Rinne Predators G
Olli Maatta Penguins D
Rasmus Ristolainen Sabres D
Sami Vatanen Ducks D
Esa Lindell Stars D
Mikko Koivu Wild F
Jori Lehtera Blues F
Aleksander Barkov Panthers F
Mikael Granlund Wild F
Jussi Jokinen Panthers F
Valtteri Filppula Lightning F
Leo Komarov Maple Leafs F
Joonas Donskoi Sharks F
Lauri Korpikoski Oilers F
Teuvo Teravainen Blackhawks F

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TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC
TEAM POSITION
Petr Mrazek Red Wings G
Michal Neuvirth Flyers G
Ondrej Pavelec Jets G
Radko Gudas Flyers D
Michal Kempny Avangard Omsk (KHL) D
Roman Polak Sharks D
Andrej Sustr Lightning D
Michael Frolik Flames F
Martin Hanzal Coyotes F
Tomas Hertl Sharks F
David Krejci Bruins F
Ondrej Palat Lightning F
David Pastrnak Bruins F
Tomas Plekanec Canadiens F
Vladimir Sobotka Avangard Omsk (KHL) F
Jakub Voracek Flyers F

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TEAM SWEDEN
TEAM POSITION
Henrik Lundqvist Rangers G
Jacob Markstrom Canucks G
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Coyotes D
Viktor Hedman Lightning D
Niklas Hjalmarsson Blackhawks D
Erik Karlsson Senators D
Niklas Kronwall Red Wings D
Anton Stralman Lightning D
Nicklas Backstrom Capitals F
Loui Eriksson Bruins F
Filip Forsberg Predators F
Gabriel Landeskog Avalanche F
Daniel Sedin Canucks F
Henrik Sedin Canucks F
Alexanders Steen Blues F
Henrik Zetterberg Red Wings F

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TEAM EUROPE
TEAM POSITION
Frederik Andersen Ducks (Denmark) G
Jaroslav Halak Rangers (Slovakia) G
Zdeno Chara Bruins (Slovakia) D
Roman Josi Predators (Switzerland) D
Dennis Seidenberg Bruins (Germany) D
Andrej Sekera Oilers (Slovakia) D
Mark Streit Flyers (Switzerland)
D
Mikkel Boedker Avalanche (Denmark) F
Leon Draisaitl Oilers (Germany) F
Jannik Hansen Canucks (Denmark) F
Marian Hossa Blackhawks (Slovakia) F
Anze Kopitar Kings (Slovenia) F
Frans Nielsen Islanders (Denmark) F
Tomas Tatar Red Wings (Slovakia) F
Thomas Vanek Wild (Austria) F
Mats Zuccarello Rangers (Norway) F

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TEAM NORTH AMERICA TEAM POSITION
John Gibson Ducks G
Connor Hellebuyck Manitoba Moose (AHL) G
Matthew Murray Penguins G
Aaron Ekblad Panthers D
Seth Jones Blue Jackets D
Ryan Murray Blue Jackets D
Morgan Reilly Maple Leafs
D
Sean Couturier Flyers F
Jack Eichel Sabres F
Johnny Gaudreau Flames F
Dylan Larkin Red Wings F
Nathan MacKinnon Avalanche F
Connor McDavid Oilers F
J.T. Miller Rangers F
Sean Monahan Wild (Austria) F
Mats Zuccarello Rangers (Norway) F

If you are confused by Team North America because there is already a Team Canada and Team USA, you aren’t alone. This new team consists of the top players from both the United States and Canada that are under the age of twenty-three.

The fun kicks off September 7th and runs through October 1st in Toronto. The final roster will be announced June 1st.

 

Preds crush Blues 5-0

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Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

There’s no doubt St. Louis Blues fans travel well; at least to Nashville, anyway. And, with it being a rare Saturday afternoon game, there was certainly no shortage of Blues fans in the Bridgestone Arena for today’s match up. As I heard a St. Louis fan near me, “Well, looks like St. Louis’ll have the home advantage tonight!” I couldn’t help but giggle as the Predators silenced the Blues travelers from the moment the puck dropped.

