Preds make history; advance to Western Conference Finals

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Image Source: NHL.com

Though Nashville had the chance to punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals on Friday night, perhaps they purposefully lost that game just so they could seal the deal at home… one can dream, right? Whether that was Nashville’s original intent (wink, wink) or not, the Predators managed to fight off the feisty St. Louis Blues with a 3-1 win to take the series and advance to the third round, the first time in franchise history.

But let’s be honest; it wasn’t exactly the prettiest advancement ever. St. Louis wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and that was proven in Game 5 on Friday. Nashville’s performance in Game 5 was evidently still present in the first period, as the boys in gold had more issues than one, including connections on passes among other things. The first period would end with St. Louis up 1-0, thanks to an earlier wrister from Paul Stastny.

Perhaps Nashville just needed the first period to collect themselves (or Laviolette peeled the paint off the walls during that first intermission), but the Predators looked much more uniformed in the second period. Roman Josi would tie the game at 1-1 and put the home team on the board just 35 seconds into the second period. his fourth of the playoffs. Both teams would hang onto that tying score into the third period.

You know that whole “win a period, win the game” scenario? Yeah, that’s what both teams faced going into the third period. It came down to who was more desperate, to be honest. Another paint peeling by Laviolette set Nashville off on fire, with Ryan Johansen scoring his second goal of the playoffs, giving both the Predators and the home fans something to get extra loud about (along with a 2-1 lead).

Straying just a bit off topic, it is a beautiful thing to hear NHL bigwigs and announcers compliment Nashville and its fans; especially on how loud the Bridgestone Arena can get. I’ve sort of summed it up this way: When you combine a bunch of SEC football fans together, it can get a bit deafening. This is a predominately college football fan region; if you get a bunch of Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida, Ole Miss, etc. fans loving a unifying sport, it’s going to get loud. College football fans – especially those in favor of the Southeastern Conference – are a unique breed, and hooking them on a game like hockey? It’s bound to be wild.

Back to the game at hand, and with the fans backing them from that point on, Nashville held their own, regaining the confidence expected of a team up 3-2 in a series. Holding onto Johansen’s one goal lead, the Predators would hang on from that point on until Calle Jarnkrok’s empty-netter goal with one minute remaining.

For the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators have advanced to the Western Conference finals… and the city’s heart is on fire for this team. The amount of support the Predators have received during these playoffs is outstanding. Between the celebrity sightings, the Titans players getting “hype” for their fellow professional sportsmen, to the all-star anthem performances, it’s been phenomenal for this team and its city. And for all those fans who couldn’t get a ticket tonight? There were hundreds stationed outside the arena watching on a jumbo screen. Let’s also not forget who came out to pump up the crowd and team before puck drop tonight…

#DoItForKevin, y’all.

Whether you’ve been faithful since the beginning in 1998 or you are just entering the hockey atmosphere, be proud, Preds fans. Be proud of this team and what they have overcome to get here. 16th out of 16 teams and they are the first to advance to the conference finals? That’s playoff hockey for you, baby. Nothing is given. Anything can happen.

Since the Oilers just defeated the Ducks 7-1 to force a Game 7 in the series, it’ll be interesting to see who Nashville will end up facing in the conference finals. So here’s the question: Who would you rather face? The young, spritely team lead by McJesus or Ryan Kessler?

BONUS:

Carter Hutton told Pekka Rinne during handshakes: “Go all the way, buddy.”

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Preds sign Olli Jokinen to One-Year Contract

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The Internet’s most gifed (sp?) hockey player (IMO) has landed in the arms of the Nashville Predators. David Poile dipped his feet into the Free Agency Waters this afternoon, after missing out on the likes of Paul Stastny, who ended up going back home to St. Louis during yesterday’s debacle. Jokinen, who scored 18 goals & posted 43 points last season with the Winnipeg Jets, isn’t the first free agent that came to mind yesterday when free agency finally took effect; but don’t count him out as a David Poile dud. Jokinen, though 35, has a lot of spunk behind him and is still going strong, despite his numbers dropping (but hey, that’s what happens when you get older). And, if things don’t end up working out, DP got the waffle-loving center for only $2.5M and a one-year contract. Don’t shut down the computers yet, Preds fans; we have a feeling DP is still testing the water before the day’s over. Until the next move, here’s the infamous waffle gif of your newest Nashville Predator:
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2014 Winter Olympics Team USA Roster

Ryan Suter – 2010 Winter Olympics – Getty Images

The official roster for Team USA was announced this afternoon following the 2014 Winter Classic, in which the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in a SO 3 to 2. 105,491 was the official attendance in today’s Winter Classic, by the way… and the average temperature was 13°, with a wind chill of -1°

Any who – back to Team USA – So, who got the call to represent the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia? Here’s the list:

David Backes – St. Louis Blues
Dustin Brown – Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Callahan – New York Rangers
John Carlson – Washington Capitals
Justin Faulk – Carolina Hurricanes
Cam Fowler – Anaheim Ducks
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Kesler – Vancouver Canucks
Paul Martin – Pittsburgh Penguins
Ryan McDonagh – New York Rangers
Ryan Miller – Buffalo Sabres
James van Riemsdyk – Toronto Maple Leafs
Brooks Orpik – Pittsburgh Penguins
TJ Oshie – St. Louis Blues
Max Pacioretty – Montreal Canadiens
Zach Parise – Minnesota Wild
Joe Pavelski – San Jose Sharks
Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings
Kevin Shattenkirk – St. Louis Blues
Paul Stastny – Colorado Avalanche
Derek Stepan – New York Ranger
Ryan Suter – Minnesota Wild
Blake Wheeler – Winnipeg Jets
Jimmy Howard – Detroit Red Wings
Phil Kessel – Toronto Maple Leafs

As you may have heard (especially if you’re a Predators fan), the Nashville Predators General Manager, David Poile, was named the Team USA GM over the summer. So, are you surprised no Predators made the roster? Seth Jones & Craig Smith were the only players that popped up on the radar and were expected to make the list, but as we now know, neither one apparently quite made the cut. Since Jones is still a young NHL-er, his roster-miss is not as surprising as Craig Smith’s, especially after his outstanding performance in the IIHF World Championships this past Spring.

Notable other players absent from the roster list include Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan, Phoenix’s Keith Yandle, Columbus’ Jack Johnson, and Islanders’ Kyle Okposo among many others that you could make a solid argument for.

So, there you have it. Will you put your differences aside and cheer for the likes of Ryan Kesler, Ryan Suter, and Patrick Kane to push Team USA to gold? We will… but just for this time.

Preds hand Avs Second Loss; Win 6-4

Courtesy: Getty Images

After a tough victory in Hollywood, it was off to the Mile High City to take on the 12-1-0 Colorado Avalanche last night. If you were to go by records alone (and were a betting man), you would’ve undoubtedly placed your money on the Avalanche, for Nashville stood at just 7-5-2 coming into last night’s game. But, hockey tends to fly a little differently than other sports and, even with the best record in the league, you could still meet them on a off-night. Is that what the Predators did or are they finally getting a feel for the ice? Was it the altitude? I’d say, it was mixture of the Predators easing together and the Avs having a bad night, simply because Nashville made some horrendous, rookie-esk moves that should have cost them the game. Likewise, they also made some outstanding plays that helped propel them to the 6-4 win over the Avalanche. Very Predator-like, I’d say. Here are the highlights from last night’s game:

First Period:

  • Viktor Stalberg collected his first goal in gold white at 13:12 with a wrister past Semyon Varlamov. Colin Wilson notched his fifth assist and Mattias Ekholm collected his fourth of the season. Now that he’s finally had his first goal taste, we guesstimate Stalberg will have many more to come.
  • P.A. Parenteau wouldn’t wait long to tie the game, sending a wrister of his own past Carter Hutton at 15:23.
  • Nashville would end the first period on a high as Craig Smith jumped the lead to 2-1 at 19:04, his fourth goal of the season. Colin Wilson picked up his second assist of the night (6th overall) and Ryan Ellis picked up his 2nd assist overall. A few minutes after Parenteau’s goal, Jamie McGinn sent Seth Jones roughly into the boards, causing Gabriel Bourque to wail on him (understandably). Though not deemed a major, McGinn was given a double minor of Charging and Roughing. Craig Smith would capitalize on the powerplay opportunity.
  • Nashville would out-shoot Colorado 10 to 2 in the first period.

Second Period:

  • Ryan O’Reilly (y’all remember Cal, right?) would start the second period in favor of Colorado, tying the game at 2.
  • Paul Gaustad would essentially “Dikembe Mutombo” with a tip-in (3rd goal) assisted by Filip Forsberg (4th assist). It was, essentially, Forsberg’s goal as he shot it directly at the net and probably would’ve gone in (we won’t say 100%) without the slight tough of Gaustad’s stick. No matter to us, a Predators goal is a good goal.

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  • Colin Wilson would collect his first goal of the night – third point of the night – at 6:47 for his second goal of the season. Ryan Ellis (3rd assist) and Roman Josi (first assist) would assist on the play.
  • Colorado would again pull within one with a wrister from Paul Stastny at 13:37 for his fifth goal of the season.
  • The second period would end with Nashville clinging to a 4-3 lead.
  • After the clock had winded down to end the second period, Erik Johnson was thrown a 10-minute misconduct for tossing his broken stick into the stands. Although it was deemed unintentional, as he was actually just tossing it behind him to get rid of it, shards did fly into the crowd. And, as the rulebook states, it’s 10 minutes of bench time.

