Late Goal gives Preds Win over Kings 4-3

Courtesy: Getty Images

Game 2 of the longest road-trip in Predators history and, after coming up short in Phoenix, Nashville would need to slip around the 9-5-0 L.A. Kings to keep the coal burning. The second meeting between the pair, the Kings visited the Music City back on October 17th and left with a win in a shootout, 2-1. So it was now Nashville’s turn to come into the Kings’ home and steal a victory, yes? Jump on down to the highlights:

First Period:

  • David Legwand, who apparently wants to show who’s boss here lately, collected his third goal of the season at 11:15 on the powerplay. Seth Jones picked up his 5th assist, along with Patric Hornqvist collecting his fourth.
  • Shea Weber wouldn’t be quieted for long, scoring his own powerplay goal at 19:06 with Patric Hornqvist notching his fifth assist and Mike Fisher picking up his fifth as well.
  • The Kings were going down without a fight first, with Anze Kopitar sinking a wrister past Carter Hutton just 20 seconds after Weber’s goal.
  • The Kings would out-shoot Nashville 16 to 9, so give Carter Hutton some credit that only one was able to get passed him.
  • Rich Clune, after being scratched numerous times, returned in time to receive a 10-minute misconduct due to fighting and instigating Daniel Carcillo. Don’t get upset if you see Clune scratched again in the near future; it happens when you’re an enforcer.

Second Period:

  • Eric Nystrom would being the lone star in the second period with a snap shot past Jonathan Quick at 8:41 for his fourth goal of the season. You want to talk about someone who has shown his worth after being picked up during the off season. Patric Horqnvist would continue his helpfulness with an assist, his sixth of the season and third of the game.
  • Mike Fisher left the game during the second period after sustaining a lower-body injury. He did not return for the remainder of the game.

Third Period:

  • And here’s where L.A. would come roaring back like the lions they are. Dustin Brown would collect a sneaky tip-in at 9:41 for his third of the season, putting the Kings back by one.
  • Mike Richards would then tie the game at 11:18 with a powerplay goal from a Ryan Ellis penalty. At this point, the game looked like a flashback from the Phoenix game.
  • At 16:04, David Legwand would swoop in and seal the game in Nashville’s favor with a wrister, his second goal of the night & fourth overall. Mattias Ekholm would pick up the assist (3rd assist).
  • In a game similar to the one before it, Nashville slipped out of Hollywood with the win, thanks to David Legwand. Now, we know it takes a team to collect a win, but give a hand to Mr. Legwand; he started the game and ended it.
  • The Predators are now off to the Mile High City to take on the Colorado Avalanche for the second time this season. The first match up left the Predators with a loss of 3-1… let’s hope for better this Wednesday.

SCRATCHES FOR NASHVILLE:
Victor Bartley
Gabriel Bourque
Matt Hendricks

Coyotes best Preds in SO 5-4

Courtesy of Getty Images

The Predators headed out to sunny Arizona for their first of seven away games on this historic 17-day road trip around the league. The Preds and Coyotes have butted heads in recent years, thanks to a meeting between the two in the second round of the playoffs two years ago. This season, however, the Coyotes are sitting just a little higher than Nashville with a 8-3-2 record compared to Nashville’s 6-5-1 going into Halloween’s game. So, how did Nashville fair in the Arizona heat? Check the highlights:

First Period:

  • Matt Hendricks scored his first goal of the season & with the Predators organization nine minutes into the game with a wrister past goalie Thomas Greiss. David Legwand (7th assist) and Mattias Ekholm (2nd assist) would notch the assists.
  • Eric Nystrom would put Nashville up 2-0 at 14:12 with a backhander for his third goal of the season. David Legwand would pick up his second assist of the night (8th assist) and Patric Hornqvist would tally his 3rd of the season.
  • A late powerplay goal from David Legwand would send the Predators up 3-0 at the end of the first period, Legwand’s second goal of the season. Seth Jones (4th assist) and Shea Weber (3rd assist) would help with the assists.

