Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nashville defeats Washington; Moves to 5-1 on pre-season



The Nashville Predators defeated the Washington Capitals for the second time this pre-season on Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena, winning the game 4-1.

Washington took the early lead in the first period when Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm fell down at center ice, which allowed Mathieu Perreault to convert on the odd man rush.

Nashville would respond nearly six minutes later in the period with a goal by Colin Wilson. He beat Tomas Vokoun high to the glove side and tied the game at one.

In the second period, the Preds would take the lead when Matt Halischuk redirected a puck past Vokoun. He got his stick on the pass from Jordin Tootoo, and was able to get enough of it to slide it under Vokoun.

The Preds would strike again when Shea Weber scored on a beautiful play from Martin Erat and Craig Smith. Erat fed the puck to the slot and Weber was there for the one-timer. The puck was in the net before Vokoun realized what had happened. It was a good, quick read by Erat and a great conversion by Weber. Nashville would lead 3-1 after the second period.

Both Nashville and Washington had several scoring chances in the third period, but both goalies came up with several key saves. However, Cal O'Reilly was able to get one past Vokoun at 16:33 of the third period. O'Reilly drove to the net and was able to redirect a hard pass from Weber for the score.

With the win, the Predators improve to 5-1-0 on the pre-season. While none of these games may truly count at the end of the season, it's always good to build a winning mindset.

"Winning breeds winning. If you're used to winning, you want it all the time," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Matt Halischuk
2. Shea Weber
3. Colin Wilson

3 Stars as announced:
1. Colin Wilson
2. Pekka Rinne
3. Matt Halischuk

Nashville travels to Winnipeg to take on the Jets on Friday night. The Preds will then play the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Can Kostitsyn, O'Reilly and Erat be a successful line?

With the absence of Mike Fisher due to an injury, the Nashville Predators will have to move their lines around a bit. Assuming that Fisher won't be ready to start the regular season, who becomes the top line center on the team?

Last Saturday night against Winnipeg, the 1st line for the Preds was the line of Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O'Reilly and Martin Erat. All three of these players possess considerable offensive talent and skill. They also all have one thing in common: They really like to pass the puck.

There were a combined 272 shots between Kostitsyn, O'Reilly and Erat last year. By comparison, Patric Hornqvist had 262 shots all by himself. Albeit, O'Reilly only played in 38 games and had 44 shots on the season.

The question here is can a line of players that all have a "pass first" mentality really be an effective offensive threat when the regular season starts? I don't think so. Somebody has to be willing to be the guy that pulls the trigger.

Sure, both Kostitsyn and Erat scored a goal on Saturday night against Winnipeg. However, the Jets hardly had an NHL roster out on the ice. Things change when the level of competition rises.

All three of these players are great offensive weapons for the Preds, but their style of play is very similar to one another. They have the playmaking ability and look to make the pass to set people up.

Granted, Kostitsyn was the leading goal scorer on the Preds last year. However, he only had 93 shots on goal in 77 games played. That's 1.17 shots a game. Erat had 135 shots in 64 games played. That's 2.1 shots a game. O'Reilly had 44 shots in 38 games, for an average of 1.16 a game. That won't get it done.

If these three players are going to stay on a line together, Erat or Kostitsyn will have to buck the trend and develop a "shoot first" mentality. O'Reilly is a set up man, and he's very good at that job. He's not a guy that's going to be the shooter.

The potential solution to this problem may be as simple as switching Erat with Hornqvist. Erat has usually played well when he is on a line with David Legwand. Also, Hornqvist is a guy that's not at all afraid to shoot the puck. He would be a nice fit with Kostitsyn and O'Reilly.

It's unclear whether or not Kostitsyn, O'Reilly and Erat will be on a line together when the season stars. If they are, however, it will be interesting to see how many shots they develop while on the ice and how well their style of play meshes together.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Preds get by Winnipeg; Debut home golds



Preds' fans got their first taste of hockey for the 2011-12 season as the Winnipeg Jets came into Bridgestone Arena to take on the Preds. Nashville improved to 4-1 on the pre-season with the 4-3 victory over the Jets. The new home gold uniforms also made their game debut in Smashville.

