As we all expected, Nashville Predators Captain Shea Weber was named one of three finalists for the Norris Trophy. This is Weber’s third time being nominated for the James Norris Memorial Award, given out to the League’s top defenseman who displays the greatest efforts in the position. Being the only player with 20+ goals (23), 150+ hits (169), and 150+ blocks (173) over the past nine seasons, is this finally Shea Weber’s year? Is the third time really a charm? We hope so. His competition for the Norris? Boston’s giant, Zdeno Chara and Chicago’s Duncan Keith. Chara won the Norris back in 2009 and was nominated in both 2011 and 2012 for the award. Keith has also been awarded the Norris Trophy in the past, collecting the award in 2010.
Predators blank Red Wings 2-0
After a less than successful road trip to their tremendous win over the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night 7-2, Nashville hit the road again, making their first stop in the Motor City; the first time since Detroit hopped ship to the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately for the Wings, after years of questioning their position in the West, their debut in the East hasn’t exactly been the brightest. Though a better record than Nashville at 9-5-7 (NSH – 9-9-2), the Wings have been on a downslope the last six games. That’s right; six games. Luckily for Detroit, however, 5 out of 6 of those losses have resulted in either a SO or OT, so at least a point is gained.
So, after the outstanding performance against the Blackhawks Saturday night, would the Predators extend the momentum to the Joe and hand their old foes their seventh consecutive loss? Let’s jump to the highlights:
- Neither team was able to collect a goal during the first period, but it was far from uneventful.
- Both sides were given Power Play opportunities, but neither goalie was willing to give the other side any leeway.
- Nashville outshot Detroit 10 to 7 at the end of the first period.
- Plenty of penalties were had in the second period, with the Red Wings notching three and the Predators picking up one from Mike Fisher’s holding call.
- Nashville would finally connect on a Power Play opportunity at 19:55 (yes, just five seconds left in the period) with an infamous slapshot from Shea Weber (6th overall). David Legwand notched his 14th assist on Weber’s goal.
- Detroit would take the lead in shots-on-goal in the second, 9 to 7.
- Gabriel Bourque would put Nashville up 2-0 at 7:13 with a backhander around Jimmy Howard (3rd overall). Viktor Stalberg would pick up the assist (2nd overall).
In an interesting and bizarre call, Viktor Stalberg and Mikael Samuelsson both received holding penalties, though they clearly initiated a fight. Was it because no punches were thrown? Who knows, but both we given minors for the incident.
Detroit would attempt to take the helm by outshooting Nashville 11 to 8, but it just wasn’t enough to power past the rookie goaltender.
Speaking of rookie goaltender, kudos to Marek Mazanec for his first career NHL shutout. And in the Joe, nonetheless! Mazanec is just the second Czech-born goaltender to record a shutout for the Predators.
Final shot count: Detroit 27, Nashville 25.
I’d like to believe that Nashville has shaken their slump and that the sting of 5-0 shutouts have faded from recent memory, but I won’t be setting up my lawn chair for the Stanley Cup parade on Broadway just yet… but I like the path they are on currently. A win over Chicago and Detroit are always confidence builders.
The Predators head East to Toronto to take on the 13-7-1 Maple Leafs, who Nashville has already beaten on the road once this season. So, can they do it again? We’ll find out Thursday night at 6PM.
Predators Out-Play Blackhawks 7-2
Back-to-back games are rough on any team and after coming off a 17-day road trip, Nashville was no exception. But after losing 4-1 to Pittsburgh and turning right around to take on the 13-2-4 Chicago Blackhawks? But let us not forget the Predators way: When they should win, they lose; When they should lose, they win. Totally makes for great blood pressure, truly. Let’s jump to the highlights:
- Similar to last night, Nashville struck first with a wrister from Matt Cullen at 7:28, his third goal of the season. Craig Smith (6th assist) and Seth Jones (6th assist) would collect the assists.
- Nick Spaling would put the Predators up 2-0 at 8:25 with wrister of his own for his second goal of the season. Craig Smith would notch his second assist of the game (7th overall) and Ryan Ellis would pick up an assist, too (4th overall).
- Nashville would outshoot Chicago 10 to 7, with NHL rookie Marek Mazanec stepping up his game from last night’s punishment.
- The Predators kept the momentum into the second with a Power Play tip-in goal from Patric Hornqvist (6th goal) at 9:02. Roman Josi, who was first awarded the goal, picked up his 2nd assist overall along with Shea Weber (5th overall).
- Craig Smith (4th goal) would give Nashville a substantial 4-0 lead at 18:18 with a backhander past Corey Crawford. Matt Cullen (3rd assist) would pick up the assist.
- Chicago would finally get on the board at 18:44 with a wrister from Patrick Kane, his 11th goal of the season.