Second Period:

  • The second period would rest solely in the hands of Phoenix, with both goals awarded in their favor.
  • Jordan Szwarz would notch his first goal of the season at 2:21 in the second.
  • Derek Morris then collected his fourth goal of the season with a slapshot past Carter Hutton at 9:51.
  • Phoenix would end the second period down just 2-3.
  • Though Nashville had more shots on goal (8), Phoenix was able to connect more with two of their six.

Third Period:

  • Paul Gaustad would gain momentum at 4:15 with a wrist shot for his second goal of the season. Nick Spaling would notch his second assist of the season on Gaustad’s goal.
  • The Coyotes wouldn’t hang behind too long, with a powerplay goal by Shane Doan at 6:16, putting Phoenix again within one.
  • Antoine Vermette would tie the game at 8:17, eventually sending the game into overtime.
  • Again, Nashville came out with more shots on goal at 19 to Phoenix’s 10, but the connection was just not in the favor of Nashville during the second and third periods.

Overtime:

  • No goals with Phoenix getting four SOG and Nashville just two.

SHOOTOUT:
PHOENIX – Mike Ribeiro – MISS
NASHVILLE – Craig Smith – MISS
PHOENIX – Radim Vrbata – MISSNASHVILLE – Matt Cullen – MISS
PHOENIX – Oliver Ekman-Larsson – MISS
NASHVILLE – Mike Fisher – MISS
PHOENIX – David Rundblad – MISS
NASHVILLE – Gabriel Bourque – MISS
PHOENIX – Mikkel Boedker – GOAL
NASHVILLE – David Legwand – MISS

It’s never a good feeling to have control during one period and then completely lose it the next, never regaining it the rest of the game. Nashville puttered out after the first, but at least pulled it into overtime to gain a point than a complete loss. Something to note, Viktor Stalberg made his presence known on the first line, stopping the puck from going into the net during the second period, which could have been costly for Nashville in the end.

SCRATCHES FOR NASHVILLE:
Rich CluneFilip Forsberg
Victor Bartley

Blues Crush Predators 6-1

Image Courtesy: Getty Images

Well, what can I say about last night’s game? Glad I was celebrating my college’s Homecoming, perhaps? Nah, I would’ve gone down with this ship if I had been there, but ouch; what a terrible way to start a long, seven-game road trip. The St. Louis Blues have always picked on little brother Nashville, but last night’s performance made even the strongest stomachs do a few flips, even all the way in Cookeville.

So, were there any highlights from last night’s game? Eh, one or two, but if I was a Blues blogger, I’d be up all night with this one. But there are still somethings we can discuss:

First Period:

  • Alexander Steen collected his ninth goal of the season on a powerplay brought about from a tripping call from Colin Wilson at 5:27. It only took Steen seven seconds to score, with the penalty beginning at 5:20.
  • St. Louis would pound Carter Hutton in the net with shots-on-goal at 17. Nashville was only able to send eight towards Jaroslav Halak.

Second Period:

  • T.J. Oshie would nab his second goal of the season with a tip-in at 7:35.
  • Jaden Schwartz would collect his second goal as well at 11:36.
  • Nashville took more shots in the second period, eight to St. Louis’ four.

Third Period:

  • Fifty-two seconds into the third, Nick Spaling would attempt to turn the tables, capitalizing with a short-handed goal, his first goal of the season. Mattias Ekholm would grab his first assist of the season.
  • Alexander Steen was well on his way to a Hat Trick with his second goal of the night at 4:37, his tenth goal of the season.
  • Predators would fall 5-1 with a goal from Derek Roy at 7:48.
  • Carter Hutton would be pulled after Roy’s goal, with Magnus Hellberg getting his first shot on NHL ice.
  • Alex Pietrangelo would score his first goal of the season on the powerplay to end the game in St. Louis’ favor, 6-1.