There’s more to the rule, but you can see the jist of it above. Either way, Johnson’s accident gave Nashville the much needed upper-hand going into the third period.

Third Period:

  • Matt Duchene would tie the game early in third at 4:23 for his tenth goal of the season.
  • Colin Wilson would tally his second goal of the night shortly after at 7:34 with a backhander (3rd goal of the season). Viktor Stalberg would pick up his first assist and David Legwand would notch his 9th overall.

  • Gabriel Bourque would collect his first goal of the season with an empty-netter at 19:42 to seal the game in favor of the Predators. David Legwand collected his 10th assist on that one, too.

Defeating a team that has only lost once this season? Yea, I’d say that’s a huge momentum builder if I’ve ever seen one. At least, I hope so. Also, how about Nashville when it comes to powerplay goals? The Predators started out 0-7 but are now 11-45… that’s third in the entire NHL. Muy bueno, y’all. Also, Carter Hutton, though a little shaky here and there, improves to 4-1-1.

So, who’s next? Nashville flies North to Winnipeg – yes, they are playing Winnipeg again – to carry the momentum through that game on Friday.

Blown Call gives Avs Win over Preds 6-5

Sergei Kostitsyn picks up a goal and an assist in Denver.

Missed us? Last week was a bit hectic and with all of us at the games, it was hard to motivate ourself to hit the blog after a long day. We’ll get to those games later, but right now, let’s discuss the game that went down today in the Mile High City.

With the season being as short as it is, there are going to be a lot of back-to-back games and today’s afternoon set in Denver is just the start of a long two-day stretch for the Predators. The Avalanche have had their share of highs and lows so far, but the last few games have been rough on the Avs, with Colorado losing three of their last four. Needless to say, the Avalanche, playing on without their fearless leader Gabriel Landeskog, were hankering for a win. The Predators, having lost three of the last five games, were sitting in a similar boat.

FIRST PERIOD

  • The Avalanche were quick to strike first, with a wrist shot from Aaron Palushaj at 3:43 for his second goal of the season.
  • The Predators would put the pressure on Semyon Varlamov, but the Avs would capitalize again at 9:30 over Mason on the powerplay, with a slap shot from Tyson Barrie, sending Colorado up 2-0 early in the first.
  • Colorado’s two goals would awaken the Predators at 17:20 with a powerplay wrister from Sergei Kostitsyn, his second goal of the season. Colin Wilson would pick up his seventh assist, along with Craig Smith (2nd assist).
  • The Predators kept the pressure in the Avalanche zone, out-shooting Colorado nine to eight.

SECOND PERIOD

  • The second period would become one for the history books, with outstanding goals and controversial miscalls.
  • Matt Duchene’s goal at 3:18 will forever be one of controversy, though it is clear that the lineman that missed the blatantly obvious offsides. You can see the play here:
  • Even if you don’t understand anything about hockey, you can tell something was wrong here. Even Duchene hesitated before shooting the puck, knowing good and well he was offsides. However, when the whistle was not blown, Duchene took full advantage of the mistake and capitalized with a goal. After the game, the NHL did agree that the offsides call should have been made, but what does it help now?
  • Mike Fisher would put the missed call behind him, sending a wrist shot past Varlamov at 10:16 for his third goal of the season. Shea Weber, who was originally accredited with the goal picked up his third assist and Sergei Kostitsyn picked up his fourth assist of the season.
  • Colorado wouldn’t give Nashville a chance to gain momentum, sending snap shot past Mason at 11:06 from Chuck Kobasew, his first goal of the season.
  • Colin Wilson would battle back at 13:17 with a backhand into the net for his fifth goal of the season. Martin Erat would nab his seventh assist and Jonathon Blum would collect his fourth.
  • Paul Stastny and Jamie McGinn would surprise and embarrass Mason with two goals in less than sixteen seconds of each other, sending the Avs up 6-3 late in the second. Mason was promptly pulled, giving Pekka the reins.
  • With Pekka Rinne in net, the Predators were able to hold the Avs back long enough for Jonathon Blum to nab his first goal of the season with a clean slap shot at 19:10.
  • Colorado got the upper-hand on Nashville in the second, out-shooting the Preds fifteen to twelve.

THIRD PERIOD

  • Unlike the second period, the third period was filled with exhaustion on both sides. Shea Weber would capitalize on a wrist shot, putting the Preds within one (6-5) at 18:42 for his second goal of the season. Mike Fisher (3rd assist) and Patric Hornqvist (4th assist) assisted in the late minute goal.
  • Nashville overpowered the Avalanche in the third, out-shooting them seventeen to five, but it just wasn’t enough to tie the game, giving the Avs a much needed win in regulation.

