Monday, April 30, 2012

Preds in major hole after losing Game 2

The Phoenix Coyotes were able to grab a commanding 2-0 series lead on Sunday night, defeating the Nashville Predators by a 5-3 score. Nashville has given up nine goals in the first two games of this series, which is uncharacteristic to say the least.

Phoenix got goals from Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Taylor Pyatt and Shane Doan on the night. They took advantage of several defensive lapses by the Predators, and were able to score timely goals to keep the Predators behind on the scoreboard.

One of the bright spots for the Predators in Game 2 was the power play. They got two power play goals from Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Suter, which allowed them to hang around in the game. However, Nashville's defense simply hasn't been good enough in the first two games of this series. Pekka Rinne has been left out to dry on numerous occasions, and the Coyotes have been able to capitalize on those defensive mistakes by the Predators.

Nashville has been down 2-0 in a series twice before throughout the history of their franchise. Both of those instances came at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings in 2004 and 2008 respectively. In both cases, the Predators were able to win the next two games at home to even the series at two games apiece. However, they also ended up losing the series in six games in both instances.

The Predators have to get back to the identity that has made them successful all season if they hope to get back in this series. Nashville has always been a defensively minded team that has relied upon opportunistic offense to win games. This year, the Predators have more offensive talent than in years past. In the first two games of this series, the Predators have tried to play more of a wide open style of hockey and it hasn't worked. Their team defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. That has to change if they hope to come back and win the series.

Game 3 between these two teams will be on Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville has to win that game. They cannot afford to fall into a 3-0 series deficit. While teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit in the past, it's rare and extremely unlikely. Expect the Predators to be better defensively on Wednesday night. They have no choice. It's a must-win game for them.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Three keys to a Preds victory in Game 2



The Nashville Predators will try to even the series tonight in Glendale when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinals matchup. Phoenix was able to get a 4-3 overtime victory over the Predators in Game 1 of the series on Friday night.

If the Predators are able to win Game 2 tonight, they will steal home ice advantage away from the Coyotes. In order to do that, the Predators will have to improve in a few areas that plagued them on Friday night in their Game 1 loss. Here are three areas that the Predators will have to improve on tonight if they hope to win:

1. Fast Start

In Game 1, the Predators didn't seem to fully get in the swing of things until the third period. Both teams seemed like they were feeling each other out through the first period of Game 1, and the Predators weren't able to capitalize on a few early chances that could've been the difference later in the game. Nashville was able to really dominate the third period and the overtime period despite losing the game. They will look to build off of that coming into Game 2 tonight.

2. Screen Mike Smith

Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith is playing as good as any goalie in the playoffs. If he sees the puck, he's going to make the save. Nashville didn't have enough people going to the front of the net on Friday night, and it made Smith's job a little easier. On Friday night, the Predators were able to tie the game in the third period because Patric Hornqvist was screening Smith. Smith wasn't able to fully corral the original shot by Ryan Suter from the point because of Hornqvist's screen, and Martin Erat was there to put in the rebound. Nashville is going to have to put bodies in front of the net if they want to consistently score on the Coyotes.

3. Win Faceoffs

Faceoffs have probably been the most discussed topic in PredNation over the past 48 hours. The Predators simply didn't win the key faceoffs in Game 1, and it cost them in overtime when Ray Whitney scored the game-winning goal for the Coyotes right off of a faceoff won by Martin Hanzal. Mike Fisher and David Legwand will have to be better in that area for the Predators tonight.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. central time on the NBC Sports Network.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Faceoff woes plague Predators in Game 1 loss



The Phoenix Coyotes were able to get a 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators in overtime on Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals despite being out-shot by a 42-24 margin. Mike Smith made several key saves for the Coyotes in the third period and in overtime to allow Phoenix to hang around and eventually get the game-winning goal in overtime.

Radim Vrbata got the Coyotes on the board first at 7:23 of the first period on the power play when he rifled a gorgeous wrist shot that beat Pekka Rinne and snuck under the crossbar for a goal. It was an impressive shot by one of the most underrated players in the NHL.

Nashville tied the game at one when Brandon Yip was able to convert on a very strange bounce. The Predators dumped the puck into the zone and Smith went behind the net to play it for Phoenix. All of a sudden, the puck bounced directly out in front of the net on Yip's stick. Smith wasn't actually in the net for the Coyotes at the time and Yip put it into the open net.

In the second period, Rostislav Klesla gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead when he backhanded one past a sprawling Rinne. Klesla made a pass that was blocked by Nashville defenseman Roman Josi and the puck went directly back onto Klesla's stick. Rinne, who had been anticipating the pass, was out of the net on the play.  The Predators would respond, however when Andrei Kostitsyn got a goal from just digging around in front of the net. He was able to get enough on it to sneak it past Smith.

Mikkel Boedker, who was the overtime hero for Phoenix in their first round playoff series against Chicago, gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead when he converted on a 2-on-1 rush by shooting on the blocker side. That goal gave Phoenix a one-goal lead heading into the third period.

After putting together several pushes to try and get the game tied, Martin Erat was finally able to tie the game at three for the Predators at 15:18 of the third period. The game went on to overtime, where Ray Whitney was the hero for the Coytoes. He scored 14:04 into the overtime victory for Phoenix.

Nashville was atrocious with their faceoffs in Game 1. David Legwand went 1-for-10 in the faceoff circle on Friday night, while Mike Fisher went 10-26. That's simply not going to get the job done for the Predators. One of the reasons that Paul Gaustad was brought in by Nashville at the trading deadline was for his facecoff ability. He was a stellar 9-for-13 in the faceoff circle in Game 1. Overall, however, the Predators won just 41 percent of their faceoffs.

The Predators will try to regroup from this game and take down the Coyotes on Sunday night.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Ray Whitney(PHX)
2. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)
3. Mike Smith(PHX)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Ray Whitney(PHX)
2. Rostislav Klesla(PHX)
3. Mikkel Boedker(PHX)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Nashville begins second round tonight in Glendale



The Nashville Predators will take on the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series tonight at 8 p.m. at Jobing.com Arena. It will be Nashville's first game since they eliminated the Detroit Red Wings from the first round of the playoffs last Friday.

For the second consecutive season, the Predators will begin the second round of the playoffs on the road. Last season, the Vancouver Canucks were able to get a 1-0 victory over the Predators in Game 1 despite a stellar effort from Pekka Rinne.

Nashville defenseman Hal Gill missed the entire first round of the playoffs with a lower-body injury. Gill has been participating in practices over the last week, and is expected to play in the second round. Look for him to make his playoff debut with the Predators tonight.