Welp, not too much to say after that game except Pekka’s injury has a lot of people freaking out. However, you cannot blame Carter Hutton for the awful game, though he isn’t out of the hot water just yet.

Also, the fact that Viktor Stalberg continues to be healthy scratched is not a good sign between he and Barry Trotz. He has expressed his distain and, you sort of side with the guy. Fourth line with Hendricks and Gaustad? Yea, not exactly an area to produce much from. It’s easy to understand his frustration but… that is the way of the Trotz. Someone has to take up residency in his dog house, and it looks like Mr. Stalberg has found his way.

Nashville has a few days off before heading out to Arizona to take on Phoenix on Halloween at 8PM.

Frustration Builds as Predators fall 4-0 to Coyotes

It has to be frustrating to more than just the fans, right?

Is frustration building amongst the team or is it just amongst the fan base? It would be difficult to believe that the team wouldn’t be, as the season just isn’t adding up to what they imagined thus far. It isn’t as if the Predators are just daydreaming along, but they just can’t seem to get the upper-hand when it comes to hammering a nail in the win column. The Predators had plenty of opportunities tonight, but again, the Predators just couldn’t squeeze one in, inevitably locking the 4-0 shutout in favor of the Coyotes. Here are the highlights from tonight’s game:

KEY POINTS:

  • Jonathon Blum and Brian McGrattan continue to sit on the scratched list, with Patric Hornqvist joining them, for what looks like 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee.
  • Although the Predators came out on fire, the Coyotes scored first, with a wrister from Antoine Vermette past Pekka Rinne at the three-minute mark in the first (his third goal of the season). Phoenix would out-shoot the Predators 5 to 3 in the first period.
  • The second period would produce another goal for the Coyotes, sending Phoenix up 2-0 at 16:48 with a wrist shot by Lauri Korpikoski (third goal of the season). Phoenix would again out-shoot Nashville, this time 9 to 7.
  • Poor passing attempts would prove fatal for the Predators in the third, with Nick Johnson notching his first goal of the season with a – get this – wrister past Peks at 11:34.

The Predators were given plenty of powerplay opportunities, and managed to shutdown all six penalty kills awarded to the Coyotes. Here are the six troublemakers:

  1. Rich Clune – 15:12 1st Period – Fighting
  2. Craig Smith – 6:28 2nd Period – Hooking
  3. Matt Halischuk – 11:03 2nd Period – Interference
  4. Martin Erat – 5:24 3rd Period – Roughing
  5. Colin Wilson – 8:08 3rd Period – Too many men/ice
  6. Gabriel Bourque – 13:15 3rd Period – Tripping

Frustration. The word of the day, folks. We can’t imagine the team and the fans are feeling anything else. The second shutout of the season, the Predators are needing more help than we first imagined. Poor passes, unnecessary penalties, and zero offense won’t get you into the post season, especially when you are working with a 48-game season, and you’ve already lost five of the six.

What can the Predators do to reach Stanley Cup potential? I am afraid we’ve exhausted all of our options, but as a UT/Titans fan, you have to keep your head held high. Still early, the Predators can bounce back.

KEEP CALM AND GO PREDS.

Hörnqvist Injury Determined, out 3-4 Weeks

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After taking a slap shot from Shea Weber and a nasty hit against the boards from Ryan Getzlaf Saturday night, Patric Hörnqvist’s lower-body injury has a name and a length of recovery time: a sprained knee that will leave him sidelined for 3-4 weeks.

Honestly, we are wiping our brows. Just look at the photo above. Hörnqvist’s injury looked much worse than what the initial outcome has presented, thankfully.

Hörnqvist is back in Nashville after seeking medical attention and it looks like someone like Colin Wilson or Paul Gaustad will be stepping up to take the often beaten and pummeled Horny’s position near the net.

The Predators are in Phoenix tonight to face last year’s playoff foes, the Coyotes. The puck drops at 8PM.

Predators put on the Pressure, Coyotes Advance to Western Conference Finals

Wilson was ready in practice on Sunday and proved himself on Monday night.