 

MUSINGS:

  • Patric Hornqvist returned to the lineup after suffering a lower-body injury against the Ducks on January 26th. Apparently, Hornqvist jumped right back in without skipping a beat, picking up an assist on Shea Weber’s goal and took twelve shots on goal.
  • Paul Gaustad suffered an “upper-body” injury in the first period, taking him away from the rest of the game. The Predators took a hit on the face-offs, with Colorado winning 29 of 46 of them. Yikes. Gaustad’s injury remains unknown and his condition is said to be “day-to-day” at this point.
  • Chris Mason got the nod as starter for the game, though it wasn’t exactly the presence he intended to make. Pekka would have to come in during the second period to take over, after Mason allowed two goals in just sixteen seconds.

 

As we mentioned before, the NHL admitted that Duchene’s goal should have been waved as he was offsides, but that does not help the Predators now, who would have eventually tied the game late in the third period, sending the game into overtime, which could have produced an entirely different outcome. But the nothing can be done now. The final score is in the books and, although we are not bitter about it (Duchene did what any player would do), when will the NHL take responsibilty for their linesmen missing such obvious calls?

The Predators head home to face the much missed (NOT) Jordin Tootoo and his Detroit Red Wings tomorrow night at home. Tickets are still available, but expect the 21st consecutive sellout tomorrow night.

Until then,
GO PREDS

The Predators Wipe Out Avalanche 4-2

Patric Hornqvist battles against former Predator Shane O'Brien

After a rough game against the L.A. Kings on Tuesday, the Predators needed a jolt on the ice to get the momentum going once again. Although currently 2nd in the Northwest Division and coming off a two-win streak against the Wild, the Avalanche have been a bit iffy this season. However, the Avalanche are not one to sit back and take a beating and Thursday’s game proved to be one with attitude. Here are the highlights from Thursday’s game against the Mile High team:

KEY POINTS:

  • Another night for plenty of healthy scratches, including Colin Wilson. Along with Wilson, the scratch list included Brian McGrattan, Craig Smith, Kevin Klein, and Jack Hillen. Although a healthy scratch, Klein is still suffering from an upper-body injury, but has yet to be placed on the IR.
  • Colorado started the night off with a goal at 1:14 with a wrist shot from Jamie McGinn for his 16th goal of the season.
  • The Predators quickly responded with their own goal at 2:54 with a wrist shot from Mike Fisher for his 20th goal of the season. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter picked up the assists on Fish’s goal.
  • Brandon Yip finished out the 1st Period with a tip-in past Semyon Varlamov at 6:58. After being credited to Roman Josi, it was finally rewarded to Yip for his 2nd goal of the season. Roman Josi and Gabriel Bourque picked up the assists.
  • The Avalanche came out with their pants on fire during the second, but not with shots on goal. In fact, the Predators out-shot Colorado 13 to 9 in the 2nd. Instead, the Avalanche took to throwing elbows and finally, at 19:43, Jordin Tootoo and Cody McLeod dropped the gloves and threw the fists.

    Unfortunately, Toots didn’t fair too well against McLeod, but it did get the crowd stirred up quite a bit. It also got the Predators fired up a bit, too.
  • While at even play with both McLeod and Tootoo taking the fighting penalty, Sergei Kostitsyn sealed his 17th goal of the season with a wrist shot at 19:28. Not only did SK74 put the team up 3-1, he also captured the elusive Goo Goo Goal. Matt Halischuk was the lone assist on SK74’s Goo Goo Goal.
  • The feisty Avalanche would continue to pressure the Predators into the 3rd Period, with Paul Stastny sealing his 17th goal of the season at 4:58.
  • Martin Erat would nail his 16th goal of the season on the empty-netter at 19:16, ending the game in the Predators’ favor 4-2. Paul Gaustad was the lone assist on Erat’s empty-netter.
  • The Predators, although bruised and blooded by the Avalanche, still managed to out-shoot Colorado in every single period, ending the game with 31 shots to Colorado’s 17. Pekka Rinne returned to his usual self after a rough game on Tuesday night, blocking 15 of the 17 shots.
  • Along with plentiful shots on goal, the Predators also managed to stay out of the penalty box more than two times. Colorado gave the Predators four penalty opportunities, none of which were capitalized on. Former Predator, Shane O’Brien found himself in the penalty box twice, once for interference, then for hooking. Here are the two penalty box lovers:
  1. Jordin Tootoo – 18:31 2nd Period – Fighting
  2. Mike Fisher – 19:43 2nd Period – Roughing

The Predators have beaten the Avalanche all three times this season and will see Colorado one last time during the season on April 7th in Denver.

The Predators finish up at home on Saturday as the Detroit Red Wings come storming into Nashville at 7PM.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

(Photo credit: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)