Phoenix will be looking to feed off of their home crowd tonight in Glendale. Tonight will be the first time that the Coyotes' franchise has advanced to the second round of the playoffs since moving from Winnipeg to Phoenix. It's an exciting time for hockey fans in the desert.

My player to watch for the Coyotes is Oliver Ekman-Larsson. At just 20 years of age, Ekman-Larsson is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. He had 32 points in the regular season and is very solid defensively for the Coyotes.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Martin Erat. After being relatively quiet in the first round against Detroit, look for Erat to play a solid game tonight. He was the leading scorer for the Predators in the regular season, and was the most consistent offensive option all year long. Erat will look to regain that form tonight in the desert.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Press Release: Weber nominated for Norris Trophy


Nashville Predators Captain Shea Weber has been nominated for the Norris Trophy for the second consecutive season. Here is the official press release:

NEW YORK (April 26, 2012) -- Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators are the three finalists for the 2011-12 James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” the National Hockey League announced today.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association submitted ballots for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 20, during the 2012 NHL Awards from Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas. The 2012 NHL Awards will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Following are the finalists for the Norris Trophy, in alphabetical
order:

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Chara's strong two-way play helped the Bruins capture their third Northeast Division title in the past four seasons. The Boston captain led all defensemen and tied for third in the NHL in plus-minus (+33) -- matching his League-leading rating from 2010-11 -- and recorded a career-high 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists) to rank fourth among all defenders in scoring. In addition, he led the Bruins in power-play goals

(eight) and average ice time per game (25:00). Chara is a Norris Trophy finalist for the fourth time in the past five seasons and for the fifth time overall; he captured the award in 2009, finished second in 2004 and was third in 2008 and 2011.

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Karlsson enjoyed a breakout season, leading all NHL defensemen in scoring with 78 points (19 goals, 59 assists) in 81 games. He recorded 25 points more than any other League defenseman -- the widest winning margin since Pittsburgh's Paul Coffey lapped the field by 38 points in 1988-89 -- and set Ottawa franchise records for blueline assists and points. The 21-year-old also is the youngest defenseman to tally as many as 78 points in a season since Coffey's 96 with Edmonton in 1982-83. Karlsson topped NHL defensemen in shots (261), was ninth in the League in average ice time per game (25:19) and posted a +16 rating.

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Weber ranked near the top of several categories, helping the Predators earn their seventh Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the past eight seasons. The Nashville captain placed sixth in scoring among all defensemen with 49 points (19 goals, 30 assists), with his 19 goals tied with fellow Norris finalist Erik Karlsson for first place. He ranked fifth in the NHL in average ice time per game (26:09), tied a career high and led all defensemen with 10 power-play goals and posted a team-leading and career-best +21 rating. Weber is a Norris Trophy finalist for the second consecutive season; he finished second to Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom in 2010-11.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Nashville vs. Phoenix: Who has the edge?



The Nashville Predators will square off with the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinal series on Friday to kick off the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nashville was able to dispose of the Detroit Red Wings in five games in the first round, while the Coyotes were able to better the Blackhawks in a six-game series that saw five overtime periods.

Coming into this series, the main focus has been put on the goaltending matchup. Mike Smith has been sensational for Phoenix all season long, and was the most valuable player for the Coyotes in the first round against Chicago. Pekka Rinne, who has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy for the second consecutive season, was stellar for the Predators in their first round series against Detroit. It would seem that goals are going to be hard to come by for both teams.

In the regular season, the Coyotes were led by Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata from an offensive standpoint. Whitney put up 77 points in the regular season at the age of 39, and Vrbata led the Coyotes in goals with 35 on the year. However, Phoenix got scoring throughout their lineup in their first round series against the Blackhawks.

Keith Yandle has emerged as one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL. Yandle had 43 points in the regular season for the Coyotes, and racked up five assists in the first round. Mikkel Boedker scored two game-winning goals for Phoenix in overtime in the first round, and Antoine Vermette scored four goals in the series to push the Coyotes over the top. The Coyotes have a lot of depth scoring that is capable of breaking loose on any given night.

Alexander Radulov led the Predators in points in their first round series against the Red Wings with five. However, Gabriel Bourque and Kevin Klein were the ones who stole the spotlight for Nashville. Bourque scored three goals in his first ever playoff series in the NHL, while Klein scored two key goals for the Predators in the Motor City that played an instrumental role in Nashville's two wins at Joe Louis Arena.

Patric Hornqvist, who was Nashville's leading goal scorer in the regular season with 27 goals, was held without a goal in the first round against Detroit. His play is going to be crucial for Nashville in this series because his speciality is screening the goalie by planting himself in front of the net. With the way that Smith has been playing for the Coyotes lately, he's going to stop nearly every puck that he sees. Hornqvist's job is to make sure that he doesn't see it.

These two teams play a very similar style. Defense is going to be the primary focus in this series. Both teams are going to be defensively responsible, and both goaltenders are going to give their team a chance to win. The key to this series is going to be opportunistic scoring. That's where Radulov comes in for the Predators.

Radulov is one of the most highly skilled offensive players in the world. He played well in the first round against Detroit, but there is still another level that his game can reach. Since coming back to the NHL, Radulov has shown his innate ability to be a true difference-maker for the Predators. When the game is on the line, Radulov thrives. That is going to be key for the Predators in this series.

Series Prediction:

One of the biggest keys to this series will be how the Predators respond to the long layoff in between the first and second round. Last year, they didn't respond well in Game 1 against Vancouver and they lost the series. What did that experience teach them? Game 1 in Phoenix on Friday will determine the answer to that question.

This Phoenix team has several qualities that are similar to the 2011 version of the Predators. The Coyotes have just made it out of the first round for the first time since they moved to Phoenix. Will they be able to respond better than last year's Nashville team?

Meanwhile, Nashville's mindset is totally different than it was a year ago. They expect to win, and they are going to be disappointed by anything less than a Stanley Cup championship. There is no hoopla surrounding this season's Nashville team just for making it out of the first round of the playoffs. The experience that was gained in last season's second round matchup with Vancouver could prove to be huge for the Predators.

The Predators are simply a deeper team than the Coyotes, and they're hungry. Nashville feels they have a team that is capable of putting together a magical postseason run. Look for the Predators to win this series in six games.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Press Release: Rinne nominated for Vezina Trophy once again

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy for the second consecutive year. Here is the official press release:

NEW YORK (April 25, 2012) -- Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators are the three finalists for the 2011-12 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” the National Hockey League announced today.

