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 thump Blackhawks 5-1

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Image Source: Sanford Myers/Getty Images

While Blackhawks fans joke that Bridgestone Arena may as well be “United Center South”, the boys in gold had different plans last night as they welcomed in fellow Central Division team the Chicago Blackhawks to Nashville last night. The first meeting in Nashville this season, the Predators and Blackhawks’ first bout with one another since last season’s playoff run was Tuesday in Chicago. Excelling on home ice, the Blackhawks dismantled the Predators 4-1 while extending Patrick Kane’s point streak.

While Predators/Blackhawks games aren’t exactly the most enjoyable when they come to town for the Nashville fan, it seemed like the building belonged to its home fans well before the hockey teams hit the ice. I’d go as far to say that the Predators fans drowned out the opposing fans quite well, minus the occasional Hawks cheer here and there. While Blackhawks band-wagoners scoff at the fact that Predators fans get run out of the building when they come to town, it’s the obvious and overstated reminder that Nashville is still a fairly young team. We don’t have to do the math to say that one of the Original Six teams that was established in 1926 has more fans than a team founded in 1998. Who gives a flying you-know-what as to how many Cups you have? You have six and three of those were won within the last decade. It’s not that Nashville has a lack of fans; hockey has been around long before the NHL decided to place a national team here. Piss-ass drunk fans that thrive on being an embarrassment to society are what make Predators fans avoid the arena when Blackhawks fans come to town. Congrats on that achievement.

Moving onward, after the loss Tuesday night in Chicago, the Predators didn’t have to wait long for a rematch as the Blackhawks would arrive for their first match in Nashville this season last night.

FIRST PERIOD:

  • James Neal launched the Predators in the right direction at 6:54 for his 11th goal of the season giving Nashville an early 1-0 lead over Chicago. Shea Weber (10) and Mike Ribeiro (13) notched the assists.
    https://twitter.com/TomAWillis/status/675123214167707649
  • Craig Smith would make his move count at 15:56 for his 6th goal of the season with Viktor Arvidsson picking up his first assist.
    https://twitter.com/TomAWillis/status/675128236347666432
  • Not even a minute later, Filip Forsberg would push Nashville up 3-0 with a power play goal. Heck, Paul didn’t even finish saying the word before Forsberg scored. It was pretty fantastic, really. Roman Josi (15) and Calle Jarnkrok (4) would notch the assists on Forsberg’s sixth goal of the season.
    https://twitter.com/CMS_74_/status/675128630310236161
  • There was no denying who dominated the first period, but the question on everyone’s mind was would Nashville continue the momentum through the remaining forty minutes? Pekka Rinne looked like him old self despite having a few uncharacteristic games as of late. Though Chicago only managed seven shots on goal in the first period, they were all pretty stout.

SECOND PERIOD:

  • Though no goals were scored in the second period, what was expected out of Chicago – for the most part – happened. They came out with more flames under their feet than Nashville did, but the Predators didn’t make the usual “second period funk” that they usually take. Chicago would out-shoot Nashville 13 to 8 in the second, but Pekka being Pekka and all…
    https://twitter.com/justinbbradford/status/675141340775215105

THIRD PERIOD:

  • At 5:43, Patrick Kane would “score” to not only put Chicago finally on the board, but extend his point streak to 24. Now, I am not one for conspiracies, but really… this was definitely goaltender interference. Any other time, I am almost willing to bet that goal would’ve been thrown out, but because Kane’s streak is involved… yeah, I do believe it. So sue me. I’m a fan, not a NHL employee.
    https://twitter.com/TomAWillis/status/675150837568679936
  • Neal, on the other hand, extended Nashville lead to 4-1 at 14:55 for his second goal of the night and his 12th of the season. No assistance was needed for his Frosty goal.
    https://twitter.com/TomAWillis/status/675157043905478660
  • And, in a last ditch effort to get Chicago in the game, Scott Darling was pulled to give the Blackhawks the extra man. Unfortunately for them, Eric Nystom has a way of hitting the empty nets (even when down a man on the penalty). Nystrom’s empty-netter + shorthanded goal is his fifth of the season. Like Neal’s second goal, no assistance was needed.
    https://twitter.com/SteveLayman/status/675157760699457537

While Blackhawks fans filed out of the arena before the final horn could signify the victory in favor of the home team, Nashville was gaining a huge morale boost in this win (along with the points, of course). The players are not immune to the fact that Chicago is notorious for taking over the Bridgestone Arena. They take just as much pride in winning these games as the fans do.