As I mentioned in my previous post regarding the victory over Chicago in the United Center, Pekka Rinne has undoubtedly regained his groove and today’s game only helped solidify this notion. While Nashville certainly came out with more fire than the Blues both offensively and defensively, Rinne was still put to the test several times. Notching his fourth shutout this season, Rinne put a stop to all 28 shots on goal from the St. Louis Blues, while his fellow teammates snagged four goals on Jake Allen and one on backup Pheonix (yes, that’s spelled correctly) Copley. Attributing to Rinne’s rebound is Carter Hutton’s impressive performance of late, which has given Pekka a chance to rest — something he’s needed desperately. With division-leading Dallas coming in Tuesday, Rinne will certainly need to be net, but Hutton should definitely be called to lead against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

Moving on to goal scoring, Craig Smith would get Nashville started early in the game, notching his 14th goal of the season at 5:39. Mike Ribeiro (34) and Filip Forsberg (20) would collect the assists. Smith’s goal would be the only snagged in the first period, but that didn’t mean there was a lack of momentum by a long shot.

The man of the hour, Filip Forsberg, would essentially own the second period, collecting his second natural hat trick in this week alone. That’s a feat that hasn’t be done since Peter Bondra did it in eight games back in the 1987-88 season. Yeah, I wasn’t even born yet and Forsberg wasn’t even a glimmer in his mother’s eye. Naturally, this was also a first in Predators history as Forsberg is the first to register multiple hat tricks in one season.

I have to hand it to you, Mr. Poile. Martin Erat, who demanded a trade to anywhere as long as he could get out of Nashville (so he could have a chance to win a Stanley Cup) is now sitting on six goals with Omsk Avangard in the KHL. Nashville snagged a questionable rookie from Washington who turned out to be arguably one of the best forwards in the league while Erat mustered a total of two goals with Washington before demanding to be traded from there, too. As long as Forsberg continues to perform in the manner that he is, I’d hang my hat on this trade too, David Poile.

Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg aren’t the only two to score today for Nashville, oh no. The long awaited goal from Colin Wilson came at 4:37 in the third period, his fifth of the season. Wilson’s name has been pretty prominent of late, mostly due to being involved with trade talks; more specifically, a trade between he and former Predator Scott Hartnell. While only one reputable source has mentioned this trade with some sort of seriousness, as of 8:50PM, neither team has budged. Of course, Kevin Fiala’s name has been brought up in the rumors as well, but until some big names start shuffling the news, I am not reporting it. Any who, Colin Wilson was definitely due and collecting Nashville’s 5-0 game winning goal may be the boost he needs to find his groove. Rinne found his, after all, and it looks like Craig Smith is, too.

With this win, Nashville is now just six points behind the Blues and just eight points behind Chicago. Also, the Predators have the best record in the Central Division for the month of February: 7-3-3.  It is funny to think that this time last year, Nashville had hit their seasonal rut and were slowly losing their hold of the League and Central Division. Sadly, as we are all very much aware, Nashville could not get out of the rut in time to clinch the Central Division after holding it for so long.

As Nashville pulls itself together just in time for the playoff run, the organization isn’t going to find itself with many chances to relax. Division-leading Dallas comes in Tuesday, then its a bout with the Devils Thursday, then Nashville takes off on a five-game road trip out west. But this is the best the Predators have looked all season. Be excited. The road to the playoffs comes fast.

Preds defeat Hawks 3-1

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Source: The Tennessean

Let’s start by discussing how successful this road trip has been for the Predators, shall we? After the devastating loss at home against Los Angeles last Saturday, the Predators needed all the help they could get going into a three-game road trip to Canada and Chicago. Sitting pretty in a Wild Card position, Nashville was going to need as many two-point games as they could muster, and Montreal, Chicago, and even second-to-last in the league Toronto weren’t going to go down without some kind of a fight.

Back-to-back games are tough on any team, but Nashville made it look easy by first coming away with two points in a shootout against Montreal (yes, the Predators made it through an overtime) 2-1. Pekka Rinne has been playing exceptionally well, along with his cohort Carter Hutton. Of course, the highlight of this particular game was Craig Smith and his… well, Craig Smithy-ness and then his redemption SO goal.