It was do or die time for the Predators as they stepped out onto the ice in Phoenix on Monday night. Desperation was the main play and collecting goals was the idea. However, with Commissioner Bettman wringing his hands at the thought of selling off the Coyotes, the Predators would need just about everything to fall correctly into place. Unfortunately, even after doing everything they could, including out-shooting the Coyotes, the Predators just couldn’t muster past Phoenix to press on. Although the odds did not fall into the Predators’ favor, Nashville still kicked butt and took names like the team Nashville is used to seeing. Here are the highlights from last night’s series and post-season ender:

KEY POINTS:

  • After the loss on Friday night, Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were back in the line up, benching the bruised and beaten Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk. Jack Hillen took to the pre-game warmups, but enviably sat on the scratched list with Brian McGrattan, Ryan Ellis, and Craig Smith.
  • The Coyotes struck first, with Derek Morris notching his first goal of the playoffs at 3:54 in the 2nd Period. As with this entire series, the first team to score won.
  • Phoenix would jump up 2-0 over the Predators at 15:09 with a wrist shot passed Pekka from Martin Hanzal. Hanzal’s goal was his 3rd of the post season.
  • Nashville would pressure the goal hard, keeping the puck, for the most part, in front of Mike Smith. It seemed, though, that no matter what the Predators did, the odds just weren’t in their favor last night (nor the refs…). Colin Wilson, who recently bumped Sergei Kostitsyn from the top line of Fisher and Erat, was the only Predator to slip one passed Mike Smith at 14:01 in the 3rd Period. Although his first goal of the post season, had he spent more time on the ice in the playoffs, we are positive Wilson would have had more. David Legwand (3rd Assist) and Ryan Suter (3rd Assist) picked up the assists on Willy’s goal.
  • The Predators never seem to do well when they out-shoot their opponent, which was the case for last night as Nashville out-shot Phoenix 33 to 17. With every close call, the Predators just couldn’t knock out the relentless Mike Smith.
  • The Predators were given plenty of power play opportunities as well (four), but just couldn’t get a grip around one. In Nashville’s favor, the Predators only gave the Coyotes one power play, with Roman Josi taken an interference penalty at 4:19 in the 2nd Period.

The Predators battled hard, but with fatal mistakes and terrible calls, both made and missed, making it passed Round 2 just wasn’t in the cards this year for Nashville. Although favored heavily to make it to the Western Conference final, Nashville just couldn’t catch a break in this series. The Predators had a tremendous 2011-12 season and notched a few franchise records along the way. To say the Predators “flopped” or “failed” is not optional, for Nashville defied the odds of an extraordinary hockey club in a non-traditional hockey market yet again.

Win or lose, we stand proudly behind the Nashville Predators.

With the advancement to the Western Conference finals, the Phoenix Coyotes will take on the L.A. Kings once the Capitals/Rangers series ends (possibly) tomorrow night. The New Jersey Devils surpassed the Philadelphia Flyers about an hour ago to move on to the Eastern Conference final.

The memories we gained from this past season and post season are once in a lifetime and we are proud to stand behind our Nashville Predators. Lady Preds will continue to post news and information throughout the off-season, so keep checking in!

Until October,
GO PREDS.

Preds gain Momentum in Game 3, Fall Hard in Game 4

The Game Ops Department really stepped up for Round 2

After A. Kostitsyn and Radulov’s curfew incident, it would be up to the rest of the team to take the reins and prove to the NHL world that, even though some of their players aren’t taking the playoffs seriously, there are others who are willing to step up and earn their place on the ice. Lady Preds has had a busy weekend, so we apologize for not having Wednesday and Friday’s games up earlier, but we shall condense them both into one post for your viewing pleasure. Here are the highlights from Game 3 and Game 4 in Nashville.