- Nashville would keep the Blackhawks at bay with a 4-1 at the end of the 2nd period, though this time, Chicago outshoot the Predators 18 to 13.
- Kudos to Mazanec for blocking 17 of 18 shots during the second period, especially after being pulled after the same period the night before. Amazing what a game at home can do… even if there is way too many mustard jerseys filling said seats.
- Chicago would embrace the second intermission and come out swinging in the third, collecting their second goal at just 6:14 into the second period. Brandon Pirri collected his 5th goal of the season on Chicago’s goal.
- Viktor Stalberg would give his old team a big middle finger just fifteen seconds later with a backhander past Crawford for his second goal of the season. Gabriel Bourque (3rd assist) and David Legwand (12th assists) would help collect Nashville’s fifth goal of the night.
- At 12:19, Mike Fisher would pick up his third goal of the season with an assist from Patric Hornqvist (7th assist), putting the home team up 6-2.
- And, at 14:07, Captain Shea Weber sealed the deal with his signature slapshot to put Nashville up 7-2. Roman Josi (3rd assist) and David Legwand (13th assist) setup Weber’s 5th goal of the season.
- Chicago would put the extra pressure on Mazanec in the third period, outshooting Nashville a cool 16 to 7. Again, another shout out to the NHL rookie for blocking 15 of 16 shots on goal. He took a pounding, nonetheless.
- Marek Mazanec, after being pulled after the second period the night before, collected his first NHL win tonight against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The final shot totals: Chicago 41, Nashville 30. So, doing the easy math, Mazanec blocked 39 of 41 shots on goal. Pretty spectacular for a rookie, eh?
Again, the Nashville Predators just have this uncanny way of defeating teams that just aren’t on the radar. Never, never count out the pesky Preds, my friends. Even after the whole ticket debacle, the Bridgestone Arena was still overrun with those awful red jerseys, which was not unexpected; we pissed them off. Maybe with this win, Chicago fans will have some respect when visiting Nashville and maybe, just maybe, take them down a peg or two. Did I personally hear the whole “two Cups in three years” line tonight? Yes, yes I did. As they say, “Scoreboard, son”.
More than just a Goalie Problem: Preds Shutout Twice in a Row
There’s no question that Nashville misses Pekka Rinne, but is it really just an absent five-star goalie that is slowly digging the Predators into a deeper hole? Sorry, but it isn’t. As easy as it is to blame Pekka Rinne’s hip infection for the reason Nashville has been imploding, it’s not the whole truth.
There is no reason for me to go over the highlights of the Winnipeg & New Jersey games, due in part there weren’t any highlights (for Nashville, anyway). For a team the Predators skated past twice this season, a trip to Winnipeg was supposed to be a no brainer on this 17-day road trip. And that, my friends, is the kind of thinking that gets you killed; or, in this case, completely and utterly dominated 5-0. You could almost say that’s exactly what the Jets were hoping for when the Predators came strutting into Winnipeg. One possible highlight from that game? Marek Mazanec got his NHL debut after Carter Hutton was pulled after 8:23 of pure torture.
And, after the embarrassing outcome in Winnipeg, Nashville took a second beating in Newark, losing yet another 5-0 matchup. Carter Hutton was again given the go in goal, but just couldn’t keep the Devils from racking up the goals. And don’t think I’m targeting Hutton; oh no. This is not only goalie error, but defensive error, too. The reason Pekka Rinne is known affectionately as “The Eraser” is because he is constantly erasing Nashville’s defensive errors. Pekka just has a knack for picking up where the defense leaves off and poor Hutton just hasn’t mastered that strange ability yet. It’s not that Carter can’t stop goals, he just needs more help from his teammates, who have always slacked just a bit.
So what’s next? The Islanders, who haven’t beaten Nashville in regulation since 2002, are up next on the schedule then one last stop in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. Oh, and let me note that the last stop in Pittsburgh is back-to-back with a visit from the Chicago Blackhawks. No pressure, Preds.
One last thing: Check out this video of Rich Clune’s tussle with Winnipeg’s Adam Pardy. Blood.
Preds sign Stalberg & Cullen
Looks like Predators have broken the ice on this first day of Free Agency. While other teams attacked with full force, Nashville sat back for a moment before taking the leap for Right Winger Viktor Stalberg from the Chicago Blackhawks. Just fresh off his recent Stanley Cup win, maybe the momentum will still be there when he suits for the Preds? We are hoping so because David Poile just signed the Swede to a 4-year, $12 million contract.
Just announced deal is Matt Cullen (no relation to Edward – I so funny, eh?), a 36-year-old Center from the Wild for two years, $7 million. He’s a bit under the radar, but what we do know is that this guy outscored everyone of Nashville’s current forwards… Yea…
We’ll keep you updated as the players get signed… or not signed.
