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.”

UPDATE: Fiala hospitalized after early 2nd Period spill

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Image Source: NBC Sports

UPDATE: Per Thomas Willis, Digital Manager and Producer for the Nashville Predators, Kevin Fiala will be out the remainder of the playoffs with a fractured femur.

Just moments into the second period of Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues, the Predators would find themselves down one of their key contributors to the playoffs thus far.

While fighting to maintain possession, Kevin Fiala skidded awkwardly feet-first into the boards, followed by Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. Unable to get up on his own, a stretcher was brought out to assist the 20-year-old winger off the ice and to a local hospital. Per a recent update, Fiala is alert and in stable condition. Kudos to several St. Louis players, including Vladimir Tarasenko, for assisting the medical staff as they tended to Fiala.

Losing Fiala could be a rather significant blow for Nashville; especially since it looks like it could be for the long run. The Predators will just need to regroup and adjust as much as possible against this physical St. Louis bunch.

Playoff Bound: Coyotes punch Nashville’s Ticket

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Original Image Source: Google Images

Be sure to give the Arizona Coyotes a big thank you as it was with their 2-1 win over the L.A. Kings last night that officially punched Nashville’s ticket into the 2017 NHL Playoffs. With this berth, the Predators now have three consecutive playoff appearances with ten out of thirteen seasons overall. So, needless to say, Nashville is no stranger to the playoffs, but surpassing the second round has always seemed to allude the team.

So, now that Nashville is officially in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup this season, who will fight them for it? If the playoffs were to begin today, that lucky opponent would be the ever-so-popular Chicago Blackhawks. As you might agree, that isn’t exactly in Nashville’s favor. However, there is still a slim (and by slim, I mean really slim) chance that Nashville could be matched up with either Minnesota or whomever wins the Pacific Division. With only three games left in the regular season for the Predators, as I mentioned, the odds aren’t in Nashville’s favor. But, to keep a little optimism going here, all is not lost if Nashville faces Chicago in the first round. Is it the most ideal? Absolutely not for a number of reasons, but stranger things have happened. However, with Nashville’s consistent inconsistency this season, it will certainly be an uphill battle no matter who the Predators are ultimately paired with in the first round.

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Michael Haley Suspended for barrage on Calle Jarnkrok

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Photo Source: USA TODAY Sports

The Department of Player Safety just announced that San Jose forward, Michael Haley will be suspended for one game (without pay) for his retaliation attack on Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok during Saturday’s match. Here’s some of the official word from the NHL:

The incident occurred at 12:56 of the third period. Haley was assessed a match penalty. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Haley will forfeit $3,472.22. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

While some would argue that Haley’s “cheap shot” should warrant more than just one day of suspension, Calle Jarnkrok was active is yesterday’s practice and should be in the lineup for tonight’s bout against the New York Islanders. And Jarnkrok’s hit on Haley should not be overlooked either. Watch the video below to see the entire incident:

 
Calle Jarnkrok is by no means a dirty player and this was certainly not intentional boarding by any measure, but it is understandable why a player with 14 fights this season would fly off the handle after such a hit. Because of his gut reaction, Haley was ejected from the game and ultimately suspended for San Jose’s game tomorrow against the New York Rangers. After seeing a few Sharks fans a little upset (on Twitter) that Jarnkrok did not get called for boarding, it is important to note that while he was getting checked for a broken nose, Kevin Fiala served his boarding penalty for him. So there goes that argument.

Preds defeat Canucks in OT Stunner

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Image Source: NHL Public Relations

Overtime. More specifically, 3-on-3 overtime. Nashville’s nagging nemesis. Since it was introduced last season, the Predators have had a difficult time finding success after regulation ends. But last night, Calle Jarnkrok decided to change that 0-3 OT record (not including SO losses) to 1-3… with 1.5 seconds left in OT.

But let’s first talk about the game before this overtime craziness. While the score sheet notates that there were no goals recorded in the first period, don’t tell that to Filip Forsberg. Early in the first, Forsberg blasted one by Ryan Miller, but was immediately waved off by the officials as being played with a high-stick. After a quick review, it was still determined to have been played with a high-stick and the score remained at 0-0.

Austin Watson, on the other hand, made up for the missed goal just 35 seconds into the second period for his third goal of the season. Mike Fisher (14) and Roman Josi (16) assisted in giving Nashville the lead early into the second.

Nashville would maintain that lead until Miller was pulled towards the end of the third period. And guess what? That extra attacker move proved successful for Vancouver, as Brandon Sutter slipped the puck by Rinne to tie the game. With 49 seconds left. Woof.

