The Morning After: Game 3

ribeiro

If only it had ended as bad as these guys made it out to be. Source: Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Well, the Predators certainly forgot to pack that momentum in their carry-on bags from Friday on the way to Chicago because… well, we all saw the outcome of yesterday’s game. Not a complete and utter beat down, but not the heat we hoped to had seen for sure. The two goals Nashville did muster were exciting, to say the least, as they responded almost immediately after Chicago. However, after those two, there were no more follow-ups and the Blackhawks took Game 3 by a score of 4-2.

So what happened? Well, some could argue that the United Center is just a tough atmosphere for any team. Well, yea – it is, but here’s the thing: the Predators have played enough times in that arena that this should no longer be a surprise. Yes, the atmosphere during playoff hockey is a little more… unique, but these guys aren’t fresh off the boat; they know what to generally expect.

Another argument is regarding the absence of pack leaders, Shea Weber and Mike Fisher. The Predators played just fine Friday without Fisher and lit the jet fuel after Weber went out of the game. Though Weber and Fisher play significant roles on the ice, injuries like this are bound to happen and the Predators have adapted well before; unfortunately, unlike regular season, they cannot take their time figuring out a game plan. I was asked yesterday via Twitter on the health condition of Pekka Rinne; surely, he must still be injured. As much as I want to talk myself into believing that is the root cause of his awkward mistakes, it just isn’t. The only discomfort I believe he is in is the frustration of his gaffes. Unfortunately, even the best find themselves in a rut – Chicago resorted to their backup, Scott “sold my soul to the Devil to get out of the SPHL” Darling yesterday because Corey Crawford is way off his game.

No offense to Carter Hutton, but Nashville does not have someone who will all of sudden become the brick wall needed for the playoffs. After his hip surgery last season and his lengthy injury this season, many have questioned Rinne’s performance as it is easiest to blame the goaltender in these situations. However, blame cannot be solely rested upon the shoulders of the net-minder, as it takes other factors (defense) to keep a breakaway from happening in the first place.

Honestly, you could sit there and watch the replay of the game over and over and nitpick every thing that went wrong last night; so easy. The sloppy passes, bad man-to-man coverage, whatnot, but to keep a positive mindset, the First Round is far from over and anything can happen. Now that they have one playoff game under their belts in Chicago, tomorrow shouldn’t come as a shock and they should be a little more level-headed and prepared. There’s a good chance, since he traveled with the team, that Mike Fisher may be back for tomorrow’s game. Not that he’s the saving grace that’ll set everything straight, but Fisher’s authoritarian presence may be the kick in the rear end Nashville needs.

Shout out to Mike Ribeiro and Mattias Ekholm for cracking the “Darling Dam” yesterday and at least keeping the game interesting, to say the least. Now that I think about it, I am sad I forgot to post this photo:
b3c89aad8202521a49868ea0ddf2569b

Twitter Thoughts:

Preds fall to Hawks 3-1; Time to Rest Rinne?

Source: Kristen Jerkins Photography

Source: Kristen Jerkins Photography

Nashville hasn’t lost a home game since being pummeled 3-0 by the Penguins on October 25th, but another one was bound to happen sooner than later. Unfortunately for Preds fans, it came at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks tonight. What could add insult to injury is the fact that Chicago played the Montreal Canadiens last night at home, which usually puts said team at a disadvantage compared to a team [Nashville] who has a day to rest. Leave it to Chicago to bypass that hindrance and jump the Predators in the Central Division standings. You read that correctly:
Screen shot 2014-12-06 at 8.49.31 PMLooking at the glass-half-full, this loss wasn’t as devastating (stats wise) as it might feel; especially if you have to listen to belligerent Hawks “fans” as you leave the arena tonight. Though Nashville was only given two powerplay chances and managed to detour Chicago’s four chances, those were still two advantages the Predators failed to capitalize on that could’ve changed the game. However, the Blackhawks do currently hold the best penalty kill in the league, but that’s no excuse. The Predators are now 1-for-45 on powerplay goals at home this season; 28th in league just above the Wild and the Sabres. It is a weakness in advantage that is slowly catching up to the Predators as they push forward into the season.

Another factor to look at is impact on Pekka Rinne. Though there is no way you’d rest him while playing divisional opponents, when is the man going to get a break? Rinne has appeared in the 23 games thus far, whereas Carter Hutton has only seen three games worth of ice time. Yes, Pekka has been the much needed asset for securing many of Nashville’s 17 wins, but it may be time to give the Finnish Phenom a rest or two. Perhaps that will be the case for Tuesday’s game against Colorado; though a Central Division opponent, they sit four rankings below the Predators in sixth. However, ranking position means nothing if you’re goaltender isn’t on point, but Hutton has had enough rest and might want to stretch his legs. Truly, the only other time Pekka might legitimately get a break is on the 22nd when Nashville goes into Columbus. Yes, Pekka Rinne has saved many a butt and missing him from the net is definitely a risk (See last season), but starting him every single game is also a risk. You may play your best golf with your 9-iron, but eventually you’ll need your putter.