GAME 3 – WEDNESDAY NIGHT:

  • For their first game at home for Round 2 against Phoenix, Nashville’s Game Ops department really stepped up to amp up the fans. With laser etchings of the Predators logos, a catfish, the players numbers and even signatures, it was hard not to be completely mesmerized. Here’s a video of it shot by a fan:
  • With AK46 and Rads suspended for the night, two hungry bench-warmers got the chance to prove themselves on the ice Wednesday night. Those two? None other than Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo. Although we wouldn’t deem Hali a bench-warmer, he has been sitting out a few games due to an ailing injury. Tootoo, on the other hand, has been warming the bench during the playoffs, so proving his worth and not losing focus was key for the enforcer. Also getting another shot on the ice was Mr. Controversy himself, Colin Wilson. Brian McGrattan, Craig Smith, Jack Hillen and Ryan Ellis topped out the scratched list.
  • David Legwand took advantage of a scoring opportunity at 8:10 in the 1st, notching his 3rd goal of the playoffs. Gabriel Bourque (2nd Assist) picked up the lone assist on Leggy’s wrister past Mike Smith.
  • Mike Fisher would counter Legwand’s goal at 9:16 of the 1st, grabbing his first goal of the playoffs thus far. Sergei Kostitsyn (1st Assist) and Martin Erat (3rd Assist) picked up the assists.
  • Nashville would hold the 2-0 lead over Phoenix in both the second and the third periods, giving the Predators their first playoff win in this series against the Coyotes. David Legwand tried pressing the Predators further with a second goal of his own, but the goal was inevitably ruled as an “intent to blow” call.
  • Nashville took control of the game defensively, with Pekka Rinne blocking all 32 shots on goal, his first shutout of the 2012 playoffs. The Predators gave the Coyotes four power play chances, but Nashville’s defense stepped up when needed and held Phoenix at bay to seal the win. Here are the four penalty offenders:
  1. Mike Fisher – 11:04 1st Period – Interference
  2. David Legwand – 15:39 1st Period – Hooking
  3. Sergei Kostitsyn – 12:59 3rd Period – Hooking
  4. Martin Erat – 14:18 3rd Period – Tripping
  • Interesting note: Although all four players took 2 minutes in the penalty box, each man collected a point in the game winner for the Preds.
  • The Predators proved that a snide incident involving two irresponsibly players would not phase them while fighting for the Stanley Cup. However, Nashville would have to come out with the same intensity on Friday to keep them from falling deeper into the hole…
GAME 4 – FRIDAY NIGHT:

  •  After a stellar performance on Wednesday night, it was obvious why Coach Barry Trotz did not put Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn back in the lineup. However, would Phoenix expect this out of Trotz and anticipate Nashville’s every move? From its outcome, it looks as if Nashville fell right into Phoenix’s trap, which was for the Predators to come out and play the exact same way on Wednesday.
  • After getting bruised and beaten on Wednesday, Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo took the place of AK46 and Radulov once again, with both players showing great determination on Wednesday. Colin Wilson also came out, once again, proving his puck-handling skills are worth the ice time. Jack Hillen, Brian McGrattan, Ryan Ellis, and Craig Smith continued on the scratched list.
  • Paul Gaustad and Kyle Chipchura dropped the gloves in the first period, with the announcers originally calling Gaustad as Kevin Klein. Here is the video of the two knuckle heads:
  • Rostislav Klesla wasted no time pummeling the Predators, sending already bruised and beaten Matt Halischuk violently into the boards. Klesla was only given a minor penalty of 2 minutes, but Brendan Shanahan ruled this afternoon that Klesla will be suspended for one game (Game 5) due to his unsportsmanlike hit. Luckily, Halischuk was not seriously injured. The video of the hit is below, but you can check out Shanahan’s take on the hit here.
  • Coyotes captain Shane Doan would scored shortly after Klesla’s hit on Halischuk at 14:52, his third goal of the playoffs.
  • At one point during the third period, Nashville was able to slip the puck past Mike Smith for a goal, but in true NHL referee fashion, the goal was waved off due to an “intention to blow” call. This is the second consecutive goal that has been waved off for Nashville due to this “unbelievable” call. Although completely overrun in the first period, the Predators pressured hard in the second and third periods, but were unable to slip past the Coyotes defense.
  • Nashville out-shot Phoenix by one (25 to 24), but even with all the potential chances the Predators were given, Nashville just wasn’t able to pull one out. It also did not help that Phoenix was out to weaken the Predators, pummeling them left and right into the boards.
  • Both Nashville and Phoenix had the same amount of power play chances at three, but neither team was able to capitalize on their advantage. Here are the three Predators offenders of the first period:
  1. Jordin Tootoo – 1:30 1st Period – Interference
  2. Paul Gaustad – 10:00 1st Period – Fighting
  3. Gabriel Bourque – 15:55 1st Period – Slashing