It’s no surprise that most Preds fans feared the worst as time ticked down to zero in regulation. Again, overtime hasn’t exactly been Nashville’s strong suite (to put it nicely). Needing these points, the Predators would have to figure it out or push it to a shootout.

One advantage Nashville had over Vancouver last night was its overall game. It wasn’t hard to see that the Predators were the stronger team throughout regulation, but when it comes to overtime, that doesn’t really matter. However, Nashville did take that momentum into overtime, with it looking like the Predators would win it early with a goal from Roman Josi. However – yet again – Nashville’s goal was waved off, this time due to goaltender interference by Viktor Arvidsson.

When it seemed like all hope was lost, Roman Josi and Calle Jarnkrok sent the crowd into a victorious roar. Rushing down the ice, Roman Josi made the methodical pass to Jarnkrok who “put the biscuit in the basket”.

Glory. Pure glory. Of course, now Nashville will have to beat Vegas off with a stick (no Swedes in the expansion draft). With this amazing GWG and OT goal, Jarnkrok knocked off a few franchise records, too:

But let us not forget the guy who should’ve gotten a shutout last night: The Eraser himself. Rinne stopped 29 of 30 shots-on-goal, including some pretty close calls from the Sedin twins:

Last night’s performance was a step in the right direction for Nashville in order to keep the playoff hopes alive. However, was this an example of what’s to come or was it just another bout of inconsistency? You can find out tomorrow as the Predators welcome in the 22-17-5 Boston Bruins. A win against Boston could finally push Nashville down the path they’ve been struggled with all season.

Vladislav Kamenev called up by NSH

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Image Source: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Nashville’s second round draft pick (42nd overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft may just make his NHL debut this evening against the Florida Panthers. The Predators announced earlier this afternoon that Vladislav Kamenev, the 6’2″ Russian center, was called up from the Milwaukee Admirals due to injury involving James Neal (upper-body, missed last night’s game in Tampa), Viktor Arvidsson, and Mike Ribeiro (both left the game yesterday with undisclosed injuries).

The 20-year-old currently flies second in goals this season for the Admirals, with nine goals and fifteen assists. Center Trevor Smith leads him by one with 10 goals, eleven assists.

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Preds down Bolts 6-1; Sissons earns Hat Trick

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After the frustrating loss against Montreal on Tuesday, it was clear the Predators had moved on after trouncing the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-1 last night. While it is easy to fuss about the inconsistency Nashville has been plagued with this season, the type of communication and style of play that came from the team last night was further proof that they are capable of working together successfully. One could argue that perhaps Tampa Bay was simply having an off night and maybe they were. The difference here is Nashville’s victory was not guided by fluky behavior from the Bolts; they were actually organized.

Mike Fisher got the ball rolling at 2:25 in the first period, earning his 11th goal of the season. Fisher’s powerplay goal was assisted in part by Ryan Johansen (21) and Mattias Ekholm (13).

While the first period would end 1-0 with Nashville on top, Filip Forsberg would open the second period at 3:56 with his 9th goal of the season, assisted by Kevin Fiala (3) and Ryan Johansen (22), to give Nashville a 2-0 lead.

It would begin to look like Tampa Bay was on its way back as Tyler Johnson collected his 12th goal of the season, breaking Nashville’s lead in half a 2-1. Colton Sissons, however, would object to that and punch his 3rd goal of the season, assisted by Mike Fisher (12).

Not even a minute later, Ryan Ellis would notch his 5th goal of the season, but not first without some nay-say from the officials. Linesmen initially called goaltender interference on Viktor Ardvisson, claiming the goal was no good:

Predators head coach Peter Laviolette quickly challenged the ruling, which was reversed despite the disapproval of the home crowd. But before Nashville could celebrate, head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jon Cooper, threw out the challenge that Jarnkrok was off-sides prior to the goal. However, after thoroughly reviewing the play, it was deemed inconclusive and Ryan Ellis’ goal would stand. Colin Wilson (11) and Viktor Arvidsson (15) would notch the assists.

The third period would belong to Colton Sissons as he not only notched his fourth and fifth goals of the season, he also picked up his first career NHL hat trick. This was also his first multi-goal game in his NHL career, too. Oh, and yeah, he’s the first player in NHL history to record a hat trick with the second goal an empty-netter and the third goal with a goaltender in net. Sort of a weird record but I highly doubt Sissons is complaining.

Victories like these can help propel the Predators through this second half of the season and give them the boost for which they have desperately been searching. They will have tonight to see if that momentum lasts as they move south to Sunrise to take on the 16-15-8 Florida Panthers. Game time is at 6:30PM.