Winnipeg got on the board first at 5:48 of the first period when Spencer Machacek beat Chet Pickard in a scramble in front of the net. Paul Postma added another goal for Winnipeg at 10:27 of the period to give them a 2-0 lead. A weak shot from the point trickled past Pickard, and into the back of the net.

The Preds got on the board early in the second period when Jordin Tootoo put one past Chris Mason. It was a bit of an odd play. The puck hit the referee on a previous shot and nobody seemed to know where the puck was. Tootoo came from behind the net and cut the lead to 2-1.

However, the Jets struck on the power-play shortly after when Derek Meech fired a shot that deflected off of Predators defenseman Jack Hillen and into the net.

Nashville would respond with a fury. They scored three straight power-play goals in the second period. Goals by Sergei Kostitsyn, Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist gave the Preds the lead. The Preds were moving the puck very well on the power-play. At the end of the 2nd period, the Preds led the game 4-3.

Pekka Rinne left the game during the period with what appeared to be a cut on his head. He later returned to the bench and seemed to be ok. According to Rinne, he received 12 stitches.

Nashville held on during the 3rd period and escaped with the victory. Zack Stortini, a player who was added to the Predators organization this offseason from Edmonton, played a strong game. He squared off with Chris Thorburn in the first period, and provided the opportunity for the Preds to take the lead in the second period.

Stortini laid a feroceous hit in the period, and was attacked by Winnipeg's Troy Bodie after the play. Bodie was assessed a double minor for roughing, and the Preds tallied with two power-play goals. Stortini's physical play played a pivotal role in the outcome of the game.

"That's his game. He loves to crash and bang, and he's great on the forecheck,' said Predators forward Jerred Smithson. 'He sparked our team when we needed and he's part of the reason why we got things turned around tonight."

The new home uniforms for the Nashville Predators made it's debut tonight, and seemed to be popular with fans and players alike.

"I think they look good. I'm a big fan. I think the white ones look really sharp. I'm still adjusting to the yellow but they look good, though. I can only imagine what it will look like when we get the fans out there with all their towels and just yellowed out. I like how they turned out and I think it looks sharp," Smithson said.

On Wednesday, September 28, the Preds will host the Washington Capitals. It will be the second home game of the pre-season, and the possible return of former Predator Joel Ward.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Verification line may be implemented this season



This past Tuesday, the NHL Board of Governors received conditional approval for the addition of the verification line. It's very possible that it could be implemented at the beginning of this season.

The verification line is a green line that is behind the red goal line. It's designed to help determine whether or not a reviewed play is a goal. If any part of the puck is touching the verification line, then it's guaranteed to be a goal.

After looking at it, there's two potential issues that might end up being a problem. Say, for instance, that a puck is rolling while it's going into the net. There could still potentially a bit of a problem determining whether a rolling puck is a goal or not.

Also, the puck might not be visible if a goalie is sprawled out on his back. You can't see if the puck is touching the verification line if you can't see the puck.

Overall, the verification line will be very beneficial for video replay in the NHL. Hopefully, the outcome of games will no longer be affected by insufficient video replay.

(PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Sandford/NHLI, NHL.com)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Preds win in Baltimore

The Nashville Predators defeated the Washington Capitals by a 2-0 score on Tuesday night in Baltimore at the First Mariner Arena to improve to 2-1 in the pre-season.

Nashville got goals from Chris Mueller and Colin Wilson on the night. Mueller also had an assist on Wilson's goal.

Both goalies for Nashville obviously played very well. No goals were surrendered to a very talented Capitals team, which is impressive even if it's a pre-season game.

By many accounts, the ice surface at the arena wasn't very good, so it's good that nobody was seriously injured in the exhibition game.

The Preds will head to Carolina on Friday to take on the Hurricanes at RBC Center at 6:00. On Saturday, the Preds will have their first home pre-season game of the year as they take on the Winnipeg Jets at Bridgestone Arena.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weber more comfortable as a leader



All-star defenseman Shea Weber is entering his second year as captain of the Nashville Predators. Last year, the Predators made it further in the playoffs than ever before, and did so under Weber's leadership.