Although coming out with an intensity that can only be described as Predators hockey on Wednesday night, Nashville’s flame completely burned out on Friday, not what the Predators needed in order to contend for the Cup. It was clear Phoenix was completely and utterly prepared for Nashville to play the exact same way they did on Wednesday, which is one of the major flaws in the way Barry Trotz coaches. Now, don’t get us wrong, Trotz is an outstanding coach… in the regular season. However, teams anticipate opponents to fall to familiarity, and Nashville did just that on Friday night. They played it safe and kept the same lineups and plays as Wednesday, giving Phoenix the completely advantage. The one change that was noted was that SK74 was bumped from the star lineup and replaced with Colin Wilson. And, a question we ask, why wasn’t Paul Gaustad in the face-offs? With the highest winning percentage, why did he not get first choice in face-offs?

We could ask questions like these all day until our faces turn blue, but what ultimately matters now is that the Predators stitch themselves back up, change it up a bit, and come out swinging in Glendale tomorrow night. With the Stanley Cup on the line, if Nashville is as hunger as they think they are, tomorrow will not even be a factor.

Until then,
GO PREDS

Radulov & A. Kostitsyn Suspended for Team Violation

Don't make that face! You got caught red-handed, mister!

As you may have all heard by now (yes, we are way behind on relaying this message), forwards Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn have been suspended for Game 3 of the series between Nashville and Phoenix on Wednesday, after violating team rules late Saturday night/early Sunday morning.

General Manager David Poile laid the hammer down hard on the two Eastern European players, extending this message to both the press and public:
“The Nashville Predators have a few simple rules centered around doing the right things,” Poile said. “We have always operated with a team-first mentality and philosophy. Violating team rules is not fair to our team and their teammates.”

Per sources who know of the issues, Radulov and A. Kostitsyn were seen in Scottsdale, Arizona (about 45 minutes away from Glendale, AZ) at a bar and were there as late as 4AM. The team has a strict policy on “party hardying” and it is clear why the two drove that far to go to a bar: they didn’t want to get caught.

Both Radulov and A. Kostitsyn have been notable in the playoffs thus far for the Predators, with Alexander notching one goal and five assists and AK46 three goals and one assist. Although Radulov’s puck-handling will be missed, AK46 could possibly be the thorn in Nashville’s side on Wednesday night.

With Radulov and Andrei out of the lineup, who will be their replacements?
Don’t get too nervous, there are plenty of guys biting at the tooth to get some playoff ice time.

JORDIN TOOTOO:
Here’s one guy that’s definitely been itching for more ice time; he’s been pretty vocal about it as of late. If Toots can manage to keep a level head, his physicality could come in handy against the pesky Coyotes. However, there’s a reason Toots has taken a back seat and, although he’s worked hard during practices, his silly mistakes could prove fatal to the Predators with the series so close to being handed to Phoenix.

MATT HALISCHUK:
Halischuk is what we call a “silent assassin”.  Although not a popular, well-known player, Matt Halischuk has made a name for himself and found a permanent home on Predators ice. Halischuk averaged 15 goals and 13 assists in the 2011-12 season, saving the Predators with a few of those moves. However, Hally’s been a  bit quiet in this post season, but he has been nursing an injury.