Austin Watson’s NHL Debut marred by Preds 4th loss to Chicago
The post-season train is about to board and Nashville is falling further and further to the back of the pack, with Chicago claiming their ticket and jumping aboard with tonight’s win over the Predators 5-3. As stated in a previous post, the lockout was more than helpful for the Chicago Blackhawks, as they started out the season undefeated through 24 games. Though they have since lost, their record against Nashville thus far remains 4-0.
Don’t laugh off the Predators just yet, though. They fell to the Blackhawks 3-0 in their first meeting, but Nashville has kept the games close against the leader of the NHL. But close doesn’t cut it when the playoffs are on the line and, though they fought a good fight, quality doesn’t always produce quantity when it comes down to it.
Here are the highlights from tonight’s game at the United Center:
BEFORE THE GAME:
- Though he played in yesterday’s game, Mike Fisher was pulled from the lineup for safety reasons and an emergency recall from Milwaukee was made. Insert, Austin Watson: Nashville’s first round pick from the 2010 NHL Draft. As Milwaukee’s leading scorer, it was more of a “when is he coming” situation for the Predators.
- Andrew Shaw drew blood first with a slap shot past Pekka Rinne at 6:34 into the game, his 8th goal of the season.
- Nashville would kill any chance of a shutout for Chicago at 17:16 with a wrister from Nick Spaling, his 7th goal of the season. Sergei Kostitsyn would pick up his 11th assist of the season.
- Similar to the first period, Chicago would start out with a goal first, this time from Bryan Bickell, his 8th of the season.
- The Predators would respond at 5:54 with a clean slap shot from Shea Weber, his 8th goal of the season. Nick Spaling would pick up the assist on Weber’s goal, his 4th of the season.
- David Legwand would give Nashville its only lead of the night at 6:54 for his 11th goal of the season. Matt Halischuk (5th) and Shea Weber (15th) would nab the assists on Leggy’s goal. Legwand is now just one goal away from his 200th NHL career goal.
- Chicago would both tie and take the lead within 55 seconds of each goal, the first one nailed by Brandon Saad and the second collected by Jonathan Toews.
- With the clock winding down, Patrick Kane collects his 20th goal of the season with an empty netter, sealing the game 5-3 in favor of the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks only needed one point to punch their ticket into the playoffs, but with their win in regulation, Nashville may have unwillingly handed Chicago their possible ticket, too.
The Predators have made the playoffs every year since 2003, spoiling Predators fans who weren’t aware of the franchise before that year. Do fans know how to handle an early off season filled with golf while watching other teams claw for the Cup?
The Predators pack up and head home to welcome the St. Louis Blues to the Bridgestone on Tuesday night. The Predators are just five points behind Detroit for 8th position and just six from St. Louis who sits in 7th. Two things need to happen to help the Predators: everyone else to lose and Nashville to actually win.
Let the Brutal ‘Final Thirteen’ Begin
Let’s start out on an honest foot: Brutal final thirteen? I’m pretty sure this entire season has been brutal for Nashville. But alas, these last thirteen games, which start tomorrow in Chicago, will test the Predators in more ways than one.
The lockout was not as nice to Nashville as it was to others teams, with Chicago, for instance, starting the season with one for the history books by eluding a loss in regulation in the first twenty-four games. It was Colorado who finally knocked them from Cloud 9, beating the Blackhawks 6-2, a team now sitting last in both the Western Conference and league (tied with the Panthers with 28 points).
The Penguins have also found their place in this shortened season, currently running on a fifteen-game winning streak. They also pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes by picking up Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames, a deal even the Boston Bruins were taken aback by (they probably had the jersey ready and waiting for him). Though the Penguins didn’t start out as cleanly as Chicago, they did get their engines running and haven’t really looked back since. Sidney Crosby, who leads the league in goal points, assists, and points in general, just had surgery today on his jaw, broken due to taking a puck to the face against the Islanders yesterday afternoon. His status is “out indefinitely”, but the Penguins do not rely on Crosby alone. Even if they struggle without Crosby at the helm, Pittsburgh is still leading the league with 56 points, though Chicago is biting at their heels with 55 points.
Though Nashville will not have to worry about facing Pittsburgh, they will have to visit with Chicago… Four more times, to be exact. The Predators first and only meeting thus far with the Blackhawks was a nasty won, with Chicago wiping the Bridgestone’s ice with the home team 3-0, Nashville’s third shutout in just twelve games. The Blackhawks continued to win, while Nashville would continue to win in OT, but lose in regulation.
