Preds Knock Avalanche 3-0

Source: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

After being knocked from the top spot in the Central Division and losing to Chicago on Saturday night, the Predators headed West for a mini trip while Marvel Universe takes over the Bridgestone Arena for a few days. Truly, Nashville’s powerplay seems to be their only weakness at this point and, while it isn’t the worst of situations, it is still adding insult to injury where Nashville could use some help in dire situations (i.e. game changer). Anyways, this is the first meeting between the Predators and the Avalanche this season and, where normally the Avs are heading the top of the Central Division, this year has been a little different (so far). Colorado is currently in sixth in the Central Division, while Dallas is rounding out the last spot at seven. As I mention in almost ever post that Nashville plays a team struggling with numbers, don’t count them out; the Predators are notorious for getting sleepy during games like these. Colorado also has one of the top penalty kill percentages thus far this season, which probably doesn’t mean much to Nashville as… they are terrible at powerplays to begin with.

First Period:

  • Just 2:23 into the period, rookie sensation Filip Forsberg sends one past Chet Calvin Pickard; Chet’s brother — remember Chet, guys? You know, our first…round…pick… Gabriel Bourque (1) and Seth Jones (6) picked up the assists on Forsberg’s 12th goal of the season.

Second Period:

  • No goals, but Nashville led SOG ten to Colorado’s eight.
  • Nashville was given three powerplay chances in the second, but could capitalize on none of them.

Third Period

  • The last two goals would be empty-netters, with Gabriel Bourque nabbing his first goal of the season at 18:10 with assistance from Mike Ribeiro (15).
  • And James Neal would pick up his tenth goal of the season and the game winner at 19:02. Mike Ribeiro (16) and Filip Forsberg (15) would grab the assist points.

Nashville’s week-long roadtrip has started off on the right foot, with the Predators now at a 18-7-2 record thus far this season. Next stop is in Glendale, Arizona to spend a little time with Martin Erat. This will also be Mike Ribeiro’s first return to Arizona since being let go last season. I’m sure they’ll be excited to see how well he’s been doing with Nashville, right…? Right?

The Three B’s: Butler, Boychuk & Bartley

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Bartley, Boychuk, and Butler

It’s no secret the Predators have dug themselves into a deep rut, so it comes as no surprise that Nashville would make some changes on the roster front to freshen and revitalize the fast approaching finish line to the playoffs.

With Brian McGrattan back with the Calgary Flames and Hal Gill and Brandon Yip recuperating on the IR, the Predators found themselves in a position to give life to a lifeless group of guys.

Insert Bobby Butler, Zach Boychuk and Victor Bartley: Nashville’s new Three B’s.

Okay yay! The Predators actually took the initiative to make a change up this lackluster bunch, but what do these three guys have to offer that may bring the momentum back to the Predators? It’s already looking like these three will be in the lineup this weekend, with Bartley possibly making his NHL debut, so let’s take a look a these three newcomers:

Victor Bartley… along with the local news channel crew…

Let’s start with Victor Bartley, who is no stranger to the Nashville Predators organization. How so? He currently is a free agent on Nashville’s farm team, the Milwaukee Admirals. It’s no surprise that Nashville would finally call one of the hopefuls up, and, between he and Taylor Beck, Bartley was a no-brainer. Victor is currently in the Top 20 of AHL defensemen, with twenty-six points (7 goals, 19 assists) in 54 games. Sounds fantastic to any Predators fan, but though the game is relatively the same, the NHL is a whole new territory; similar to how significantly different the NHL and KHL are. A kid can be hot and at the top of his game in the minor league then get called up and just can’t quite get the hang of the NHL scene.

But hey, let’s not be Debby Downers, shall we? Bartley is good – he has proven that already. He’s paid his dues in Milwaukee and will not disappoint to only be sent back down. These kids know the opportunity doesn’t rear its head often and snuggling into a roster spot is a no-holds-bar kind of situation.

Oh, and did we mention he likes to dance to Gangnam Style?

Zach Boychuk

Our next B is Zach Boychuk, who Nashville picked up off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Boychuk was a standout in the 2008 NHL Draft, being picked up by the Carolina Hurricanes 14th overall in the first round. Boychuk is now the third Top 20 first round pick of the 2008 Draft to join the Nashville Predators, along with Colin Wilson (7th overall) and Chet Pickard (18th overall). Boychuk hasn’t had too bad of a season, holding onto 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in just 37 games while he was with the Hurricane’s farm team, the Charlotte Checkers.

Here’s a video of him with a camera on his head:

 

Bobby Butler

Our final B is Mr. Bobby Butler, who Nashville claimed off of waivers from the New Jersey Devils late Monday morning. Nashville’s first waiver claim of the week had a few people scratching their heads, as Butler hasn’t made much of an impact to brag about. He does, however, possess the ability to hang onto the puck – nice puck-handling skills – which, if could not benefit Nashville in the long run, will help the Admirals greatly. In all honesty, Butler was more of a farm team trade to begin with, but his presence could rattle a few veteran feathers into remembering they are disposable, too.

Here’s a video of a nice goal while he was with the Senators. Oh hey! He knows Gill!