CRAIG SMITH:
Rookie Craig Smith has had a good mixture of awesome and complete atrocious moments, but the boy is a good hockey player all around. Craig averaged 14 goals and 22 assists in the 2011-12 season, which is pretty impressive for a rookie. Craig hasn’t seen much ice time during the playoffs thus far, but has managed to sneak in an assist so far. However, Smith is a speedster and has proven by showing a little aggression out on the ice, both attributes the Predators could use at this time in the series.

There is simply no excuse for the actions both Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn committed on Saturday night. Some would just brush it off as two young, 20-somethings looking for a good time after taking their first loss, but rules are rules and both David Poile and Barry Trotz were not afraid to put their foot down, risky playoff move or not.

It’s never good to defy your team and teammates at any time, but during such a pivotal point in a series that could end your run at the Stanley Cup is NOT the best time to drink your cares away (especially when there’s a game the next day).

With punishment, maybe Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov will realize that their team, teammates, and fans take this series very seriously and would appreciate that, no matter how old and rambunctious they are, they are professional athletes that should act as such.   

Just chalk this mistake up as another thorn in Nashville’s side as they fight to regain their footing towards the Stanley Cup.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

(Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Battle of the Goalies: Rinne vs. Smith

The Phoenix/Nashville series will come down between goalies.

Tomorrow starts Round 2 of the 2012 NHL Playoffs, starting with the Nashville/Phoenix series at 8PM CST. Nashville was the first of all sixteen teams in the playoffs to advance to the Semifinals and waited patiently for their next opponent who was announced as Phoenix after the Coyotes knocked off the Chicago Blackhawks with a series win of 4-2.

Although both in the Western Conference, both Phoenix and Nashville aren’t bitter rivals by any means. With Nashville contending in the ever-difficult Central Division and Phoenix powering through the Pacific Division, these two very similar teams only saw each other four times this past season, with a record of 1-2-1 in favor of the Coyotes. Don’t let that deter you from siding with Nashville, though; the Predators have grown through this season, with the perfect pairings of Roman Josi and Hal Gill, and the sudden leadership of players like Kevin Klein.

However, what will come down between who ultimately takes the series and moves on to Round 3 will be all on the two elite goaltenders, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Phoenix’s Mike Smith.

Although Pekka Rinne leads the NHL in wins, games played and is a finalist for the 2012 Vezina Trophy, Mike Smith blocked 229 of 241 shots during Round 1 against the Blackhawks and even more impressive, Smith went 11-0 in February alone, snagging NHL Player of the Month. Both goalies have made some impressive strives this past and post seasons, so in a nutshell, the successor will come down to which goal makes a mistake first.

Unlike Nashville, who has Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Mike Fisher, Phoenix does not have big names like the Predators necessarily. Captain of the Coyotes, Shane Doan, was drafted in the 1995 NHL Draft by the former Winnipeg Jets, who ultimately moved to Phoenix in 1997. Doan is just about nine years Predators captain Shea Weber’s senior and, although experience and wisdom comes along with age, Weber’s physique and youth may overpower Doan in the long run.

One thing is for sure between these two contenders, however; both teams are more alike than different. Both were threatened with relocation (and Phoenix is still fighting it off) to Hamilton, Ontario from now former Co-CEO of Research in Motion, Jim Balsillie. Nashville almost met the fate of Canada back in 2007, but luckily, loyal Predators fans were able to nip that decision quickly in the bud. The Coyotes, who are a currently owned by the NHL, are purely at the mercy of the City of Phoenix, who currently pays to keep the team in near by Glendale, Arizona.

Also, both teams play in very eerily similar ways, which will ultimately make for one interesting match up. No matter which team that ultimately advances to Round 3, both Nashville and Phoenix have the potential of going far, if not all the way to the finals.

You won’t see many goals during these series, not with these two extraordinary goalies in net. Again, it will all come down to which goalie makes the first mistake. May it not be Pekka Rinne.

Until then,
GO PREDS.