Memories & History Made: Remembering the 2017 Predators Playoff Run

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Image Source: NHL.com

As Garth Brooks once (and probably still does) sang, “I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.” And what a beautiful dance it was for the Nashville Predators; one might even use the word “GLORIOUS” (all caps needed) to describe the unbelievable run that was the road to the Stanley Cup. Alas, the dance was abruptly cut short just two wins shy of the ultimate prize. And while it is easy to be bitter – be it termed salty nowadays – one cannot look back and be disappointed. The Predators barely scratched their way into a playoff spot – number 16 of 16 to be exact – and somehow defied the odds (and the experts) by sweeping the Blackhawks, bashing the Blues, defeating the Ducks, and landing in the Stanley Cup Final. This postseason brought more than just a city together, it brought a state, a region – one could even say – an entire hockey nation together. It certainly put Nashville in a spotlight that couldn’t be ignored and, once exposed, there was no returning that (saber tooth) cat to the bag.

It’s taken me three days, but I’ve gathered some of the best memories of the Nashville Predators’ outstanding push to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s funny what can be forgotten over a period of two months, so reflecting back on all of it kind of took the sting out of watching Crosby hoist the Cup in Bridgestone Arena on Sunday. So please enjoy this trip down Memory Lane with me and be warned, some of the video clips have not been censored. This is hockey, after all.

  1. The Sweeping of Chicago

The experts were all against us. Everyone was prepared for an early Nashville exit. Everyone except for the Predators. Sweeping a divisional rival is pretty huge to begin with, but having it be a team like the Chicago Blackhawks? This sweep was only the beginning to Nashville’s historic playoff push and it couldn’t have happened in a better fashion. No Chelsea Dagger was ever heard.

And of course, after the historic sweep of Public Enemy #1, people began to wonder where Jordin Tootoo disappeared to after making this comment before the series even began:

2. Fiddler, McLeod & Harry Z: The Heroes Nashville Needs

Three unlikely heroes were born during this postseason. Their names? Vernon Fiddler, Cody McLeod, and Harry Zolniercyzk. While you expect multiple goals from guys like Johansen, Subban, Forsberg, and the like, it was these three guys who played significant roles this postseason to push Nashville to its first Stanley Cup Final.

3. #DoItForKevin

Kevin Fiala has a bright future in Nashville and boy, did he light that fire during the playoffs when he was given the chance. No one can forget it was Fiala who helped Nashville sweep Chicago with his beautiful overtime goal. Sadly, his playoff run was cut short in the second round against the St. Louis Blues when a slam into the boards resulted in a fractured femur. The team made sure to fight on in honor of their young winger, taking out the Blues in six games.

4. This Corey Perry GIF

No real reason other than I truly enjoy watching this over and over.

5. Pekka being Pekka

“Rinne Wall”, “The Eraser”, “ImPEKKAble”. Whatever you call him, Pekka Rinne is a gift from somewhere else (see Finland) that tends to defy gravity and all human logic when it comes to minding the net. Here are a few examples of Rinne’s inhuman abilities caught on camera (along with a cameo from #MonsterBlock):

6. Captain Ellis (@Ellis4Captain)

Unless you are living under a rock (or just haven’t joined Twitter), there’s no way you missed the absolute gold from this parody account. The tweets are posed as a Civil War soldier writing to his mother on the front lines of battle, which magically paired well with its hockey theme. The comically Photo-Shopped images that accompany the tweets only further solidified this account into Twitter history.

7. #TEAMTN Love

The Tennessee Titans have not shied away from showing its love its professional counterpart across the Cumberland, with players appearing throughout the regular season taking in a match. However, it was the postseason that really brought that love out in the open, especially with the Titans Offensive Line. But beyond the beer chugging, catfish loving NFL players, the Memphis Grizzlies expressed their support, along with the Nashville Sounds. The #TeamTN love even extended to Atlanta, where the Braves sent their support as well. Sorry, diehard (clingers) Thrashers fans.