The general managers of the 30 NHL clubs submitted ballots for the Vezina Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 20, during the 2012 NHL Awards from Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas. The 2012 NHL Awards will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Following are the finalists for the Vezina Trophy, in alphabetical
order:

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Lundqvist was the anchor of a Rangers club that posted its best regular-season record since the Stanley Cup season of 1993-94 and captured first place in the Eastern Conference. He went 39-18-5 in 62 appearances, setting a career high in wins and becoming the first goaltender in NHL history with 30-plus wins in each of his first seven seasons. He placed near the top in all major goaltending categories: third in wins, tied for third in shutouts (eight), fourth in goals-against average (1.97) and fourth in save percentage (.930). Lundqvist is in quest of his first Vezina Trophy win, following third-place finishes from 2006 through 2008.

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Quick was exceptional in backstopping a Kings team that ranked 29th overall in offense to a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Coming off a franchise-record, 39-win season in 2010-11, the first-time NHL Trophy finalist posted a 35-21-13 record to become the first Los Angeles goaltender to post 30 wins in three consecutive seasons. Quick led all NHL goaltenders with a franchise-record 10 shutouts and also ranked among League leaders in goals-against average (second, 1.95), save percentage (fifth, .929) and victories (T-fifth, 35). He allowed one goal or shut out the opposition in 27 games and surrendered two goals or fewer 46 times.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Rinne was among the NHL's busiest netminders in 2011-12, leading the League in shots faced (2,153) and saves (1,987), tying for first place in appearances (73) and ranking second in starts (72) and minutes (4,168:52).
He thrived under the workload, topping all goaltenders in wins (43-18-8) and posting a 2.39 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and five shutouts. He was particularly tough to beat with a lead, as the Predators posted the NHL's second-best points percentage when scoring first (.833, 35-3-4). Rinne earned his second consecutive nomination as a Vezina finalist, having finished second to Boston's Tim Thomas last year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Press Release: David Poile named finalist for GM of the Year


Nashville Predators General Manager has been named a finalist for the General Manager of the Year Award for the third consecutive season. Here is the official press release:

NEW YORK (April 24, 2012) -- Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues, David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers are the three finalists for the 2011-12 NHL General Manager of the Year Award, the National Hockey League announced today.


Voting for this award was conducted among the 30 Club General Managers and a panel of NHL executives, print and broadcast media. The winner will be announced Wednesday, June 20, during the 2012 NHL Awards from Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas. The 2012 NHL Awards will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network in the United States and CBC in Canada.

Following are the finalists, in alphabetical order, for NHL General Manager of the Year:

Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues

Armstrong oversaw a Blues renaissance reflected by their 49-22-11 record and first Central Division title since 1999-2000. Adding to a talented nucleus of Blues draft picks that includes David Backes, T.J.

Oshie, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo, Armstrong made the signing of the summer in unheralded free agent goaltender Brian Elliott, who led the NHL with a 1.56 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. He also acquired veteran forwards Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner. After the Blues started the season 6-7-0, Armstrong made a change behind the bench by bringing in 500-game winner and Stanley Cup champion head coach Ken Hitchcock, who led St. Louis to a 43-15-11 record.

David Poile, Nashville Predators

A season after Nashville won its first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff series, Poile's work helped the Predators (48-26-8) earn a postseason berth for the seventh time in eight seasons and an opportunity for more milestones. As in past years, the Predators' underlying strength was its deep roster of players drafted and developed by the organization, including star goaltender Pekka Rinne, leading scorers Martin Erat and David Legwand, and defensemen Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Kevin Klein. Poile negotiated the late-season return of star forward Alex Radulov and also acquired top-six forward Andrei Kostitsyn, shutdown center Paul Gaustad and veteran defenseman Hal Gill prior to the trade deadline.

Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers

Tallon's comprehensive off-season overhaul was a runaway success as the Panthers (38-26-18) captured the first division title in franchise history and earned a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 12 years. He named Kevin Dineen to his first NHL head coaching assignment last June and followed with a flurry of acquisitions that included forwards Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Kopecky, defensemen Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski and goaltender Jose Theodore. In-season acquisitions of veteran forwards Mikael Samuelsson , John Madden, Marco Sturm, Wojtek Wolski and Jerred Smithson bolstered Florida's playoff drive.

(Photo Credit: Nashville Predators)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Predators will take on Phoenix in second round



On Monday night, the Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by a 4-0 score to win their Western Conference Quarterfinals series in six games. With Phoenix's win, the Nashville Predators will take on the Coyotes in the second round of the playoffs.

In the four regular season meetings between these two teams, the road team came away with the victory in each game. Nashville got two victories in Glendale over the Coyotes, including a 3-0 shutout victory for Pekka Rinne on his birthday. Phoenix defeated the Predators twice in Bridgestone Arena, including a 5-2 victory in Nashville's regular season home opener.

The obvious spotlight coming into this series in the goaltending matchup. Pekka Rinne has been spectacular for the Predators over the last few years and so far this postseason. He brings a consistent effort on a nightly basis and always seems to give the Predators a chance to win the game.

Mike Smith was sensational for the Coyotes in their first round series against Chicago. He posted a .950 save percentage in the first round, which is spectacular. If both goaltenders are able to continue their excellent play in the second round, goals will be at a premium for both teams.

Nashville and Phoenix play a very similar style. Both are defensively responsible every night, and they rely on opportunistic scoring to win. The Predators are much better equipped offensively this year in the playoffs than they were a year ago. Phoenix has several offensive weapons like Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney that are capable of scoring each time they have the puck. It should be an interesting matchup.

Preds not satisfied with advancing to second round



With their Western Conference Quarterfinals series victory over the Detroit Red Wings, the Nashville Predators will be advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

Last season, the Predators defeated the Anaheim Ducks in six games in the first round to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. It was one of the most memorable moments in Predators history, and it has raised the bar for the Predators in this year's playoff run.

"We overcame a huge hump for the organization last year. I think there's a lot more expectations on us this year. We made a lot of moves at the deadline to try and make our team a little bit better. I think this year we've got the ultimate goal in mind, and we have to win round two in order to do that," said Predators defenseman Kevin Klein.

After getting past the Ducks last season in the playoffs, the Predators struggled out of the gate against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the second round. They weren't able to generate a lot of scoring chances on Roberto Luongo, and the Canucks were able to hang on for a 1-0 victory. Vancouver eventually won the series against Nashville in six games.

