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)

Radulov saves Preds from Shutout; Penguins Win 5-1 over Predators

Alexander Radulov wastes no time getting back into a Preds sweater.

After a rough and embarrassing loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, the Predators took to the road once again, seeking a win in Pittsburgh against the newly-returned Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Since Crosby’s return last Thursday, the Penguins have left a wake of destruction behind them, burying the Rangers, the Devils, and the Jets. The only team to escape unscathed was the Flyers, and even then it was an OT loss 3-2. Just looking at Pittsburgh’s past schedule (their last loss since Sunday was against Buffalo on February 19th), it is clear the Predators weren’t just going to walk in here and walk out with a win. Even with the return of Alexander Radulov, the Predators were going to have to make little to no mistakes against this Eastern Conference powerhouse in order to steal their ranking back from the Red Wings.
Here are the highlights from tonight’s game:

KEY POINTS:

  • Pittsburgh wasted no time letting their fans sing, as Evgeni Malkin sent a speeding slap shot passed Pekka Rinne to seal his 44th goal of the season at 1:23. Malkin is currently 2nd in goals in the league, sitting just a few goals behind Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • Pascal Dupuis sealed his 22nd goal of the season at 4:06, putting the Penguins up over the Predators early in the 1st 2-0.
  • Pittsburgh would continue to dominate the Predators into the 2nd, with Matt Cooke sending a wrist shot passed Pekka to land his 17th goal of the season at 1:58.
  • Putting the Penguins up 4-0, Chris Kunitz would hit a wrist shot of his own passed Nashville’s goalie to collect his 22nd goal of the season at 7:35.
  • Nashville would finally sink a goal passed Marc-Andre Fleury at 12:01 from Alexander Radulov. Good start since leaving the Predators and NHL four years ago, it was clear that Pittsburgh fans did not approve of Radulov’s return. Hall Gill (11th assist) and Patric Hornqvist (14th assist) picked up the assists on the newly-returned Russian’s goal.
  • Evgeni Malkin would remind Pittsburgh fans who the better of the two Russians were with his second goal of the night at 19:04, sending the Penguins up 5-1. Although his 45th goal of the season, Malkin still falls behind Stamkos in the standings. However, he did surpass Steven Stamkos in points. Many believe Malkin will be top contender for the Hart Memorial Trophy this year.
  • The Predators took plenty of shots on goal tonight, but their accuracy lacked the intensity that the Penguins were able to bestow upon Nashville defense and net. Nashville out-shot Pittsburgh 30 to 23, but again, accuracy was just not in the cards with the Predators tonight. Sergei Kostitsyn, Martin Erat, and Mike Fisher had prime goal chances, but the connection just wasn’t there. Alexander Radulov and Craig Smith also had some close goals, but in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be for the Predators.
  • Although having a rough night, Pekka Rinne was not pulled and replaced with Anders Lindback. As you recall, Pekka was pulled at the beginning of the 2nd Period on Tuesday night against Edmonton due to a chippy performance. Trotz let Peks play the 60 minutes, which may have actually been the best for him. Instead of being frustrated and discouraged from being pulled, a loss at which he had control of may cause him to snap back into his former self. Unfortunately, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has now surpassed Pekka as leader in wins… just by one point, though. Pekka still has a chance to overthrow the French-Canadian.
  • The Predators only gave the Penguins one penalty throughout the entire game with an interference call on Shea Weber at 19:01 in the 1st Period. The Predators were given two chances, but were unable to perform on either power play.

Most would say, “Oh well, at least the loss was to an Eastern Conference team.” However, with the playoffs inching closer by the minute and with teams like the Red Wings surpassing the Predators and Chicago on their coattails, the Predators have no room to be lazy and sluggish. Keep in mind, though, every team goes through rough patches and, unfortunately, the Predators happen to be bopping through theirs close to the playoffs. It’s easy to get discouraged and flustered about the Predators and their future in the playoffs (again, lackluster plays = couch time), but rough patches will and do happen.

Last but not least, congrats to Alexander Radulov and sealing his first goal of his NHL career since leaving for the KHL four years ago. Not only that, sinking that said goal in his first game back. Similar to Andrei Kostitsyn’s first goal as a Predator during his first game (also on the road), Radulov started off on the right foot tonight.

The Predators are on their way back to Nashville tonight, taking tomorrow off and then taking on another Eastern Conference foe, the Atlanta Thrash- err, Winnipeg Jets. And, just for good measure, the puck will drop at 6PM instead of the usual 7PM start time, easing the folks on EST (what about us with Pacific time?!). Don’t forget, the Predators will be having a public practice tomorrow at 11AM at Centennial Sportsplex.

Until then,
GO PREDS.

(Photo credit: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)