8. Ilya Bryzgalov

The Bryz. Where to begin with that guy? To avoid going to deep into the cosmos with everyone’s favorite Russian (feel free to look up anything involving the universe and bears with his name attached), let’s just say his visit to Nashville during the Stanley Cup Final was everything we could have ever dreamed of. Check out his videos below and – again – I encourage you to YouTube him for even more hilarity.

9. Instrument of Crime

Will we ever be able to associate catfish with anything else ever again? Let’s be honest: Pittsburgh had this coming. By baring folks with Tennessee licenses from purchasing catfish at local markets, you pretty much asked for it. Jake Deveral, better known as Catfish Jake, just happened to be visiting family in nearby Ohio when it occurred to him that he’d be in the area during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Purchasing a catfish in Nashville, Jake transported the mudcat up to Ohio and then over to Pittsburgh in his britches. Using Old Spice to cover the smell, Jake was able to smuggle the contraband into PPG Paints Arena and chuck it onto the ice. Deveral was escorted promptly from the building, but not all was over. A Pittsburgh judge slapped Catfish Jake with fines, which included “possession of an instrument of crime”. Long story short, the charges were dropped, but not before “Instruments of Crime” became a part of Predators history.

10. These Poor Penguins Fans

We won’t go into that “pumped in noise” conspiracy as these two fine Pens fans are a clear example of that bull-honky.

11. Best in the West

Bitter as you may all still be, there are plenty of good things to recall from this playoff run including that your Nashville Predators – coming in as the 8th seed – are officially the Best in the West for the 2016-17 season. Awarded the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl on home ice after defeating the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6, the Nashville Predators will officially have their first banner at Bridgestone Arena at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. While the ultimate goal was not met, one cannot dismiss this history-making moment.

12. Ryan Johansen

Yes, Ryan Johansen needed his own segment. Whether he was chirping with Kesler or notching goals, Johansen’s presence on the ice (and off) was exactly what Nashville needed in this postseason. We could pull the “what-ifs” about where Nashville would be at this moment had he not suffered from acute compartment syndrome, which required emergency surgery after Game 4 against Anaheim. Even after being sidelined for the remainder of the postseason, Johansen’s presence in the locker room kept the team on its toes. You just can’t help but love him and wish he had been around to help Subban get under Crosby’s skin in the Final.

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Photo Source: @PKSubban1

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Photo Source: Brooks Bratten, Nashville Predators

13. The Beautiful People

Oh, they tried, but no other NHL team was able to produce the star power that Nashville was able to garner throughout these playoffs. While some were new to the program, most of Nashville’s “beautiful people” didn’t just jump on the wagon in April. Notable names like Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Carrie Underwood (obviously), and Kelly Clarkson have been active at games for years. Let’s also not forget to mention Rex Ryan, of all people, is a season ticket holder. While we didn’t include all the famous folks here, it is safe to say there was definitely a FOMO about Nashville.

14. Listerine Fights Bad Breath

Let’s begin by saying, when P.K. Subban was asked by a reporter as to what he and Sidney Crosby were chatting about on the ice, do you honestly believe he would repeat what was actually said? No. For one, it’s an in-the-moment conversation (if you want to call it that) and two, it isn’t for the faint of heart. Being a quick-on-his-toes kind of guy, Subban casually mentions that Crosby just didn’t care for his breath. Needless to say, the story took on a life of its own and Listerine got a nice little plug it didn’t expect. It is fair to say there was a Listerine booth outside Bridgestone Arena before Game 6 last Sunday.

15. Lavi Fist Pumps

No explanation needed as to why this made the list. BOOM.