Moving onward to Tuesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs (who are battling with the Edmonton Oilers for last in the league) have already beaten the Predators once this season, claiming the two points in Nashville in a 2-1 SO victory back on November 12th. After a little jawing between Cody Bass and former Predator Rich Clune, the Predators notched a 3-2 victory over the floundering Maple Leafs.

Apparently, Rich Clune was not happy that Bass is wearing his former number. I guess Nashville was supposed to retire it after you were waived?

Riding high on their two victories in Canada, it was time for the Predators to face a divisional opponent and not just any divisional opponent – a divisional opponent that has had the upper-hand on Nashville this season. The Predators have loss seven straight games in the United Center so there’s no doubt there was some tension going into last night’s game. Chicago, who is ten points ahead of Nashville and is one point behind tying Dallas for first in the Central Division, wasn’t expecting to lose this game. So much so were they to win, the NBC Sports broadcasters chose to cover the Blackhawks instead of both teams (before anyone says anything, I am aware the Blackhawks were the home team, but come on. It’s on a neutral network. At least try to cover both teams equally).

Pekka Rinne was a force to be reckoned with last night, something we haven’t seen from him in a long time. When I say a long time, I mean he’s starting to find that “Pekka-esque” groove again, which has been absent due to injuries over the last few years. Since allowing Carter Hutton more ice time, it has almost given Rinne a rejuvenated feel. That, and with Hutton finding his fire, it is great to know that, no matter who is in the goal for that given match, it will be well defended.

Viktor Arvidsson is certainly making a name for himself with the big boys, getting Nashville on the board last night to tie the game after Seabrook’s initial goal. The young Swede notched his seventh goal of the season, his second in just five games.

Pekka Rinne would keep the prying Blackhawks at bay until around 1:30 left in regulation when another young Swede would come to the rescue and give Nashville the 2-1 lead. That Swede? Calle “Ironhook” Jarnkrok.

His twelfth goal of the season, Jarnkrok has become a threat in his own, being in the right place at the right time in most situations. For this goal, Mike Fisher setup the initial chance, which Jarnkrok easily took advantage of for the game winning goal.

Extending the Swedish dominance was Miikka Salomaki, who sunk the empty-netter to give Nashville the 3-1 lead and the overall victory as time expired.

Being a divisional rival, a league and division leader, knocking off the Blackhawks in their own arena should be a huge morale boost for the Nashville Predators; there’s no way it couldn’t be. The Predators hit their slump mid-season, but it has seeped into their playoff chances for sure. It’s now or never to kick it into gear and start collecting points. Some might say, “but they already have a wild card spot”. Yes, but that isn’t permanent and there are plenty of other teams who want that coveted spot as well. Plus, who wants to just settle with okay?

Nashville is back home Saturday for a rare 2PM puck drop against the 35-19-9 St. Louis Blues. This will be another game that Nashville will need to push hard for the two point victory.

Preds sign Colton Sissons

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Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Predators may be in Montreal preparing to go against the Canadiens tonight, but the front office is working hard at home. Moments ago, the Predators organization announced that it had agreed to a contract with forward Colton Sissons, Nashville’s second round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft. Here’s more from the official release:

Nashville, Tenn. (February 22, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Monday that the club has signed forward Colton Sissons to a three-year, $1.875 million contract. He will make $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level in 2016-17, and $650,000 in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Sissons, 22 (11/5/93), has appeared in 19 games for the Predators in 2015-16, notching a pair of points (1g-1a) and a 59 percent success rate in the face-off circle, best among all NHLers taking at least 100 draws. He has also served as the youngest captain in Milwaukee Admirals history this season, amassing 16 points (6g-10a) in 33 games. Now in his third professional season, the North Vancouver, B.C., native has six points (2g-4a) in 36 career NHL games, and 102 points (56g-46a) in 171 AHL contests. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound center ranked among the Top 20 AHLers in goals in both 2013-14 (25) and 2014-15 (25), becoming the first player in the Admirals AHL history to start his career with back-to-back 25-goal seasons. He was one of three rookies to be named to the 2014 AHL All-Star Team that took on Farjestads BK in the 2014 AHL All-Star Classic.

Sissons has participated in 19 games with the Predators this season and is certainly looking for his chance to stay with the big boys permanently. A three-year contract definitely gives off the impression that he is a valuable asset to the Predators organization — but we knew that.