Weber has one year of experience of being a captain of an NHL team going into this year. It's a role that should feel more comfortable to him this year.

"Obviously, it was a first for me last year, so I learned a lot," Weber said.

The level of comfortability of being the Captain is obviously going to grow as he gets more experience. There are new and different things that come with being the leader, and Weber hopes that dealing with that last year will benefit him this year.

"I haven't seen everything that I expect to see, but for the most part I saw a lot of new situations that I had to deal with. Hopefully that helps out this year and makes it an easier year."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wilson has something to prove in 2011-12 season



Colin Wilson was one of three players to play in all 82 regular season games last year for the Preds. However, when the first round of the playoffs came, Wilson found himself scratched for the entire series.

"One of the things that played in Willy's favor last year to play 82 games was that we ran out of bodies," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "Sometimes you get in a position where you get a little bit of a free pass because there's no one else to put in there."

Wilson was drafted by the Predators in the 1st round(7th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft. He had an illustrious career playing college hockey at Boston University, where he helped the Terriers win the national championship in his final year there. He was a Hobey Baker finalist, and had a tremendous amount of hype around him coming into the 2009-10 NHL season.

In his first year of seeing NHL action, Wilson had 15 points in 35 games. Last year, Wilson had 34 points in 82 games, but was often criticized for his apparent lack of effort. When he found out he wasn't going to be in the line-up for the playoffs, he wasn't happy.

"He didn't like the fact that he didn't play in the playoffs and, to me, I frankly don't care. What I do care about is that he gets better, and he wasn't going to get any better until he realized that he's got to put a little bit more into his overall game and be a bigger factor," Trotz said.

While he is entering his third year of NHL action, Wilson is still only 21 years of age. He wasn't at all happy that he didn't see playoff action until Game 4 of the Vancouver series. However, once he came back, he seemed to be a truly driven player.

"I realized that it's a privilege to be in the line-up. You've got to earn it. It gave me a little bit extra jump and made me realize that every single game I have to play as hard as I can," Wilson said. "As soon as I came back, I was playing my all around game."

The change in Wilson's play didn't go unnoticed by the coaching staff.

"Once he got over it and I knew he was ready to play and get back in, if we would have got by Vancouver I don't think I would have got him out of the line-up because he was determined to stay in the line-up," Trotz said. "That's the growth. It was no different than Ryan Suter a number of years back, and Ryan's turned out to be a pretty good player."

It's clear that Trotz was trying to send a message to Wilson during last year's playoffs. If you're not going to be a two-way player, and bring a good effort to the rink every night, then you're simply not going to play for him. It's the Predator way.

Trotz's message is one that Wilson won't soon forget. He's had all summer to think about it. But, will it be something that still motivates Wilson to succeed this upcoming season? You bet.

"It was all summer. It is during training camp. I realized I was getting healthy near the end there and I had to pick up my game, even though I played in all 82. I want to score more goals, be a better defensive player and just take care of my all around game," Wilson said.

Trotz knows that Wilson can be a great player for the Predators' organization. While he may have been a little disappointed in Wilson's game last year, that doesn't mean he doesn't expect big things from him this year.

"I expect him to have a really good season. I expect him to be all-engaged," Trotz said.

An angry Colin Wilson with something to prove could be good news for Nashville. Wilson has a lot of offensive upside, which is something the Predators can always use. However, Wilson's overall game will have to improve drastically from last year.

Sometimes all it takes to get a player's attention is to make them ride the pine. It looks like Trotz has Wilson's attention. Now, we'll just have to wait and see if Wilson truly took that message to heart.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Smashville roundtable: Training camp edition

Training camp has arrived for the 2011-12 NHL season. The Nashville Predators will begin their on-ice session today at Centennial Sportsplex. There are many intriguing storylines going into this year's training camp. Some of the local blog scene for the Predators took the time to answer one very simple question I had for them. What are you most looking forward to for training camp? Here is what they had to say.