16. #FireMilbury

To avoid firing myself up, I will not go into detail as to why Mike Milbury needs to be fired from NBC Sports, because I have a feeling you probably know why as well. There are many speculations as to why Milbury does not care for Subban and none of them are good enough to stand a solid reasoning. Whether it’s because he’s “old school” or what have you, his comments are not good for the growth of this sport, especially when it comes to minority viewers. Predators fans (and fans of other teams) made their opinions of the “shoe beater” known with signs and special words after Game 6.

17. Knoxville

While cities across the state hosted watch parties and cheered on the Predators, including Cookeville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Lebanon, etc., it is Knoxville who deserves a blurb on this list. Some have chalked up the enthusiasm as the city was just hungry for a championship (see 1998), whatever it was, Knoxville came out swinging in support of its brother to the west. As TV ratings began to come out after games, Knoxville continuously appeared in the top 5 cities watching the series, hitting double digits. Perhaps the combination of that winning hunger and the fact that the Predators and the Knoxville Ice Bears have such a great relationship helped open the eyes of many of our East Tennessee brethren to the greatness that is NHL hockey.

18. Dennis K. Morgan

Again, this is another topic that needs to be on the list, but I don’t particularly feel obligated to go into details about. Apparently approached by The Tennessean, regular anthem singer, Dennis K. Morgan, expressed his displeasure in being passed over by “A-List” singers during the playoffs. Needless to say, there weren’t many fans that came to his rescue and there’s a highly good chance the Predators will be searching for a new anthem singer for the 2017-18 season. If you missed this moment or want to relive the head-smacking, read the article below:

19. Goodwill amidst the Battle:

Although the Stanley Cup was the main focus, one cannot forget to mention the goodwill that came about throughout the postseason as well. During Round 2 against the Blues, the city of St. Louis was hit by historic floods. As a city that once faced our own thousand-year flood, it was only understandable that Predators CEO/President Sean Henry would partner with his Blues counterpart to help collect funds through auctions to assist in the relief. One particular feelgood moment that you may have missed was when Matt Irwin replaced a kid’s hockey gear after he heard that it had been stolen. Another heartfelt moment came just last week when Mike Fisher and Roman Josi visited their tiniest fan who was battling cancer. Sadly, the young boy passed away on Monday.

20. Good Gravy Goals

While some other good gravy goals have been scattered throughout this list, here are a few that didn’t fit anywhere else but are just too good to pass up and forget.

21. GLORIOUS

The word ‘GLORIOUS’ (again, all caps needed) has become almost synonymous with the Nashville Predators’ playoff run and I am betting it will be on the level of “All I do is Win” and “Run this Town” for future seasons. Nashville’s Game Ops enjoys their wrestling theme songs, but this one more than just stuck, it took on a life of its own. In my understanding, it was first played at Bridgestone Arena after Bobby Roode, the wrestler for whom this song belongs, performed in a Predators jersey against another wrestler donning a Blues jersey. Don’t quote me on that, but ever since that match, “Glorious” became Nashville’s anthem as they marched towards the Cup.

22. Hockey History

There’s no doubt this was a history making postseason for the Nashville Predators. While compiling all of the history would take a post of its own, here are a few notable records that Nashville broke and look to break again next season.

23. The 7th Man

And last, but certainly not least, we want to celebrate you, the 7th Man. You are what not only blew the minds of the hockey world, but the globe in general. There is no denying that Nashville is a hockey city; you just can’t argue it. While some have certainly tried, their negativism has been easily drown out by the Standing O and the thousands of fans outside of the arena. While we know the chants created by Cellblock 303 are nothing new, it came as a rude awakening to many an opposing fan, player, and members of the media. And while some were disgruntled by our “nontraditional” fan base, the majority were completely amazed and overwhelmed by your passion. Below are just some of the moments you blew the rest of the hockey world out of contention.

Looking back, it is amazing to see everything the Predators were able to accomplish in a matter of a few months not only for our city, but for the hockey world as well. NBC certainly can’t be mad at what Nashville brought to its ratings, and nor can the NHL. While this chapter in Predators history comes to a close, it certainly isn’t the end of the book. The Predators have the recipe in place to create another historic Stanley Cup run and we cannot wait for October to get that party started.