This season's version of the Predators is planning on making a much deeper run in the playoffs. The expectations are higher than ever before in the Music City, and those expectations don't go unnoticed in the Nashville dressing room. The Predators simply aren't satisfied with simply advancing to the second round of the playoffs again.

"I don't think we were ever satisfied last year. I think there was a sense of a bit of accomplishment but still disappointment. This year, obviously there has been more expectations because of that and a little more experience in being here before. I think that's going to help us," said Predators forward Mike Fisher.

Hockey's ultimate prize awaits the team that is able to survive the grueling journey of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This postseason, the Predators feel like they have what it takes to be the last team standing in June. In fact, they are not settling for anything less.

"We want the Cup and anything less than that is going to be disappointing. That's the bottom line for us. We feel like we're ready for it. We're hungry and we've got all the tools. It's going to be a great run for us," Fisher said.

The Predators will await the winner of the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks in a series where the Coyotes hold a 3-2 series lead over Chicago with Game 6 on Monday night. If Phoenix clinches, the Predators will start their second round series on the road. Nashville will have home ice advantage in the second round of the playoffs if the Blackhawks are able to come back to win both Game 6 and Game7 this week.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bourque continues impressive playoff debut in series-clinching win



The Nashville Predators defeated the Detroit Red Wings by a 2-1 score on Friday night in front of an incredibly loud crowd at Bridgestone Arena to win their second postseason series in franchise history. Nashville got goals from Alexander Radulov and David Legwand to propel them to a series-clinching victory.

With the win, the Predators will now have some time off before the second round begins. Nashville is the first team in the NHL to advance to the second round this season, which will give them a chance to get some much-needed rest before their next series. By winning in Game 5, the Predators showed a killer instinct that championship teams have. They didn't want to have to go to Detroit to play Game 6 on Sunday, and they took care of business on home ice.

"We knew it wouldn't be easy to go back there. I think it's good for us. We get some rest and be ready for the next round. That was huge tonight," said Predators rookie forward Gabriel Bourque.

The line of Bourque, Legwand and Radulov was the difference for the Predators on Friday night. They scored both of Nashville's goals and had good offensive pressure on Jimmy Howard all night. Radulov was able to score at 16:10 of the first period to give the Predators the lead. After Detroit tied the game at one in the second period, Legwand scored just 13 seconds into the third period to give the Predators a lead they wouldn't relinquish. That line was brilliant for the Predators all night long.

"At this point of the year, you just have to go as hard as you can. I think we did a great job of communicating all over the ice and I think we worked well tonight," Bourque said.

After scoring three goals in the first four games of the series, Bourque added an assist on Friday night to continue his impressive rookie debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bourque's gritty play has allowed him to make an instant impact with the Predators at just 21 years of age.

"It's awesome. I didn't expect to get that many goals. I'm happy but I'm more happy to win. That's a big win here in the first round and we just have to do the same thing in the second round," Bourque said.

The atmosphere in Bridgestone Arena on Friday night was sensational. The crowd gave three of their famous TV timeout standing ovations in the third period to push the Predators over the top. It was deafening in Smashville.

"It was pretty awesome tonight. After five minutes left in the game, it was crazy. You can't hear on the bench. Just so much energy for everybody. Everybody was cranking it up and the seventh man did a really good job tonight," Bourque said.

Nashville has been chasing Detroit since coming into the league. They have always been the standard by which the Predators have aspired to reach. After finishing ahead of the Red Wings in the regular season for the first time this year and beating them in the first round of the playoffs, it's very obvious that the Predators aren't afraid of Detroit any more.

"I think we've grown to the point where we have great respect for the Detroit Red Wings, but we're not in awe of them," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

The Predators will find out who their second round opponent is over the course of the next few days. After that matchup is determined, Nashville will try to advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. David Legwand(NSH)
2. Alexander Radulov(NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. David Legwand(NSH)
2. Alexander Radulov(NSH)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Rinne, Preds look to close out Red Wings



The Nashville Predators can eliminate the Detroit Red Wings from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena. After collecting two road wins in Detroit in Games 3 and 4, the Predators are in the driver's seat with a 3-1 series lead for the first time in franchise history.

Pekka Rinne has been sensational for the Predators so far in this series. In the previous two games in Detroit, Rinne stopped 81 of 84 shots to propel Nashville to two crucial road victories. He will have to be exceptional in goal once again on Friday night in order to fend off what is sure to be a desperate Detroit team.

In every game in this series so far, the team that has been outshot has also been the team that has won the game. The Red Wings outshot the Predators by a 84-39 margin in the last two games in Detroit. Nashville will have to tighten that gigantic shooting gap on Friday night.

Detroit has dominated Nashville in shots in the previous two games, but have been unable to capitalize in key moments. If the Red Wings are able to sustain the same kind of offensive pressure in Game 5 that they have in the previous two games, they are going to have quality opportunities for goals.

Gabriel Bourque has made his presence felt so far in this series for the Predators, scoring three goals in the first four playoff games of his young NHL career. Bourque was drafted in the fifth round by Nashville in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and he's making a huge impact at an early stage of his career. If he is able to continue to provide the Predators with goals, Nashville will be in good position to close out the Red Wings on Friday night.

In what could potentially be his last NHL game, expect Nicklas Lidstrom to be a force on both ends of the ice for Detroit on Friday night. The future Hall of Fame defenseman has not registered a point so far in the series even though he has fired 13 shots on goal through the first four games.

Bridgestone Arena is sure to be rocking on Friday night. The Predators have been chasing the Red Wings since the inception of their franchise, and a first round victory over Detroit would be one of the biggest accomplishments in franchise history.

My player to watch for the Red Wings is Pavel Datsyuk. Big players have big games in big situations. Datsyuk has proven to be a clutch player throughout his career. There are nights when he is arguably the best player in the world. Friday night could be one of those nights. Expect him to be a huge factor in Game 5.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Ryan Suter. While he's been completely quiet offensively through the first four games of the series, Suter has been masterful defensively. One of the biggest strengths in Suter's game is that he is almost always in the right place at the right time. Look for him to make an impact on both sides of the ice for the Predators in Game 5.

Game 5 starts at 7 p.m. central on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Preds make shots count in 3-1 win in Game 4



Through the first three games of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, one way to assure a victory in the game was to be outshot. In each of the previous three games in the series leading up to Game 4 on Tuesday night, the team that had been outshot had come out on the winning side. That was the case once again on Tuesday night.

The Predators were able to defeat the Red Wings by a 3-1 score on Tuesday night despite being outshot by a 41-17 margin to take a commanding 3-1 series lead with a chance to close the series out on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena. It's the first time in franchise history that Nashville has been able to take a 3-1 series lead in the postseason.

