After a relatively quiet 4th of July weekend, the Predators have been awfully active for a Monday afternoon. An hour or so ago, the Predators announced the signing of veteran defenseman, Anton Volchenkov for a one-year, $1 million contract. Volchenkov, a native of Russia, was offered a KHL contract with SKA St. Petersburg if no team from the NHL showed interest, but Nashville snatched him up for a good price — his former contract with the New Jersey Devils was a 6-year, $25.5 million. The left-handed Volchenkov will probably land on the second line and pair with right-hander Seth Jones for now.
On to more pressing news is the loss of Mike Fisher, who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon thus placing him on the IR for at least 4-6 months… ouch. Fisher, who has been weighing his career options, may find this is the turning point to retire early, but we shall see. Fisher had his surgery to repair the torn tendon last Thursday, July 3rd. As you may imagine, now that this news is out, rumors of Nashville taking a stab at veteran, Vincent Lecavalier are becoming more and more heated. Personally, I don’t think it’ll happen, but with David Poile at the helm, anything is possible.
We will continue to update as more information on both players becomes available.
After a dominating win of 4-1 over the Rangers in New York last Tuesday, the Predators have relocated their proverbial “groove” through the last three games, defeating the likes of new divisional rival, the Dallas Stars 3-1. Before regaining the taste of victory, the Predators had fallen five times in a row, spawning some much needed criticizism from the peanut gallery.
With the win over San Jose (20-6-6) last night, Nashville’s standings are now at 16-14-3, placing the Predators 11th out of 14th in the Western Conference and 6th in the Central Division, just two points ahead of Winnipeg (who is at rockbottom).
Okay, that’s a bit disheartening, isn’t it? Well, how about this: Where would Nashville stand in other divisions and the Eastern Conference? Let’s find out:
If Nashville was in the Metropolitan Division, which consists of Pittsburgh, Washington, Carolina, New Jersey, Columbus, Islanders, Rangers & Philadelphia), the Predators would hold 3rd place over the Carolina Hurricanes. Wishing the Predators were in the Eastern Conference now, huh?
If Nashville was in the Atlantic Division, they would be sitting in 6th out of 8th place, just surpassing the Ottawa Senators by three points. Not nearly as good as the Metropolitan Division, but with two teams sitting behind you instead of one, it subconsciously makes things better, right?
So, overall, where would Nashville stand as of Sunday, December 15th in the Eastern Conference? Carolina would be pushed aside once again and the Predators would snag 8th out of the 16 teams. Significantly better than sitting in 11th of the 14 teams in the West, right?
Well, wishing is wishing and, unfortunately, the Predators cannot hop into the Eastern Conference just because their standings would be better there. Also, a good question is, does that mean the Eastern Conference is weaker than the Western? Eh, not necessarily. Although it is clear by the numbers that Chicago (who leads the Western Conference with 51 points) would overpower the Pittsburgh Penguins (leader of the Eastern Conference with 47 points), hockey is not defined by numbers alone. That is one of the bittersweet joys of the sport of hockey; nothing is written in stone until the final sound of the buzzer. So, even though Nashville’s record would technically be better in the Eastern Conference, things could flip upside down in the matter of the 60 minutes it takes to complete an NHL game.
But, let’s stop looking at the what-ifs and take a look at the right-nows:
The Predators are now 9th in the league when it comes to power plays at 20.0%.
Carter Hutton is now 3-0-0 in the month of December, despite having a relatively awful November.
Carter Hutton has only allowed four goals thus far in the month of December.
Nashville is 13-1-2 when they score the first goal.
Stats from us, what?! Yea, we usually leave those details to the guys with credentials, but sometimes, we like to surprise the masses. But we needed to remind the masses at large that, although Nashville is sitting at the bottom of the Central Division and the Western Conference, not all the stats are bad. So keep that in mind the next time the Predators hit a snag and take a loss. It may not be all rainbows and sunshines, but it sure isn’t grey skies all the time.
Oh, and Kevin Klein got in a fight last night; so did Rich Clune, but we are more impressed by Klein.
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.