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Playoff Bound: Coyotes punch Nashville’s Ticket

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Original Image Source: Google Images

Be sure to give the Arizona Coyotes a big thank you as it was with their 2-1 win over the L.A. Kings last night that officially punched Nashville’s ticket into the 2017 NHL Playoffs. With this berth, the Predators now have three consecutive playoff appearances with ten out of thirteen seasons overall. So, needless to say, Nashville is no stranger to the playoffs, but surpassing the second round has always seemed to allude the team.

So, now that Nashville is officially in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup this season, who will fight them for it? If the playoffs were to begin today, that lucky opponent would be the ever-so-popular Chicago Blackhawks. As you might agree, that isn’t exactly in Nashville’s favor. However, there is still a slim (and by slim, I mean really slim) chance that Nashville could be matched up with either Minnesota or whomever wins the Pacific Division. With only three games left in the regular season for the Predators, as I mentioned, the odds aren’t in Nashville’s favor. But, to keep a little optimism going here, all is not lost if Nashville faces Chicago in the first round. Is it the most ideal? Absolutely not for a number of reasons, but stranger things have happened. However, with Nashville’s consistent inconsistency this season, it will certainly be an uphill battle no matter who the Predators are ultimately paired with in the first round.

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2017 NHL All-Star Roster Announced

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Image Source: NBC Sports

Moments ago, the NHL released the final roster of the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles January 28th-29th. Not surprisingly, Nashville has only one player on said roster: P.K. Subban, who was voted by the fans as the Central Division Captain. And, with his upper-body injury slated to be healed by the All-Star Weekend, Subban may have to relinquish his captain duties to someone else for safety’s sake.

– CENTRAL DIVISION

  • P.K. Subban – Nashville Predators
  • Corey Crawford – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Devan Dubnyk – Minnesota Wild
  • Ryan Suter – Minnesota Wild
  • Duncan Keith – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
  • Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues
  • Patrik Laine – Winnipeg Jets
  • Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche
  • Tyler Seguin – Dallas Stars

 

– ATLANTIC DIVISION:

  • Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
  • Tuukka Rask – Boston Bruins
  • Victor Hedman – Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Shea Weber – Montreal Canadiens
  • Erik Karlsson – Ottawa Senators
  • Frans Nielsen – Detroit Red Wings
  • Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Vincent Trocheck – Florida Panthers
  • Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Kyle Okposo – Buffalo Sabres
  • Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins

– PACIFIC DIVISION:

  • Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers
  • Martin Jones – San Jose Sharks
  • Mike Smith – Arizona Coyotes
  • Cam Fowler – Anaheim Ducks
  • Brent Burns – San Jose Sharks
  • Drew Doughty – L.A. Kings
  • Ryan Kesler – Anaheim Ducks
  • Joe Pavelski – San Jose Sharks
  • Jeff Carter – L.A. Kings
  • Johnny Gaudreau – Calgary Flames
  • Bo Horvat – Vancouver Canucks

– METROPOLITAN DIVISION:

  • Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Braden Holtby – Washington Capitals
  • Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Wayne Simmonds – Philadelphia Flyers
  • John Tavares – New York Islanders
  • Alexander Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
  • Ryan McDonagh – New York Rangers
  • Justin Faulk – Carolina Hurricanes
  • Taylor Hall – New Jersey Devils
  • Seth Jones – Columbus Blue Jackets

What do you think about the roster for this year’s All-Star Weekend? Nashville isn’t the only team with one representative, but if you want to include former Preds (Ryan Suter, Devan Dubnyk, Seth Jones, and Shea Weber), then Nashville’s actually pretty well represented.

All joking aside, the big question is will Subban be healthy enough to participate? As mentioned, his 2-3 week recovery time ends at about the time of the All-Star festivities, but should not participate if it risks re-injury (thus keeping him out of the lineup even longer). Of course, that will be something the organization and Subban discuss as time gets closer.