Nashville and Detroit were both held off of the scoreboard throughout the first two periods. The Red Wings had a few prime scoring chances, but were thwarted by the stellar netminding effort of Pekka Rinne. Detroit peppered Rinne in the second period, posting a 17-3 shot advantage over the Predators in the middle frame.

It appeared as if David Legwand had broken the scoreless tie at 1:28 of the third period when the puck found it's way into the Detroit net from an odd-angle shot. However, the "intent to blow" call came into effect and the goal was not awarded to the Predators.

Gabriel Bourque responded for the Predators shortly after with a goal that was undeniable at 1:55 of the third period. Alexander Radulov made a good backhand feed that bounced off of Todd Bertuzzi's skate and onto Bourque's stick in the slot. Bourque was able to fire a one-timer past Jimmy Howard to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

Detroit responded with a goal of their own at 3:14 of the third period on the power play when Jiri Hudler was able to redirect a shot from the point by Niklas Kronwall past Rinne for the goal. The goal was initially waved off but was rightly called a good goal after review.

Kevin Klein gave the Predators a 2-1 lead when he scored a goal in his second consecutive game at Joe Louis Arena. Martin Erat made a brilliant play to break in the Red Wings zone and draw three defenders over to him. That left Klein all alone in the slot with literally a wide open net to shoot. He converted and gave the Predators a lead they would never relinquish. Legwand added a goal in the final minute of the third period on the power play to propel the Predators to a 3-1 win and a 3-1 lead in the series.

With the win, the Predators are in a position to win their second playoff series in franchise history on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena. Detroit will have to bring their A-game on Friday night if they want to stay alive in this series.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. David Legwand(NSH)
3. Kevin Klein(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Kevin Klein(NSH)
3. Kyle Quincey(DET)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nashville looks to take 3-1 series lead for first time


The Nashville Predators will look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Tuesday night in the Motor City as they take on the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series. Nashville was able to get a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings in Game 3 despite being out-shot by a 43-22 margin.

Nashville has had an opportunity to take a 3-1 lead in the series twice before in their first round playoff matchups with Chicago in 2010 and Anaheim in 2011. In both cases, the Predators lost by a three-goal margin.

Detroit will look to solve Pekka Rinne, who was sensational in net for Nashville in Game 3. The Red Wings will throw everything at the net on Tuesday night. They don't want to head back to Nashville for Game 5 on Friday night trailing 3-1 in the series.

After finally converting on the power play on Sunday, the Predators have now gone 1-for-16 on the power play in the first three games of the series. Detroit has won the special teams battle so far in the series, but the Predators have been able to overcome that through the first three games. However, the longer that trend continues, the more it favors Detroit.

The Predators will be sitting in prime position to win a playoff series against Detroit for the first time in franchise history if they are able to win on Tuesday night. Taking a 3-1 series lead back to Music City with a chance to close it out on Friday night would be huge. Expect Detroit's best game in Game 4.

My player to watch for the Red Wings is Henrik Zetterberg. He has posted two goals in the first three games of the series, which leads all Detroit players. Zetterberg has always been known for his offensive creativity, and his accurate shot is a deadly weapon for the Red Wings.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Martin Erat. Through the first three games of the series, Erat has been relatively quiet. He's collected an assist on Kevin Klein's highlight-reel goal in Game 3, but hasn't been very effective so far. After being Nashville's most consistent offensive forward in the regular season, Erat has to raise his game for the Predators for the remainder of the playoffs.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Klein shines in Preds first postseason win in Detroit



The Nashville Predators got their first postseason victory in Detroit in the history of their franchise on Sunday when they held on to defeat the Red Wings by a 3-2 score. Pekka Rinne made 41 saves on 43 shots against to secure the win for the Predators.

Shea Weber ended Nashville's power play woes that had plagued them in the first two games of the series when he converted on the man-advantage just 2:48 into the first period. Earlier in the power play sequence, Weber's booming shot had broken Pavel Datsyuk's stick after the puck hit the shaft. With a stickless Datsyuk skating for Detroit, Weber was able to sneak down to the doorstep and convert on a rebound that would have likely otherwise been cleared if Datsyuk had a stick.

In the second period, Kevin Klein gave the Predators a 2-0 lead on a highlight-reel type goal. Klein took a pass from Martin Erat and dangled his way around Brad Stuart while being hooked. Once he got around Stuart, Klein fired a quick wrist shot that beat Jimmy Howard high on the glove side.

Detroit finally got on the board at 15:03 of the second period on a brilliant all-around play by Datsyuk. Roman Josi had the puck behind the Nashville net, but had his stick lifted by the quick hands of Datsyuk. After that, "The Magician" was able to slide the puck past an unsuspecting Rinne to bring the Red Wings within one goal.

It appeared that Detroit had tied the game at two during the final moments of the second period when Johan Franzen fired one past Rinne as the buzzer sounded. However, the puck had not crossed the goal line before time expired. The Predators took a 2-1 lead into the third period.

The Red Wings put together a furious effort to tie the game in the third period, out-shooting the Predators by a 19-4 margin. However, the Predators were able to widen their lead to three goals at 16:30 of the final frame when Sergei Kostitsyn beat Howard on snap shot. Detroit wasn't about to go away, however, and they brought the game within one goal again when Henrik Zetterberg beat Rinne on the power play with 54 seconds remaining. Rinne and the Predators were able to hold on after that goal, however, and won the game 3-2. Nashville has now regained home ice advantage in the series with the victory.

Rinne and Klein were easily the two stars of the game for the Predators. Rinne made several key stops to stymie the Red Wings, while Klein had a great game both offensively and defensively for the Predators. Klein had a key blocked shot on Cory Emmerton to preserve the 2-1 lead for the Predators in the third period.

Nashville will now try to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Tuesday night when they square off with the Red Wings again in the Motor City.  If they are able to win on Tuesday night, Nashville will have a chance to win the series on Friday night in Music City.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Kevin Klein(NSH)
3. Pavel Datsyuk(DET)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Shea Weber(NSH)
2. Pavel Datsyuk(DET)
3. Pekka Rinne(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds looking for first postseason win in Detroit on Sunday



The Nashville Predators will look to take a 2-1 series lead on Sunday when they take on the Detroit Red Wings for Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series at 11 a.m. central on NBC.

With Detroit getting a victory in Game 2 on Friday night, they now have taken home ice advantage away from the Predators as the series moves forward. If Nashville is able to get a win on Sunday, they will reclaim home ice advantage in the series.