 

What the Predators gain with these new faces? None of them have made a huge impact on the game – if they had, would they have been on waivers? – but they are a threat to the veteran members on the team; especially Bartley. Perhaps the Predators are giving the rest of the team a gentle wake up call that, despite nestling comfortable into a cushy roster spot, there are plenty of younger, more eager talent chopping at the bit to nab that roster spot.

Perhaps the veterans have nestled too comfortably into their roster positions. This, my friends, is what we call a rude awakening. The Nashville Predators are about to get one before the ship to the playoffs leaves them standing on the end-of-the-season shoreline.

 

 

Penalties Plague Predators, Lindback Prevails

Anders Lindback protects the net from Stephane Veilleux.

With only three games left in the regular season, the Nashville Predators would either come out swinging or take their time, trying to avoid any injury or mishap possible. However, with a possible playoff position still looming in the air as to wether the Predators would start out at home or away, the boys couldn’t afford to sit back and let the Minnesota Wild (who are completely out of the playoff running) come out and steal the show.

It’s hard to believe that at one point during this season, Minnesota was sitting pretty at the top – and by top, we mean the entire league. Injuries hit the Wild hard this season, with Minnesota almost exhausting their farm team’s roster. But, that’s the beauty of hockey; nothing is for certain. However, just because Minnesota’s out of the running doesn’t mean they’ll just finish off the rest of their season quietly. The Wild have won their last three games, including Chicago 5-4 on Sunday. Needless to say, Minnesota came to the Music City raring to go.

KEY POINTS:

  • When Nashville announced that goalie Chet Pickard would be called up from the Milwaukee Admirals, it was pretty clear Pekka would be taking the night off. Though said from officials to be suffering from both the stomach flu and cold-like symptoms (well, which one?), it was obvious Pekka was on the scratched list just so he could have a night to rest and for Anders Lindback to get some much needed ice time.
  • Jack Hillen, Ryan Ellis, and Brian McGrattan were the usual scratches last night, but also making the list were Matt Halischuk, Jordin Tootoo, and (surprise, surprise) Colin Wilson. Halischuk has proven himself time and time again, but Trotz chose Craig Smith of the lineup in his place. As for Toots, well he may be sitting more often thanks to Radulov’s tremendous influence on the team so far. And, last but not least, Colin is well, still healing (…).
  • If you happened to catch the game last night, you would have noticed both teams had problems staying on their feet, with many of the players simply dropping to the ice. Snipers in the Bridgestone? No, just “choppy” ice conditions. Thanks to the unseasonable warm weather, the ice in the Bridgestone wasn’t at peak condition, thus allowing for more divots in the ice, causing issues with the blades on the skates. In fact, we are pretty positive Mike Fisher is made of lead.
  • The first period was slow for both teams, possibly because of the issue with the ice, but Nashville was able to release 10 shots to Minnesota’s 12. Both Lindback and Backstrom were ready, whether the ice was melting or not.
  • Gabriel put the first points on the board at 12:31 in the 2nd Period with a clean pass from Nick Spaling (11th assist). Bourque has been the rookie on fire as of late, sealing his 7th goal of the season.
  • Minnesota responded to Bourque’s goal at 17:53 with a goal from Dany Heatley, his 23rd goal of the season. The Predators and Wild would end the 2nd Period tied at one.
  • The 3rd Period resembled the first, with no goals recorded by either team. Both teams evenly hit seven shots on goal, but both Linback and Backstrom were still on their A-Games.
  • Overtime produced no goals, so to the shootout they went. This would be Anders Lindback’s first career shootout. Here’s how it played out:
  1. MINNESOTA – Erik Christensen – MISS
  2. NASHVILLE – Martin Erat – SAVE
  3. MINNESOTA – Mikko Koivu – SAVE
  4. NASHVILLE – Alexander Radulov – GOAL
  5. MINNESOTA – Devin Setoguchi – SAVE
  • Radulov’s ego will rise as he continues to shine on NHL ice, which as long as he is wearing a Predators sweater, we don’t care. Anders Lindback not only made Nashville proud, he also made goalie coach Mitch Korn beam with pride, realizing that even behind Pekka, Nashville has an extraordinary goalie. Lindy was able to stop 25 of 26 goals on net.
  • As stated in the headline, penalties were Nashville’s best friend last night as the Predators racked up six penalties in the 1st and 3rd periods; that’s three more than Minnesota accumulated. Lucky for the Predators, the Wild weren’t able to capitalize on any of their penalty chances. Here are the six offenders:
  1. Ryan Suter – 7:25 1st Period – Cross Checking
  2. Brandon Yip – 16:42 1st Period – Roughing
  3. David Legwand – 18:53 1st Period – Interference
  4. Martin Erat – 0:42 3rd Period – Tripping
  5. Nick Spaling – 11:54 3rd Period – Hooking
  6. Andrei Kostitsyn – 19:48 3rd Period – Tripping

Although Minnesota snuck away with one point, Nashville ultimately left with the big W, which is better than nothing. It is understandable why the Predators want smooth sailing for the remainder of their regular season, but with Detroit nipping at their heels, Nashville can’t afford any losses this week.

The Predators finish their final home game on Thursday against the Dallas Stars, a fellow playoff contender. The Predators will end the their season in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Until then,
GO PREDS.