With this victory under their belts, the Predators improve their record to 15-9-5 and now sit in third in the Central Division with 35 points (Chicago has 34 and St. Louis -2nd- has 36). Nashville currently sits fourth in the Western Conference.

The Predators welcome in the 12-16-1 Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, but don’t let that standing fool you. Just because the Avalanche are last in the Western Conference doesn’t mean they won’t come out kicking and screaming.

2015 NHL All-Star Weekend in Review

Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Columbus, Ohio was the place to be this weekend has the city hosted the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend. As you know, Nashville was chosen as the host city for the 2016 ASG Weekend, which will be an event on its own. But until then, let’s recap the fun that happened this weekend in Columbus… Oh, and for the sake of keeping this post from being ninety pages long, we’ll stick to Nashville’s accomplishments:

Team Foligno:

  • Nick Foligno – Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Brian Elliot – St. Louis Blues
  • Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
  • Drew Doughty – L.A. Kings
  • Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Kevin Shattenkirk – St. Louis Blues
  • Dustin Byfuglien – Winnipeg Jets
  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Arizona Coyotes
  • Brent Burns – San Jose Sharks
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton Oilers
  • Bobby Ryan – Ottawa Senators
  • Alexander Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
  • Anze Kopitar – L.A. Kings
  • Radim Vrabata – Vancouver Canucks
  • Ryan Johansen – Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Zemgus Girgensons – Buffalo Sabres
  • Claude Giroux – Philadelphia Flyers
  • Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Coaching Staff: Darryl Sutter – L.A. Kings

Team Toews:

  • Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Corey Crawford – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Roberto Luongo – Florida Panthers
  • Jaroslav Halak – New York Islanders
  • Aaron Ekblad – Florida Panthers
  • Mark Giordano – Calgary Flames
  • Shea Weber – Nashville Predators
  • Johnny Gaudreau – Calgary Flames
  • Brent Seabrook – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Ryan Suter – Minnesota Wild
  • Justin Faulk – Carolina Hurricanes
  • Filip Forsberg – Nashville Predators
  • Ryan Getzlaf – Anaheim Ducks
  • Patrik Elias – New Jersey Devils
  • Patrice Bergeron – Boston Bruins
  • Rick Nash – New York Rangers
  • Tyler Seguin – Dallas Stars
  • Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues
  • Jakub Vorachek – Philadelphia Flyers
  • John Tavares – New York Islanders
  • Coaching Staff – Peter Laviolette – Nashville Predators

As you recall, Pekka Rinne was not included in the All-Star “draft” due to sustaining a knee sprain. Because Filip Forsberg was chosen last for Team Toews, he was the lucky winner of a brand new Honda Accord. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also won a new Honda, as he was chosen last for Team Foligno.

Source: @NHL

Source: @NHL

Saturday – Skills Competition – Winner: Team Foligno

Despite a good show by Team Toews, it was Team Foligno who reigned in the Skills Competition held on Saturday evening. Both Weber and Forsberg participated in the relay and shootout, but it was Weber who shined – not surprisingly – during the Hardest Shot round.

Shea originally missed his first shot, but more than nailed his second attempt, clocking his shot at 108.5 MPH. Weber certainly won the competition, but missed notching the hardest shot ever recorded, which is held by Zdeno Chara at 108.8 MPH. Forsberg shined in the relay portion, showing off his crazy insane puck-handling skills.

Sunday – All-Star Game – Winner: Team Toews

Though the fell short in the Skills Competition, Team Toews out-powered Team Foligno by a long shot during the actual All-Star Game, winning 17-12. And, believe it or not, though the All-Star Game tends to always have a ton of goals, this was the highest scoring game in its history. Filip Forsberg’s two goals helped get Team Toews to the win, the first goals scored by a Nashville Predator in an All-Star Game. Shea Weber also notched an assist off of Tyler Seguin’s goal.

From the World Wide World of Twitter:

So that’s a wrap on the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend. Next Stop: Nashville! But before then, the Predators must press forward with the remainder of this season and push into the playoffs. Pekka Rinne should also be re-evaluated soon, along with Ryan Ellis. The Predators return to the regular season this Tuesday as they welcome in the Colorado Avalanche at 7PM.