 

 

Subban named Captain in 2017 All-Star Weekend

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Image Source: Sanford Myers/Getty Images

Despite his nagging upper-body injury, P.K. Subban was named the Central Division Captain for the 2017 NHL All Star Weekend. Based on fan voting from December 1st to January 2nd, Subban beat out several other Central Division contenders for the title, including Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Joining Subban as captains of their respective divisions include Sidney Crosby (Metropolitan), Carey Price (Atlantic), and Connor McDavid (Atlantic). Other attendees of the All Star Weekend in Los Angeles will be announced at a later date.

The festivities, which will be held January 28th and 29th would be right around the time Subban is expected to return from his upper-body injury (good news). If healthy, this will be Subban’s second All Star appearance — yes, his All Star debut was at last year’s in Nashville.

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Saros earns first NHL career shutout; blank Blues 4-0

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Image Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As I mentioned previously, the Predators needed to feed off the frustration that mounted in last night’s loss against Chicago and boy, did they.

While the first period saw no net action, Nashville did prevent St. Louis from advancing on two power play chances thanks to some handy penalty kill work. Nashville would begin its onslaught of goals in the second period, starting with Yannick Weber at 4:52 for his first goal this season (and within the Predators organization). Craig Smith (7) and Mike Ribeiro (16) would assist on Weber’s first goal.

Filip Forsberg would answer the call at 7:26 on the power play to give Nashville a 2-0 lead for his 8th goal of the season. Mike Ribeiro (17) and Ryan Johansen (20) would pick up the assists.

While Weber and Forsberg’s goals were wonderful gifts from the hockey gods, it would be Viktor Arvidsson’s dirty wrister that would steal the show:

Viktor Arvidsson, who was been quite the shining star for Nashville, earns his 10th goal of the season, assisted by Matt Irwin (5) and Mike Fisher (10).

Carter Hutton was brought in at the beginning of the third period to relieve Jake Allen between the posts, but could not stop Colin Wilson from netting his 6th goal of the season on the power play at 8:08. Wilson’s wrister was assisted by Filip Forsberg (15) and Ryan Ellis (8).

While St. Louis would be given one extra power play chance at 13:14, rookie goaltender Juuse Saros would keep the Blues at bay, earning his first career NHL shutout. Saros, who has shined as Nashville’s backup, further proved tonight that he will be the future between the posts for the Predators. But leave it to Pekka to have us all a little misty eyed as he congratulates his apprentice on his shutout:

After a tough loss against the Blackhawks last night, tonight’s shutout against the Blues certainly has the potential to set things straight for Nashville and its hopes for a playoff run. If anything, it is a great way to end the first half of the 2016-17 season and, likewise, opens up the Predators to a fresh start in 2017.

Next up, Shea Weber and the Montreal Canadiens come to town on Tuesday, January 3rd at 7PM. Hopefully, P.K. Subban will be ready to face his former team as we celebrate Nashville’s former captain and defensive rock.

 

Frustration mounts after 3-2 loss against CHI

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Image Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

While it was clear that Nashville was the better team last night, it wasn’t enough to earn the win against Central Division rival, the Chicago Blackhawks. Of course, there were some questionable calls (and no calls) that ultimately gave Chicago their first win in three games.

Unfortunately for Nashville, while it is great to be the better playing team, time is running out as the second half of the season looms in just a few days. Needless to say, moral victories are worthless unless there’s a W behind them. But it is frustrating to see blatant calls missed by the official; even worse, when the wrong penalty is called and the opposing team notches a goal from it. Yes, mistakes like this happen in all sports; officials can’t see everything and sure, they call it to the best of their abilities, but come on. When the replay clearly shows the goaltender tripping a player as he passes through the crease, then you (the official) calls it against the player that was actually tripped? Not only was this game frustrating for the players, it only further disheartened an already frustrated Nashville fan base.