Nashville's power play is 0-for-12 so far in this series after having the number one power play in the NHL in the regular season. The Predators are going to have to produce on the power play at some point in this series if they hope to win.

In both of the previous two games in this series, the team that has been out-shot has also been the team that has walked away with a victory. In Game 1, the Predators were the benefactor of two strange pucks that somehow found their way past Jimmy Howard. In Game 2, the Predators were victimized with a lucky goal by the Red Wings that ended up being the game-winner. It's been a bit of a quirky start to the series for both teams.

The Predators have never won a postseason game in Joe Louis Arena in the history of their franchise, going 0-for-6 in their two previous postseason series with the Red Wings. If the Predators are going to change that trend, they will have to get more production out of their top line.

For a good portion of the regular season, the line of Sergei Kostitsyn, Mike Fisher and Martin Erat was the most consistent offensive line for the Predators. In the first two games of this series, they have been almost non-existent offensively. If they are able to get back in the swing of things, it will be good news for the Predators on Sunday.

My player to watch for the Red Wings is Tomas Holmstrom. He has registered a point in each of the first two games in the series for Detroit so far and always finds a way to plant himself right in front of Pekka Rinne. His net presence can make a crucial difference in the outcome of a game.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Shea Weber. He was the subject of a lot of controversy after Game 1 of this series and responded with a goal on Friday night. Besides being arguably Nashville's best defenseman, he plays a pivotal role on the power play with his booming shot. Look for him to put lots of pucks toward the net on Sunday.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Preds lose Game 2 despite playing 'better game'



The Detroit Red Wings were able to get a crucial 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Friday night in front of a raucous sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. With the win, the Red Wings have tied the series at one game apiece, and now have home ice advantage on their side in the series.

After Wednesday night's controversial incident between Shea Weber and Henrik Zetterberg along the boards at the end of the game, Todd Bertuzzi decided to make Weber answer for his actions. Bertuzzi and Weber squared off just 1:36 into the game. If Detroit was going to respond to the Weber incident, Bertuzzi was likely going to be the man to do so. He did, and that puts the incident to rest.

"I thought it was important for our team that that happened. I kind of expected that was what was going to happen and it was good it did, so good for him," said Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock.

Nashville got several scoring opportunities throughout the game, but simply were unable to cash in when they needed too. The Predators dominated the play for the first five minutes of the first period but failed to put one past Jimmy Howard.

"I think we actually played a better game than the game we won. We were all over them in the beginning and had a lot of good chances. Just couldn't bury it," said Predators defenseman Roman Josi.

Detroit got two goals in the first period to take the air out of the Nashville crowd. Ian White had time to maneuver from the point, and fired a wrist shot that beat Pekka Rinne on the blocker side. Cory Emmerton gave the Red Wings a two-goal lead on a great all-around play. He blocked a shot by Kevin Klein in the Detroit zone, and then took the puck all the way down the ice and beat Rinne on the blocker side with a well-placed wrist shot.

In the second period, the Predators got three straight power plays to open the period. Despite several quality scoring chances, the Predators were unable to convert on any of their power play opportunities. They went 0-for-6 on the power play on the night.

Nashville had the number one power play in the NHL in the regular season. However, it has been a thorn in their side so far this series. The Predators had six power play opportunities on Wednesday night but were unable to convert on any of them. Even though the Predators had more quality chances while on the power play in Game 2, they were still unable to beat Howard with the man advantage.

"We didn't play a good power play in the first game, but today I thought we moved it pretty well. We got a lot of chances on the PP and just couldn't find the back of the net," Josi said.

Andrei Kostitsyn finally got the Predators on the board at 9:01 of the second period when he fired a quick wrist shot from the slot that beat Howard high on the glove side. However, Detroit responded with a goal of their own just 56 seconds later to squash Nashville's momentum. The puck deflected off of Johan Franzen after a Brad Stuart shot and went into the net.

The Predators were able to get one back 15:16 into the third period when Weber scored on a nifty backhand shot from the slot. Andrei Kostitsyn nearly tied the game for the Predators on the next shift but hit the post. Detroit was able to hold on for the win and tie the series.

Detroit will host the Predators at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning for Game 3 of the series. Nashville was able to get a big victory at Joe Louis Arena on March 30, which should give them confidence going into hostile territory on Sunday.

"That was big. We see that we can beat them in their building. We did it before, so we're not scared to go there," Josi said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Jimmy Howard(DET)
2. Cory Emmerton(DET)
3. Johan Franzen(DET)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Jimmy Howard(DET)
2. Johan Franzen(DET)
3. Cory Emmerton(DET)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Preds look to hold serve at home against Detroit



The Nashville Predators will try to hold their end of the bargain on home ice when they take on the Detroit Red Wings for Game 2 of the first round series at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville was able to hold on for a 3-2 victory in Game 1 over Detroit.

After a controversial incident with Henrik Zetterberg in Game 1 on Wednesday night, Shea Weber escaped without a suspension for Game 2. Weber was fined $2,500 for the incident, and will undoubtedly have a close eye placed upon him as the rest of the playoffs move along.

Pekka Rinne made 35 out of 37 saves in Game 1 to keep the Predators ahead on Wednesday night. He will have to be equally as good on Friday night because the Red Wings will be playing desperate hockey. They don't want to fall behind 2-0 to the Predators in this series.

Gabriel Bourque scored two goals for the Predators on Wednesday night to lift them to their first home playoff win since the end of the Anaheim series last year when the Predators won their first playoff series in franchise history.

Nashville's first and second lines were not very impressive on Wednesday night. The third and fourth line carried Nashville's play on Wednesday night, which is a testament to the offensive distribution that the Predators have displayed throughout the regular season.

Detroit will be without Darren Helm for the remainder of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hal Gill is still listed as day-to-day for the Predators, and Chet Pickard has been recalled to Nashville from Milwaukee. Jeremy Smith was sent back down to Milwaukee on Thursday by the Predators.

My player to watch for the Red Wings is Jimmy Howard. How will he respond after giving up the initial loss in the series on Wednesday night? Howard made some key saves in the game, particularly in the first period. He'll have to be sharp for the Red Wings on Friday night.

For Nashville, my player to watch is David Legwand. He always seems to elevate his game in the playoffs. Legwand created a few glorious scoring opportunities for the Predators on Wednesday night but was held off of the scoresheet. Nashville will need the Legwand line to produce offensively on Friday night.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Preds win Game 1 despite Gill's absence


The Nashville Predators defeated the Detroit Red Wings by a 3-2 score on Wednesday night to take a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference Quarter Finals series. Pekka Rinne made 35 saves to propel the Predators to a lead in a series over Detroit for the first time in franchise history.