Buddy Oakes from predsontheglass.com:

There is so much to look forward to at this year's Nashville Predators preseason camp that it is difficult to narrow it down to one thing. To me, the most exciting thing that I want to see is how this years version of the Preds will come together by opening night. This is the most wide open camp in years as far as the number of players who have the opportunity to have a great camp and survive the final cut.

On defense, there are probably six or seven players that have a chance to stick around for two or three slots. On the offensive side, if everyone remains healthy, there may be only a couple of slots to fill unless one of the regulars at the end of last season fails to make the squad. Craig Smith has made a great splash and has a good shot at one slot. If the Preds keep an enforcer, Zack Stortini may also have a chance to make the team. Taylor Beck would like to be in the mix too.

In goal, the only question will be if Anders Lindback will be able to hold off a challenge from Jeremy Smith or even Chet Pickard if he has truly found his game. As usual, since the core of the team will be a completed puzzle of 22 or 23 players in Nashville on opening night and another ten or so that will see NHL action at some point this season, nothing will really be final for the last players sent to Milwaukee. It will be an interesting run from now until October 6 to see what happens.

Jeremy K. Gover from section303.com:

Because everyone else is going to say "the battle of the rookie blueliners" and "if Craig Smith makes the big club out of camp," I'm going to go against the grain. The battle I'm looking forward to this training camp is the goaltenders.

Obviously Pekka Rinne is the starter. He was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy and took fourth in the Hart Trophy voting for crying out loud. But what about the rest of the pack? Mark Dekanich is gone (signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets) so the starting gig in Milwaukee is up for grabs. While Jeremy Smith has the inside track, Atte Engren is highly touted and will play his first full season of North American hockey this year and Chet Pickard is looking to rebound from such a disappointing season that he found himself in the ECHL.

Even if the Admirals' starting slot is Smith's to lose, what does the organization do with Engren and Pickard? Do they keep all three goaltenders in the AHL? if so, does it stunt their growth as a player? Do they go with the traditional "one starter and one back-up" and put the odd man out in the ECHL? If so, what does that say to that player? If you're Pickard, and you're back with the Cincinnati Cyclones, it may deal your confidence such a blow that you never recover. If you're Engren, you wonder if it was worth it to come over to North America to begin with.

Then there's the trump card. Is Anders Lindback trade bait for that "Top 6" forward we've heard so much about? Trading the giant Swede, while not a popular scenario, would loosen the logjam in goal and things would get a heck of a lot easier to manage.

It's going to be very interesting to see how the goaltending depth chart plays out. There's going to be a lot of tough decisions for the coaching staff to make. And, despite Rinne being the clear-and-away number one, the tough decisions don't stop at forward and defense.

Ryan Porth from smashville247.net:

First of all, with the summer we’ve had in hockey, I’m looking forward just to seeing hockey again!

As a lead in to what I’m specifically looking forward to, a lot of Preds fans will be interested to see how Craig Smith does in his first training camp – especially following his six-goal outburst in the rookie games this week. He’s excited for the opportunity, so we’ll see in the next week or two what he’s really all about.

Though the depth chart is four lines deep already, there will be a nice battle at forward. Along with Smith, Blake Geoffrion and Taylor Beck will also be jostling for a spot on the opening night roster. Geoffrion has the most experience of the three and is polished the most. Meanwhile, Beck was really close to making the team prior to the season.

All of the attention is focused on the blue-line, but it will be interesting to see whether Smith, Geoffrion, or Beck force Barry Trotz’s hand and push their way into the lineup here in training camp.

Amanda DiPaolo from insidesmashville.com:

After the rookie camp, I'm most excited to see if Craig Smith can keep up his level of offense when playing against and with players who have NHL experience. With 6 goals in 2 games against the Panthers and Tampa Bay rookies, Predators fans are excited, not to mention hopeful, that Smith could be the missing piece of the Predators offense that could take them to the next level. We saw glimpses of his excellence during the World Championships.

Playing for the USA, Smith scored 3 goals and added 3 assists for 6 points in 7 games. He was named one of the top three players on the squad. He said that success was one contributing factor in his decision to leave Wisconsin and turn pro. Let's hope that decision pays off.

