Preds release NHL Expansion Draft Protected List

PicMonkey Collage

UPDATE: More players have been added to the exposed list as of 11:20AM CST.

After pushing the release of the lists back by thirty minutes, the NHL officially allowed us commoners to see who teams protected… and who they did not. By no surprise, the great debate between James Neal and Calle Jarnkrok has left the Real Deal exposed along with a few others that were expected.

Exposed Players:

  • James Neal
  • Matt Irwin
  • Colton Sissons
  • Craig Smith
  • Colin Wilson
  • Cody McLeod
  • Yannick Weber
  • Marek Mazanec
  • Pontus Aberg
  • Cody Bass
  • Vernon Fiddler (UFA)
  • Mike Fisher (UFA)
  • P.A. Parenteau (UFA)
  • Adam Payerl
  • Mike Ribeiro
  • Miikka Salomaki
  • Trevor Smith
  • Austin Watson
  • Harry Zolnierczyk
  • Taylor Aronson
  • Anthony Bitetto
  • Stefan Elliott
  • Brad Hunt
  • Andew O’Brien
  • Adam Pardy
  • Petter Granberg
  • Jaynen Rissling
  • Scott Valentine

Protected Players:

  • Viktor Arvidsson
  • Filip Forsberg
  • Calle Jarnkrok
  • Ryan Johansen
  • Mattias Ekholm
  • Ryan Ellis
  • Roman Josi
  • P.K. Subban
  • Pekka Rinne

If you are freaking out about Neal (or anyone else) being exposed, as I mentioned in my previous post, that doesn’t automatically mean he’s headed to Vegas. Now that the exposed players have been released, teams can negotiate trades between the Golden Knights to attempt to protect these particular players. However, David Poile will more than likely have an uphill battle when it comes to negotiating with Las Vegas General Manager George McPhee (see Erat/Latta for Forsberg trade).

Wondering about Nashville’s other players? Here’s the list of the Predators’ exempt players from the Expansion Draft:

  • Kevin Fiala
  • Frederick Gaudreau
  • Vladislav Kamenev
  • Juuse Saros

UPDATE: It has now been acknowledged that Pontus Aberg, Mike Fisher, P.A. Parenteau, Vernon Fiddler, and Petter Granberg are not exempt from the expansion draft. It is important to note that Fisher, Fiddler, and Parenteau are all free agents, which means Vegas could go ahead and sign these players (the rest of the league has to wait until July 1st). However, if Vegas were to sign one of Nashville’s free agents, that would count as their expansion draft pick leaving the rest of the exposed players (like Neal, Watson, and Aberg) to stay with Nashville.

To see who the other teams in the league protected and exposed, here is the list from the NHL. So, what are your thoughts? Do you think GMDP can manage to work out a deal to save Neal? Whatever the case, there is no denying that George McPhee has the best seat in the house for this expansion draft and is soaking up every second of it.

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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.

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 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 Sweep Western Road Trip with 2-1 Win over Flames

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Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

No one can argue that Nashville looked like a completely different team this time around when it came to a road trip; especially compared to the previous one. Perhaps it was a change in the lineups, a stern lecture from the coaching staff, or a combination of a multitude of factors. Whatever it was, something connected within the team out in Western Canada and the Predators now have a record to prove it. After losing 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks last Tuesday, the Predators hit the skies for Manitoba to take on divisional opponent the Winnipeg Jets. In their first meeting with the Jets back on November 14th in Nashville, the Predators dominated the former Atlanta Thrashers 7-0. After that? The Jets returned to Nashville on January 5th, crushing the home team 4-1. And after that? The Predators nabbed their only point in their previous road trip, losing to Winnipeg 5-4 in OT. Despite a blaring concern in the goaltending department, the Predators pulled themselves together and started to dig – as a team – out of the hole they currently find themselves in, defeating the Winnipeg Jets 4-1.

Next on the schedule was Taylor Hall and his Edmonton Oilers. Nashville and Edmonton have only met once this season, which was back on October 10th in Nashville when the Predators defeated the Oilers 2-0. For some reason, the Oilers have always been a team that, despite their not-so-great record over the years (they currently sit in last in the Western Conference), a team that the Predators have struggled to beat. That wasn’t the case on October 10th nor was it the case Saturday when Nashville claimed victory in Edmonton, winning 4-1.

The Vancouver Canucks were Nashville’s next opponent on the schedule, another team that has held Nashville back many times before. Strangely enough, this was Nashville and Vancouver’s first meeting of the season. Though Nashville is ahead of Vancouver in the standings, that means nothing to the Sedin twins. Thanks to a first minute of the game goal by Craig Smith, the Predators held onto that momentum, even after the Canucks tied it shortly thereafter. It would be James Neal who sent the Predators up 2-1 early in the third period that would seal the game in favor of Nashville.

And lastly, we come to last night’s game against the Calgary Flames. In their first meeting of the season, back on December 15th, the Flames barely slipped by with the 2-1 OT victory. Nashville, high from winning their past three games, were no doubt itching to claim victory. Pekka Rinne was given the start in the previous three games, but last night was Carter Hutton’s time. And boy, did he shine. It is no secret that Predators fans are a bit hard on their team’s goaltenders. Despite a terrible game from the rest of the team, if a loss happens, somehow, someway, the blame falls to the goaltender. Sometimes though, it is an issue with goaltending. There’s no denying that Rinne has been in a rut lately and Carter Hutton, who is usually the subject of ridicule, has been playing rather well. However, this road trip undeniably showed the strength of both goaltenders and boy, was it something to behold.