Paul Gaustad got the scoring started for the Predators at 6:59 of the first period. He took the puck behind the Detroit net and made a spinning turnaround shot on Jimmy Howard's stick side that bounced off of Brad Stuart and into the Detroit net. It was Gaustad's first goal in a Predator uniform and his first career postseason goal.

"That's huge. The people who scored tonight were third and fourth line people. That's what we need in the playoffs. That's what I like here. It's never the same guy. It's never only the first or second line players who score. Everybody chips in and that's what we need right now," said Predators defenseman Francis Bouillon.

In the second period, the Red Wings were able to tie the game at one when Henrik Zetterberg pounded one past Rinne from the crease on the power play. There were a combined 17 penalties in this game between both teams. Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock seemed a little flabbergasted with the unusually high number of penalties when asked about it after the game.

"Who are the least penalized teams in the NHL? What's next," Babcock said.

Nashville took a 2-1 lead at 12:29 of the second period on an odd redirection by Gabriel Bourque. Matt Halischuk fired the puck toward Howard, and Bourque was able to redirect it past Howard from an odd angle. The goal was originally credited to Halischuk but replay later showed that it did hit Bourque's stick.

The Predators took a 2-1 lead into the third period, and were able to add to it at 11:35 of the period when Bourque scored his second goal of the game. Rinne had just made some key saves for the Predators at the other end of the ice, and Bourque was able to score from the slot after a great effort by Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to feed him the puck. Detroit brought the game within one with 2:07 remaining in regulation, but the Predators were able to hold on for the win.

Hal Gill, who was acquired by Nashville at the trading deadline for his veteran presence and experience in the postseason, missed Wednesday night's game with an injury. Jack Hillen was called upon due to Gill's absence, and the Predators were able to get a win without one of their key defenders. Nashville, who was shorthanded eight times on the night, could have used Gill's presence on the penalty kill.

"Especially tonight. He's a PK specialist. That's what I said to him after the game, 'We really needed you tonight.' The PK did great tonight, and they saved the game I guess," Bouillon said.

Darren Helm left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return for the Red Wings. His status going for the remainder of the series is uncertain. Helm seemed to have a pretty severe injury when he left the ice and actually had to go to the hospital.

"He's at the hospital in surgery. He has his forearm cut but we don't know; that's why he's at the hospital. We don't know to what extent or how severe, if any tendons or anything were cut we don't know but it was pretty severe. As soon as it happened he skated straight to the bench and we were on the penalty kill and he'd never do that and they took him from the game right away," Babcock said.

Nashville captain Shea Weber was involved in an incident with Zetterberg as the final seconds were ticking down in the game. Weber slammed Zetterberg's head into the boards and was given a two-minute roughing penalty as time expired. The NHL will likely look at the play and deterimine whether or not supplemental discipline is necessary.

With a win in Game 1, the Predators will look to take a 2-0 series lead on Friday night at Bridgestone Arena. If the Predators are able to get a win, they will have held up their end of the bargain as far as home ice advantage is concerned. However, home ice will shift in favor of Detroit if the Red Wings are able to get a win on Friday night.

"It's a battle. It's a war. Every game we've got to be ready, and it's going to be even harder next game. That's the playoffs and that's the way it's going to be against any team, not just against Detroit," Bouillon said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Paul Gaustad(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)
2. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
3. Paul Gaustad(NSH)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Predators host Red Wings to kick off playoffs

The Nashville Predators will host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. central at Bridgestone Arena. It's the first game of a series that most of the experts are picking the Predators to win.

During the regular season, both of these teams won three games against each other. Both teams were able to get one win in the other team's building, which is what the Red Wings will be trying to do on Wednesday night.

Detroit posted a 17-21-3 record on the road during the regular season, while the Predators were 26-10-5 on home ice. If that trend stays the same, the Predators have the advantage going into Wednesday night's game in Music City. However, the playoffs are an entirely different animal. Statistics from the regular season are important, but they don't mean nearly as much once the playoffs roll around.

These two teams have seen each other twice before in the postseason. In both 2004 and 2008, the Red Wings were able to defeat the Predators in six games. Detroit held the number one seed in the Western Conference in both of the previous two meetings between these two teams in the playoffs. This time, Nashville is the higher seed.

Nashville is looking to kick the series off with a bang. If the Red Wings are able to get a win on Wednesday night, home ice advantage suddenly shifts in their favor. Expect the Predators to come out and try to put pressure on the Red Wings from the beginning of the game.

My player to watch for the Red Wings is Pavel Datsyuk. "The Magician" is as good of a two-way player as there is in the NHL. He can do things with the hockey puck that nobody else in the league can do. He always seems to take his game to an even higher level in the playoffs. Nashville will have to contain him if they hope to win the series.

For Nashville, my player to watch is Alexander Radulov. Now that he has had nine games to get back in the swing of things against NHL competition, look for Radulov to crank it up to another gear in the playoffs. He's a world-class offensive player that can beat the opposition in so many different ways. Look for him to create several offensive chances on Wednesday night.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Monday, April 9, 2012

Nashville's time is now



On Wednesday night, the Nashville Predators will square off with the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third time in the history of their franchise. In the two previous postseason meetings between these two respective clubs, the Red Wings have come out on top in six games. Detroit was the number one seed in the Western Conference in each of those two series and held home ice advantage over the Predators. This time around, however, the Predators are the higher seed. And they appear to be more primed to dethrone the Red Wings than ever before.

For years, the Predators have been criticized for not having that player who can be a game-changer offensively. Detroit has always had that sort of player since the Predators have been around. Their biggest offensive name is Pavel Datsyuk, who is arguably the most fun player to watch in the entire NHL. He's a player that can truly win a game for the Red Wings. Over the past few years, the Predators haven't had that type of player. They do now.

Alexander Radulov returned to Nashville from the KHL and posted seven points in nine games. With the talent and skill set that Radulov possesses, Nashville now has a player that can truly change a game. Radulov seems to relish big-time situations like the playoffs and always wants the puck on his stick when the game is on the line. That's an added element to a Predators team that is perhaps as deep as they ever have been before.

Nashville got bigger at the trading deadline by adding veteran defenseman Hal Gill and forward Paul Gaustad. That added size, plus the depth that the Predators have, will make it easier for them to wear down a Detroit team that has struggled with injuries all season long.