 

OT woes continue to plague Preds in 2-1 loss against MTL

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Image Source: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Although it was a bittersweet night with the return of Shea Weber to Nashville since being traded to Montreal for P.K. Subban in the off-season, it wasn’t how the Predators had hoped to start 2017 and the second half of the season. The 3-on-3 OT format has been in place since last season, and while the rest of the league has generally figured it out, Nashville just hasn’t seemed to get it down. In fact, Nashville’s OT/SO record since the start of last season is 7-20. Woof.

However, it’s that continuous inconsistency that forces the Predators into that all too familiar scenario that is the overtime loss. Nashville’s lone goal was notched by Kevin Fiala with less than a minute left in the second period, his sixth of the season. Fiala’s backhander was assisted by Ryan Ellis (9) and Roman Josi (15). It wouldn’t take long before Shea Weber would come knocking, collecting his 10th goal of the season with the assistance of former (and not so welcomed) Predator, Alexander Radulov. It’s almost like he doesn’t know how not to score in Bridgestone Arena.

While Nashville would push Montreal beyond regulation (which used to be considered a good thing), overtime would yet again deny Nashville of the much needed win and two points. Captain Max Pacioretty would seal Nashville’s OT fate for his 16th goal of the season. Let it also be known that Radulov assisted on this goal as well (his 20th overall).

Despite this loss, Nashville’s penalty kill looked rather decent, with the Predators denying the Habs four times throughout the match. Montreal gave Nashville three chances at the man advantage, but prevented them from ever getting a chance at net. Oh yeah, and Carey Price is a stud. And yet, so is Pekka Rinne. As Peter Laviolette mentioned after the game:

Of the 45 shots on net from Montreal last night, Pekka Rinne stopped all but two. Carey Price only faced 24 from Nashville. While some would rather argue that Juuse Saros should be given more ice time (and I don’t disagree – to an extent), Rinne is still Nashville’s veteran and starting goaltender; and pardon my French here, but he’s still damn good. Saros will be an outstanding successor for Rinne but for now, he’s just that; the future. He probably should see a little bit more ice time, but that’s a debate for another day.

Nashville has no time to pout about their former captain stealing the show; it’s onward to Florida to face the 19-16-4 Tampa Bay Lightning. At this point, the Predators have no time left to revel over poor performance; just time to recoup and continue seeking the solution to their inconsistency before the playoffs are out of reach.

Let me leave you on a rather heartwarming note with Nashville’s tribute video to Shea Weber. A TV timeout just wasn’t enough time to convey what Weber has done for Nashville and the growth of hockey in our city. So many lives have been impacted positively by your actions both on and off the ice. Truly, there are not enough thank yous that can be said to express how grateful we are. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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Subban named Captain in 2017 All-Star Weekend

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Image Source: Sanford Myers/Getty Images

Despite his nagging upper-body injury, P.K. Subban was named the Central Division Captain for the 2017 NHL All Star Weekend. Based on fan voting from December 1st to January 2nd, Subban beat out several other Central Division contenders for the title, including Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Joining Subban as captains of their respective divisions include Sidney Crosby (Metropolitan), Carey Price (Atlantic), and Connor McDavid (Atlantic). Other attendees of the All Star Weekend in Los Angeles will be announced at a later date.

The festivities, which will be held January 28th and 29th would be right around the time Subban is expected to return from his upper-body injury (good news). If healthy, this will be Subban’s second All Star appearance — yes, his All Star debut was at last year’s in Nashville.

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Subban out against MTL on Tuesday

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Image Source: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Say it ain’t so… P.K. Subban will miss Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, his first chance to face his former team this season. And if his upper-body injury is as bad as speculated, he may miss his second opportunity in March. Per Elliotte Friedman, Subban is to meet with team doctors to discuss treatment for a possible herniated disc. He also mentioned the possibility of surgery, which would leave him on the mend for an extended period of time. Of course, that is worst case scenario, but it also cannot be ruled out until a decision is made from team doctors.

Subban, who lead the team in ice time before his injury on December 15th, could potentially be out for the remainder of the regular season; can Nashville rally around themselves and make the push without him? Well, since Subban’s absence after 12/15, Nashville has been 3-2-2, which isn’t fabulous, but not the absolute worst either. While it hurts to lose someone as dynamic in defense as Subban, Nashville has plenty of other strong defenseman to rely on, including Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis. The world won’t end without Subban in the lineup, but it sure puts a further kink into Nashville’s push towards the playoffs.

UPDATE:

Per the Predators organization, P.K. Subban has been placed on the Injured Reserve and his condition will be reevaluated in two to three weeks.

 

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