Kudos to Colin Wilson tonight for not allowing the Blackhawks to celebrate a goose egg tonight. His wrister past former Mississippi RiverKings (and Milwaukee Admirals, yea) goaltender, Scott Darling was his sixth for the season; assisted by Victor Bartley (1) and Mike Fisher (2). If you are stuck on the Mississippi RiverKings mention, that’s because it’s a Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) team and he is the first of said league to make it to the NHL. Jumping around that stat, Colin Wilson is certainly on his way to having one of the best seasons of his career. I mean, this kid went from constantly being tossed into Trotzy’s Doghouse to actually getting ice time to find his comfort zone. He has put up great numbers in the past, but I am foreseeing a much better performance from the 25-year-old under Laviolette’s system for sure.

Welp, don’t get too down, Preds fans; it’s Saturday night and, just remember: the Predators are doing 100x better than the Titans and shhh! Hockey’s not supposed to do better than football!

From AHL to College Teams; Where to Find Hockey during Lockout

From the Knoxville Ice Bears to the Mississippi RiverKings, there is hockey if you know where to find it.

Welp, Day 1 of the NHL Lockout is coming to a close and, as you might have expected, the NHL and the NHLPA are nowhere near coming to an agreement. Fans across North America are teary-eyed and sort of lost, not exactly knowing what to do without a hockey season to look forward to. Where as prominent hockey communities like New York and all of Canada have other outlets to cling to other than the NHL, those of us in non-traditional markets are left twiddling our thumbs, wishing on stars every night for the big wigs to come to an agreement… or are we?

Many would believe the South is a non-traditional hockey market and, in all fairness, it truly is. Baseball and college football rule this area, with hockey clinging like icicles in certain parts of the region. With Atlanta losing yet another NHL expansion team to Canada, it’s hard to believe hockey could survive somewhere like Georgia, Alabama, or even Mississippi, yet it thrives if you know just where to look.

For those who believe the South cannot withhold and establish a thriving hockey franchise, I give you the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL).

Yes, the South has its own professional league.

If you’re a devoted hockey follower, you have probably heard of the SPHL, but for all the newcomers that have never dealt with a NHL Lockout before, there is still hockey to be found! Teams in the SPHL include:

The Huntsville Havoc – Huntsville, Alabama
The Knoxville Ice Bears – Knoxville, Tennessee
The Augusta RiverHawks – Augusta, Georgia
The Columbus Cottonmouths – Columbus, Georgia
The Mississippi RiverKings – Southaven, Mississippi (Memphis)
The Fayetteville FireAntz – Fayetteville, North Carolina
The Mississippi Surge – Biloxi, Mississippi
The Louisiana Ice Gators – LaFayette, LA
The Pensacola Ice Flyers – Pensacola, Florida

Although there have been many franchises that have folded over the years, from the teams listed, hockey has managed to thrive in the South, even before the Nashville Predators arrived in the Music City. For Predators fans, the Knoxville Ice Bears, the Mississippi RiverKings, and the Huntsville Havoc would be the nearest teams to visit, with the Havoc being the closest (2 hours). Although it isn’t exactly the boys we are used to cheering for, you could end up finding your own Pekka Rinne or Shea Weber in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Let’s also not forget our college teams also have a love for hockey. Wether it’s an actual team or just a club, you’d be surprised who has a hockey setup on campus. Here’s a list of a few colleges with hockey outlets:

Vanderbilt Commodores – Nashville, TN
The Tennessee Ice VOLS – Knoxville, TN
The Ole Miss Ice Rebels – Oxford, MS
Georgia Tech – Atlanta, GA
–  Memphis Tigers Hockey – Memphis, TN
The Alabama Frozen Tide – Tuscaloosa, AL
Florida Gators Hockey – Gainesville, FL
The UGA Ice Dogs – Athens, GA

Who knew the SEC was prominent in sports other than football, baseball, and basketball? Now, that’s just a handful of colleges with hockey clubs and/or teams; we can’t list them all. Your best bet to see if your college (or one near by) has a hockey club or team is to check out your college’s website.

If the SPHL and the college teams just don’t do it for you, there are always the AHL and ECHL teams across the country, all affiliates with the NHL teams. As you know, the Milwaukee Admirals are the farm team to the Predators, but Wisconsin’s a good distance away from Nashville, Tennessee. The closest AHL team to Music City would be the Charlotte Checkers out of Charlotte, North Carolina. If you have a soft side for the Carolina Hurricanes, this would be the AHL team for you. For all of the AHL teams across the country and their NHL affiliates, just visit the AHL site here.

As for ECHL, the closest to the Nashville area are the Greenville Road Warriors of Greenville, South Carolina and the Gwinnett Gladiators of Duluth, Georgia. The Road Warriors are the ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the Gladiators are the Phoenix Coyotes affiliate.

As you can tell, there’s still hockey to be found, even if the NHL and NHLPA can’t come to a logical agreement. And, may we add, the hockey to be found is not limited to this list alone. So plan a day trip, road trip, or whatever to support these minor league and college teams. Heck, even if the NHL Lockout comes to an end, it’s still a great idea to support these smaller, lesser known teams. Truthfully, they are the teams that keep hockey alive in the South.

What hockey team will you be supporting during the lockout?