Patten Fuqua from puckscene.com:

The battle for the third defenseman pairing is extremely intriguing. While the names that are generally thrown out are Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and Teemu Laakso, new acquisitions Jack Hillen and Tyler Sloan will also be competing for the position. Is this the year that Charles Olivier-Roussel decides to make more than a passing appearance at camp? As past training camps have shown, the player who is perceived as the best player from the outside is not always the coaches' choice for making the roster.

In 2009, we saw Dan Ellis beat out Pekka Rinne for the initial starting goaltender spot. We've seen a completely unknown Ellis beat out Rinne for the backup spot. We've seen Joel Ward make the team out of camp and we've seen Ryan Ellis get sent back to junior - twice. The most intriguing part of the whole bit is whether a darkhorse will step up to the task or whether it actually will be one of the "Big 4".

Mark Willoughby from theviewfrom111.blogspot.com:

The aspect of training camp that I most eagerly await, and which I believe will be critical to the success of the Predators this season, is the development of some of the young forwards.

Everyone is excited- and rightfully so- about Craig Smith. That excitement ramped up another level after his performance in the rookie games. I think Smith can be a valuable contributor to the effort of the team this season. However, if the Predators are going to make a strong run to the playoffs, Smith will not be the horse that is pulling that wagon alone.

This is a critical season for players like Nick Spaling, Blake Geoffrion, Colin Wilson , Sergei Kostitsyn, and new addition Nic Bergfors. Each has a lot to prove this season. Can Spaling and Geoffrion take their games up to the next level and provide solid scoring? Is Colin Wilson finally going to get his mental game to catch up to his physical game and become a well rounded player? Was Sergei Kostitsyn a flash in the pan or will he improve on his production last season? Will Nic Bergfors become a consistent scorer and solid two way player?

Training camp is going to give an answer to those questions, or at least bring the answers into sharper focus. The fact remains that the team, as presently constructed, is going to rely heavily on positive answers to these questions, and there will be ample opportunities for the young guys to step into prominent roles. To me, this is the most important aspect of camp for the Predators.

Kristopher Martel of thepredatorial.com:

My interest in training camp has accelerated from one battle to two battles now. First off, most definitely the defensive battle for the final spot on the Predators blue line. You have Hillen/Ekholm/Josi/Laakso/and Ellis all realistically fighting for 1 (maybe 2) spots on Nashville's defensive corps. I believe Hillen has the upper hand on the other four, however you can't count out any of the rookies at this point. Laakso was drafted 6 years ago and has been in the Predators development ranks for the last 3. Being signed to a 1 year contract over the off-season frankly makes it a "make or break" training camp for him. If he doesn't come up with an excellent camp and ends up not cracking the roster, it could hurt his morale for the upcoming season and you may see him part ways with the Predators next off-season. Ekholm/Josi both play the same style of game, but have a little more of an offensive presence on the blue line than Laakso does. Both are hungry and want to make the team. Then you have Ryan Ellis. Ellis has conquered the OHL, there is nothing left for him there. The AHL? He may end up spending the first part of the season there if he doesn't make the opening night roster. Will Ellis have a shot at the lineup? Absolutely. Do I think he makes it? No. Not out of camp.

Secondly, my eyes are going to be split between the aforementioned defensive battle and Craig Smith. Smith's 6 goals in his two rookie games is utterly incredible. Weber has been on record as saying he is "ultra-skilled" and Poile thinks that Smith could crack the lineup out of camp. Before the rookie camp begun, most of us were skeptical (to say the least) about Smith's ability to make the opening night roster. But now? No one is laughing any more. Dare I say...could Smith be the missing piece to the Nashville Predators puzzle? I'd love for that to be the case and you can believe that I will be heavily watching him over the next couple of week along with the rest of the coaching staff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chatting with Craig Smith

Craig Smith has been the hot topic of conversation in Pred Nation for the past few days, and with good reason. He scored 6 goals in two rookie games on Monday and Tuesday. It'll be interesting to see how he plays during the next week, and if he can make some noise as far as making the NHL squad. Last Sunday, we caught up with him after practice. Here's what he had to say:

Hockey Night in Nashville: Many feel that you're already NHL ready. Are your expectations to make the team right out of camp?