Although the first contact between Kevin Fiala and Corey Crawford was not caught (in .gif form), the contact between Craig Smith and Crawford was:

Somehow, Smith was given the penalty, which lead to Jonathan Toews’ tying powerplay goal. However, Patrick Kane’s goal shortly thereafter (his 700th career point) was totally on Nashville, but it’s still frustrating to think that should have been the goal to tie the game.

But there’s no use crying over spilled milk. The NHL isn’t going to reverse the call or makeup the game. It’s done and in the record books. Maybe Crawford will be fined by the league, but that is highly doubtful. All Nashville can do is build off this frustration and use it to their advantage going into the second half of the season.

Ryan Ellis, for instance, is clearly fed up in this video above. Yes, he’s reacting to the fact that the outcome of the game was essentially decided by the officials, but it also shows how much frustration has been building within this team. Hyped as one of the potential Stanley Cup front runners this off-season, the Predators have done everything but proven they are Stanley Cup contenders. The talent is there, but something just hasn’t clicked. And with both P.K. Subban (and now) James Neal on the day-to-day with upper-body injuries, will the Predators find their way into 2017?

All was not lost last night, however. Mike Fisher picked up his 10th goal of the season, Filip Forsberg notched his 7th, and Ryan Johansen tallied his 18th and 19th assists of the season.

Nashville has one last chance to end 2016 on a high note as they take on the Blues in St. Louis tonight at 7PM. Again, building on that frustration from last night’s loss may be what turns this team around for the second half of the season. Just maybe.

Subban to miss next two games; questionable against MTL

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Image Source: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

December 15th. That was the last time P.K. Subban suited up for the Predators since sustaining an upper-body injury. Although he is still listed as day-to-day, The Tennessean’s Adam Vingan reported earlier today that Subban is expected to miss the next two games on the schedule: Chicago (tonight) at home and St. Louis (tomorrow) on the road.

While there is no bad news coming from information regarding his injuries, there is no good news either. The defenseman has been absent from practice, but has remained active in the community. Not to say one cannot be injured and still perform community service acts, but to me, it’s a good sign.

One of the biggest concerns regarding Subban’s injury, however, is will he be ready to face his former team on Tuesday night? Due to the Subban-Weber trade being one of the biggest shakeups of the off-season, the first meeting between the Nashville Predators and the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday is expected to be a highly anticipated event. But if you have Shea Weber, but no P.K. Subban, it sort of takes the wind out of the fun, right?

Of course, on Nashville’s end, you don’t want to possibly cause further injury by having Subban return before he is 100% ready just for show. However, as the leader of ice time before his injury on the 15th, Nashville is more than ready to have P.K. back in the lineup.

While Montreal has blossomed thus far with both Shea Weber and former Predator Alexander Radulov (21-9-5, 1st Atlantic), the Predators have had a bit of a difficult time adjusting (15-13-6, 6th Central) since the loss of the tenacious defenseman that was (and is) Shea Weber. However, from a Montreal fan point-of-view, the loss of P.K. Subban outweighs the nine goals, eleven assists he has produced for the Canadiens. At least, that’s what we’ve heard. While Nashville has not lived up to the hype that the NHL expected after a successful 2015-16 run, there is still time for the Predators to turn this train around. But let’s not beat around the bush; it isn’t much time. Tonight’s bout against divisional rival, the Chicago Blackhawks, could be the much needed win that pushes the Predators back into Stanley Cup contention (hey, we are trying to stay positive here). While the Predators have the talent, the constant inconsistency is what is holding Nashville back. It’s like the old Jerry Reed song that goes, “When you’re hot, you’re hot. When you’re not, you’re not.” I would say that’s a good way to describe how Nashville has fared thus far this season. Truthfully, they will need to find another song before Sunday if they want to see the playoffs. Where’s DJ Eric Nystrom with the playlist when you need him?

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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 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.