Just six minutes into the first period, Mike Ribeiro notched his sixth goal of the season with assistance from Craig Smith (6) and Mattias Ekholm (16). Surprising that Ribeiro would score, as he tends to drop pass more than anyone in the league it feels like, but Nashville would hang onto that 1-0 lead through the remainder of the first period. Calgary would get the upper-hand three times alone in the first period due to penalties on the Predators, but Carter Hutton and the defense held their own to remain in the lead.

In the second period, however, Calgary would be at the disadvantage the most, taking four penalties throughout its course. Perhaps Calgary was called for so many penalties because of… this:

Dennis Wideman, apparently a little ticked that the officials missed the hit Miikka Salomaki jarred him with, cross-checks a linesman in retaliation. The more you watch it, the less case Wideman has to say it was “an accident”. There’s a good chance he’ll face a ten-game suspension at minimum. It’ll be interesting to see what the League does… or does. Wideman was not penalized during this game for this hit, by the way.

But, thanks to so many penalties, Shea Weber was able to launch one of his signature slapshots Karri Ramo to give Nashville the 2-0 lead on the power play. Weber’s 12th goal of the season, he was assisted by Roman Josi (25) and Ryan Johansen (27).

The Predators would continue to hold onto that 2-0 lead until about five minutes left of the third period when Flames captain Mark Giordano and his team crowded the net, finally catching Hutton off guard. Similar to Tuesday night’s showdown in Vancouver, Nashville would take a last minute penalty to give Calgary at 6-to-4 man advantage. The defense did what it does best and Hutton kept his cool, holding back the Calgary Flames to seal the 2-1 victory and to sweep the Western Canada road trip 4-0-0.

The Predators and the rest of the NHL have descended upon Nashville for this weekend’s All-Star festivities and holy crap am I excited. As are you, I bet. It was just recently announced – as I was writing this – that James Neal will now replace the sick Jonathan Toews in the All-Star lineup. Yay! We have four All-Stars now! Another injury to note, Alexander Ovechkin, will not make the trip here either and has been replaced with Evgeny Kuznetsov who also plays for the Capitals.

Four victories in a row. It’s a nice feeling, isn’t it? Very reminiscent of last season, yes? Now the question is, will Nashville lose its strength and momentum with this All-Star Break? Honestly, it’s not that big of a break. They are technically missing one day in which their could be a game (normally); they’ll be back at it against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. I guess we’ll just have to see. But for now, we’ve got some sure fire goaltenders and a spot in the wildcard for the playoffs.

 

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.

Preds rally to beat Arizona 5-2

Image Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Oh wow, I am actually getting a chance to update the blog! For those of you who have been waiting patiently, thank you. I am wrapping up my senior year at Tennessee Tech and – along with work – it has me pressed for any kinds of free time. It’s worth it though, really.

Any who, enough excuses — What excuse does Nashville have with this scoring drought their experiencing? Since I last posted an article, the Predators have had twelve goals in six games. Okay, so it’s not all about how many you can score — this is hockey, not basketball. Well, what if I told you, in those six games, Nashville tallied 198 shots-on-goal. Needless to say, it isn’t a matter of why aren’t the Predators taking shots (because they clearly are), it’s why can’t they put the biscuit in the basket? Which teammate pissed off the hockey gods? Well, let’s just move forward into the recap, shall we?

PRE-GAME:
• Nashville recalled forward Cody Bass to replace the injured Colin Wilson. While we aren’t 100% sure how or when Wilson got hurt, we want to believe it has something to do with this:

FIRST PERIOD:
• Arizona would get the ball rolling first at 17:20 on a powerplay goal from Oliver Ekman-Larsson for his sixth goal of the season.
• Despite knocking 13 shots-on-goal compared to Arizona’s 4, the Predators trailed the Coyotes going into the second period 1-0.
• Oh, and Pekka was doing #JustPekkaThings again:

SECOND PERIOD:
• Mike Fisher went down in an awkward stance, leading to him slowly limping off the ice.

While it doesn’t look like much, he did not return to the game and is expected to be our for the next four games.
• Calle Jarnkrok would finally slip one past Mike Smith at 12:32 on the powerplay for his fifth goal of the season. Shea Weber (5) and Filip Forsberg (11) would tally the assists.

• However, Kyle Chipchura would answer at 17:09 to retake the lead going into the third period.

THIRD PERIOD:
• At 2:33, Mike Ribeiro did something we never thought he’d do… he shot and scored for his third goal of the season! Cody Hodgson picked up his fourth assist as well.

• Two minutes later, at 4:49, Filip Forsberg would end his goal-less streak for his fourth goal of the season. Craig Smith (3) and Shea Weber (6) collected the assists.

• Nashville looked like they were on pace to hit 4-2 when James Neal was practically handed an empty net after catching Mike Smith out of his element:

Ah, but he released his inner Craig Smith and completely woofed it. Whoops.
• But Filip Forsberg would answer the Frosty call at 17:01 with a beautiful feed from Mike Ribeiro for his fifth goal of the season. Ribeiro would collect his eleventh assist along with Shea Weber who collected his seventh.

• James Neal would make up for that missed opportunity at 19:10 with an empty-netter to seal the game 5-2 in favor of Nashville. Neal would notch his 10th goal, along with Roman Josi picking up his 11th assist.

While Nashville certainly woke up in the third period, is their scoreless streak finally over? I wouldn’t bet my money on it just yet. While they are making a consistent effort, something just isn’t connecting. Coach Laviolette made some notable line change-ups last night that aided in securing the win, but there is still a missing element. With the need of a top center added to the roster and the possible loss of Mike Fisher for a good while, Nashville may find itself in a toughie for a bit. Maybe not. Who knows.

The Predators welcome in Jaromir Jagr and the Florida Panthers tomorrow night at 7PM.