Craig Smith: "That's what everybody is here for. Everybody wants to prove themselves, and everybody wants to make the team, and I think if you're setting your expectations lower than that you're cheating yourself. I'm extremely excited to be here. It's my first camp, and by no means am I coming in here and accepting that I'm going to be sent down right away. I'm going to control what I can control and play my game. If that means that I'm up in Nashville, it's great. If it means that I'm playing in Milwaukee, then I've got a little more work to do."

HNN: As far as this being your first camp, has it met your expectations? Is it how you thought it would be?

Smith: "It's different. It's really different(laughs). If I was going back to school, I had class on Mondays, which is the day I left to come here. It's different of the mindset where I feel like when I get done with hockey I have to go to class and I don't. I've got all of this time on my hands, so it's different. I like the guys and I'm having a lot of fun so far, and I look for that to continue."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Preds Rookie Camp day 2

The rookies hit the ice for the second day of camp on Sunday at Centennial Sportsplex. For the most part, the play was a lot better on Sunday than it was Saturday. Everybody looked more comfortable being out there, and it showed. After the session, I caught up with Robert Slaney and Scott Valentine to get their thoughts on the day.

Robby: Everybody looked more comfortable out on the ice for the second day today.

Robert Slaney: "Yeah well I think if any of the new guys coming in had some nerves going into yesterday that they got them all out. It was a good pace today. It wasn't too slow and everybody was ready to go today."

Robby: You're out there with your teammates, and you'll be playing with them later this week, but you also know that you're trying to stand out to the coaching staff. Can you talk about how that process is?

Slaney: "Well the thing is, like you said, everybody's got their fight for the same job and I think that's understood between the guys. Nobody is out their trying to hurt each other. I think it's kind of whoever makes it makes it and everyone just gives it their all and shows what they can do, and what their skill set is and just let the coaches make the decision from there."

Robby: It seemed like everyone was more comfortable out there today than they were yesterday. Can you talk about that a little?

Scott Valentine: "Yeah, you know, anytime you throw a bunch of guys together for the first time it's going to take a bit of getting used to. I thought definitely today, you know there was still a lot of pace yesterday, but there's pace again today and the guys seem to be clicking more. You saw, working the power-play, that there were a lot of passes being zipped around and stuff so I think it's just kind of growing together."

Robby: Now you're out there and, of course these guys are your teammates, but you're also trying to stand out to the coaching staff.

Valentine: "Like you said, we're all teammates and we're getting ready to play together, but at the same time we want to put on a good show and make sure we show the coaches that we know how to work hard and that we're going to do whatever it takes. Whether it's practice or a game, you've got to do the little things. So that's what everyone is trying to do out there, and I think that's why it's so fast paced."

The rookies will travel to Florida on Monday to take on the rookies of the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Tuesday, they'll take on the rookies of the Florida Panthers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Preds Rookie Camp day 1

Rookies in the Nashville Predators system took to the ice for day one of the 2011 Rookie Camp on Saturday at Centennial Sportsplex. The day basically consisted of going through skating drills and working on several different situational aspects of the game. I caught up with Ryan Flynn and Ryan Ellis after practice to get their thoughts on the first day.

Robby Stanley: How did the first day go for you?

Ryan Flynn: "It went good. It was good to get back on the ice with the guys and start practicing.Good to get up tempo and what not before we head out to Florida. Overall, I'd say it was a really good day."

R.S: What's the main part of your game that you're trying to work on in camp?

R.F: "Just getting my legs moving. Getting up to speed. Getting up to the pace so that when we come into the main camp on the 16th that we're full boar and ready to go."

R.S: What part of your game do you feel is most improved from last year?

R.F: "From last year, I'd say probably my skating. That's something that I always need to work on, but overall I feel like I've got a little more step to my game. I leaned out a little bit over the summer and I think that's helped my speed a little bit. Hopefully, it'll excel and continue to improve and get better over next season."

R.S: Hey Ryan, how'd your first day on the ice go for you? How'd it feel to be out there?