Besides the conference-reigning Blackhawks, Nashville will also have to face two other tough divisional opponents: the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Detroit is currently sitting pretty in seventh, a safe playoff position. Nashville won its first meeting with Detroit, barely slipping by with a 4-3 victory in OT. But Nashville would venture to the Joe four days later and be laughed out of the arena with a shutout 4-0. The Predators will have two more chances in the regular season to sink the Red Wings.
It’s hard to believe the Columbus Blue Jackets would be considered a “tough” opponent, as they are usually Nashville (and the rest of the Central Division)’s punching bag. But the lockout gave Columbus a boost, even after trading their beloved Rick Nash to the New York Rangers during the off season. With the loss of their captain and rumors of a possible loss of franchise, Columbus wasn’t expected to make the impact they have this season. Although they haven’t made history like Chicago, they have played better than anyone expected, giving every team they come in contact with a run for their money. Columbus and Nashville started the season out against one another, with the Blue Jackets knocking out the Predators 3-2 in a shootout. Columbus would win e next meeting as well, 4-3 in regulation. Nashville would finally pull one over the Blue Jackets on March 23rd, winning in regulation 5-2. Like Detroit, Nashville will have two more chances to derail the Blue Jackets, who are tied with 35 points.
The challenge among the teams above is not all Nashville has to face. A round with St. Louis, Dallas, Vancouver, and Calgary is also in the cards, which will all give the Predators more than just a difficult time.
If the Predators intend to reach the post season and excel in the playoffs, dramatic changes will need to be established as soon as possible. With the recent return of Hal Gill, Patric Hörnqvist, and Paul Gaustad from the IR, Nashville can breathe a sigh of relief in veteran terms. However, the young blood has began to rise, with players such as Victor Bartley and Taylor Beck proving their worth on the NHL level and their importance to a post season for Nashville.
However, a team should not be based on an individual player, but as an organization as a whole. The players will have to learn to focus and work together in order to find success. Blown passes, careless plays, and missed goals will not produce a successful post season. It may not even produce a post season at all.
These next thirteen games will be the most brutal the Predators will face all season. The rest of the season is behind us. Now is the time to step from beyond the shadows and push for the playoffs.
Realignment: Who will Rival the Nashville Predators?
After tonight’s rough and disheartening shutout, I think it’s time to move onto a much lighter subject. Possible realignment of conferences!
Wait – Are you having déjà vu? You should be, for this isn’t the first time it has been brought up. A proposed realignment of the Western and Eastern Conferences into four smaller conferences has been put out there, but has also been shutdown in the past.
The possible realignment was brought up by the boys over at Hockey Night in Canada, which got a lot of people taking about rivalries that could come to an end next season if said proposal was passed. Here’s a look at the possible conferences:
Thanks to Nick Costonika for the screen captures from HNIC, you can see that a few teams lose their renowned rivalries. Okay, none are terrible on the Eastern Conference front (the Flyers still have the Penguins, Toronto still has Montreal), but – and this could be because we are partial to the Central Division – Detroit will lose its in-conference rivalries with Chicago and Nashville. Though in all honesty, it makes more sense for Detroit to be in the East, the breaking up of the Central Division would be devastating, as they are the most heated division in the Western Conference.
However, it would be interesting to see if Detroit could stay on their toes in a division alongside such teams as the Boston Bruins (which would lose their heated meetings between the Rangers and such).
How about the Nashville/Detroit rivalry? How will the “Pred Wings” handle not seeing their beloved “team on the down low” as often in Music City or vice versa? Yes, it would be difficult to say goodbye to such a loving rivalry, but Nashville no longer relies on big names like Detroit, Chicago, or St. Louis to pack the house. With twenty-two straight sell outs, the Predators have dug themselves a nice, cozy home at the Bridgestone Arena, and they have plenty of inhabitants to keep the electricity on.
Nashville will still have Chicago and St. Louis if the conference realignment was allowed, but a new, more original rivalry may come about. St. Louis and Chicago would pair up, no doubt, and Dallas and Colorado could knock each other around, but Nashville? Who would Nashville choose to be eir “team they love to hate”?
We’ll give that honor to the Minnesota Wild. Why Minnesota? Really, must you even ask? With Ryan Suter making the move to the Wild in the off-season, Nashville fans already have a bad taste in their mouths whenever the name “Minnesota” or “Wild” is even mentioned. Yes, we have no doubt the Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators would form a new, possibly historical rivalry, and that sounds fantastic.
Either way, this realignment is just a talking point. Though it has been proposed and is on the table for next season, it is not set in stone and will probably be shot down just like in previous attempts. Though we like the rivalries we have now, realignment would be helpful, especially travel-wise for teams like Nashville (the farthest East team in the Western Conference) and Winnipeg (the farthest West team in the Eastern Conference).
A girl can only hope, right?