Ryan Ellis: "Oh it was good. We've been on the ice with the older guys for almost a week now, but it was good to see the newer guys come in and get a sense of who you're playing with for these couple of games we've got later in the week."

R.S: What are you trying to work on in camp? What part of your game are you trying to improve the most?

R.E: "I think it's more of just trying to make an impression on the coaching staff. You're at an NHL camp for a reason. That means your game is pretty much there, so I think it's just about doing the right things out there and working hard."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

As success is achieved, expectations rise



The Nashville Predators are coming off of their most successful season in franchise history after advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. That's a huge step for the team in many different aspects.

During last season's playoff run, the Predators got more attention from the hockey world than ever before. Huge numbers of media members were covering the second round series against the Vancouver Canucks, and the world got to see that Nashville was a viable hockey market.

Advancing to the second round of the playoffs also allowed the organization to make more money. For a low budget team like the Predators, any additional money that is earned is invaluable.

Last season's success also gives the players confidence and experience. They know they can win a playoff series, which is huge for the team's psyche. As the team achieves more success, the expectations for them begin to rise in the fan base and internally.

Before last season, a Nashville Predators fan would really have one desire for the upcoming season. Get out of the first round. Please. Well, the Predators accomplished that goal.

Now, there's a new level of expectations around town. Simply getting out of the first round is no longer good enough for fans, players or the front office. A deeper playoff run is the new standard in Smashville. Dare I say it? People in Nashville want the Stanley Cup coming down Broadway in June.

Sure, the ultimate goal has always been to win the Stanley Cup. It's what every hockey player dreams of winning, and it's what every fan of every team in the NHL wants for their team and their city. However, expectations are much higher for the 2011-2012 Nashville Predators than they have ever been before.

It's a great thing to see. After all, if you're not in it to be the best then what's the use in playing the game? Most of the traditional hockey markets truly believe they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup each year. Nashville isn't a traditional hockey market, but it's a hockey market nonetheless. The fact that people are beginning to expect more out of the Preds is proof of that.

Higher expectations are a healthy sign for the the organization. It seems David Poile and his staff are committed to winning. I fully expect them to add the appropriate pieces at the appropriate times this year. The Predators' ownership also seems to be really committed to putting the Predators in a position to compete for a championship.

Last year's success, and the expectations for this year, are signs of the continued growth of this franchise. As the market grows, the level of expectations grow. People don't want mediocrity. People want a winner, and Nashville is no different. Can that add more pressure for a hockey team? Sure. However, the good thing for Nashville fans is that the players have the same expectations as the fans do.

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's almost here!



In a matter of about two weeks, it will once again be time to lace up the skates and play hockey! Rookies report to Predators training camp on September 9th, and will begin on-ice activities on September 10 at Centennial Sportsplex.

A team of Nashville Predators prospects will travel to Florida to play games against the Tampa Bay Lightning(Sept. 12) and the Florida Panthers(Sept. 13).

The first day of Training Camp is Friday, September 16. Players will report for testing and physicals, and will begin on-ice sessions on Saturday, September 17 at Centennial Sportsplex.

Pre-season games will begin on September 19, and then regular season hockey will start on October 7 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It's a very exciting and anxious time for hockey fans in Nashville. The new season is right around the corner, and the anticipation of a new season in Smashville is palpable.

Although it's been the shortest off-season in the history of the Nashville Predators' franchise, it almost seems as if it has been the longest. There have been several issues that have made this off-season, at times, a very stressful one for the organization and the fans.

The bottom line is that players, coaches and fans are all ready to hit the ice and to get the season started. That time is almost here, Prednation. Get ready for the ride.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Want to help the Wade Belak memorial charity drive? Here's how...

The passing of Wade Belak has left the hockey world stunned. Prior to his death, however, Belak was to appear on a show called Battle of the Blades. The charity that Wade selected the proceeds to go to for the show is called the Tourette's Syndrome Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital. Belak's daughter suffers from Tourette's syndrome.

If you want to help donate to Belak's charity of choice, visit puckscene.com. Patten Fuqua has organized a place to make donations. He wants $3 donations to ultimately reach a goal of $3,333 dollars for the clinic in honor of Wade.