Both teams won three games against each other in the regular season, including a one win by each team on the road. Overall, the Red Wings struggled on the road during the regular season, posting a 17-21-3 record. Nashville, however, posted a 22-16-3 record on the road. The Predators have the home ice advantage, which could end up being the difference in the series.

In many ways, the long-term future of the Predators' franchise depends on this postseason run. A deep run in the playoffs would go a long way toward convincing Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to sign a long-term contract with the Predators. However, an early exit in the first round could be extremely detrimental in the contract situations of Weber and Suter.

Now is the time for the Predators. For the first time ever, they have finished ahead of Detroit in the regular season standings. They have a complete team that is capable of winning a hockey game in several different ways. Most of all, they expect to win. Nashville is no longer satisfied with just making the playoffs. The only satisfaction they will have is if they are hoisting the Stanley Cup in June. That confidence can go a long way in the playoffs.

Series Prediction:

This series is going seven games. It will be a battle between two teams who are fairly equal, and it will provide casual hockey fans with great entertainment. In the end, however, the Predators will simply be the more complete team than Detriot. Nashville wins the series in seven games.

Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Preds show mark of mature team with 6-1 win in Colorado



The Nashville Predators closed out the 2011-2012 regular season with a 6-1 win on Saturday night in Colorado. Nashville got goals from David Legwand, Craig Smith, Patric Hornqvist, Roman Josi, Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk en route to the five-goal victory.

With Chicago's shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon, the Predators knew they had clinched home ice before they had to play their game against the Avalanche. There result of Saturday night's game didn't have any impact on the standings heading into the playoffs, so it would have been easy for the Predators to go through the motions and allow Colorado to get a victory to close out their season. However, the maturity of this Nashville team was evident. They have a killer instinct.

Anders Lindback got the start for the Predators on Saturday night and was brilliant in net. Lindback made 34 saves, and allowed just one goal before his night was cut short by injury. He left the game after registering 42:05 of ice time and did not return for the rest of the night for Nashville. Pekka Rinne was forced into the game, and stopped all 10 shots that he faced in his 17:46 of ice time.

Nashville's top line of Sergei Kostitysn, Mike Fisher and Martin Erat were all scratched on Saturday night. Ryan Ellis and Jack Hillen both played after Francis Bouillon and Hal Gill were scratched to rest up before the playoffs begin.

The Predators will now focus their attention squarely on the Red Wings. Nashville will have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs against Detroit, and have finished ahead of the Red Wings in the standings for the first time in franchise history.

Detroit and Nashville have met in the playoffs on two separate occasions. In both the 2004 and 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Red Wings defeated the Predators in six games. Nashville was an eight seed in both of those playoff series. This time, they have the home ice advantage against Detroit. Time will tell if the result is different.

The schedule for the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be announced on Easter Sunday at noon on the NHL Network.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Craig Smith(NSH)
2. Anders Lindback(NSH)
3. Matt Halischuk(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Anders Lindback(NSH)
2. Craig Smith(NSH)
3. Matt Halischuk(NSH)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Race for fourth place: Preds control own destiny

The fourth seed in the Western Conference will be decided on Saturday. Either Nashville or Detroit will get home ice in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If Nashville gets at least one point on Saturday night in Colorado, they will clinch the fourth seed regardless of the outcome of the game in Detroit between the Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago will clinch the fifth seed if they are able to get a win over Detroit in regulation. If the Blackhawks win in overtime or a shootout, the Red Wings will still hold on to the fifth spot.

Detroit can clinch the fourth seed with a win of any kind over Chicago and a regulation win by Colorado over the Predators. An overtime or shootout loss against Chicago would put the Red Wings in fifth regardless of what happens in the Nashville game.

The Predators can finish no worse than fifth place. Chicago cannot reach fourth place regardless of what happens on Saturday. Detroit can finish anywhere from fourth to sixth.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Preds leapfrog Detroit with win over Dallas



The Nashville Predators defeated the Dallas Stars by a 2-0 score on Thursday night, which guarantees they will finish no worse than fifth going into the playoffs. If the Predators get at least a point on Saturday in Colorado, they will secure the fourth spot and home ice advantage for the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pekka Rinne made 28 saves in his fifth shutout effort of the year. Nashville's defense did a good job of limiting the quality scoring chances for the Stars throughout the majority of the night, but Rinne made big saves when called upon to get an important two points for his team.

After a scoreless game through the first two periods, Francis Bouillon broke the tie at 4:28 of the third period on a big scrum in front of the Dallas net. Patric Hornqvist had the original shot on goal and Bouillon was able to backhand the puck past Kari Lehtonen for the goal. It was Bouillon's fourth goal in the last thirteen games. Before that span, he hadn't scored a goal for the Predators all season.

"He's finding the net now at the right time so it's great for him. It's always nice to see him get something," Predators defenseman Kevin Klein said.

After Rinne made several keys saves on a furious push by the Stars in the Nashville end, Hornqvist gave the Predators a 2-0 lead when he scored on the rebound of a Brandon Yip shot. That goal was the dagger for the Stars, who were eliminated from playoff contention with the 2-0 loss to the Predators on Thursday night.

With Detroit losing to the New Jersey Devils by a 2-1 score in regulation, the Nashville Predators control their destiny for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. If the Chicago Blackhawks are able to defeat the Red Wings in either regulation or overtime on Saturday they will pass Detroit for fifth place in the Western Conference. If not, Nashville will face the Red Wings. The Predators need just one point to clinch home ice advantage regardless of who wins in Detroit on Saturday.

"We're looking forward to that. Hopefully the boys can bring the same effort. We definitely want fourth. Obviously, we can use our home fans. They're great. Hopefully we can get that done," Klein said.

Thursday night's game marked the 25th sellout of the regular season for the Predators. It's a franchise record, and it shows just how much the game of hockey continues to grow in the Nashville area.

"They've been fantastic supporting us throughout the community. We've got lots of faces out there like (Ryan Suter) and (Shea Weber) getting out in the community and making a difference, so it's nice to see the fans supporting us," Klein said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Francis Bouillon(NSH)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Pekka Rinne(NSH)
2. Francis Bouillon(NSH)
3. Patric Hornqvist(NSH)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Preds get key win despite 'choppy' ice



The Nashville Predators were able to get a much-needed 2-1 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night in front of a sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena. With the win, the Predators have once again passed the Detroit Red Wings for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. 

Gabriel Bourque scored the lone goal in regulation for Nashville on a great all-around play by Nick Spaling that Bourque finished off. Dany Heatley scored the lone goal in regulation for the Wild on a redirection of a shot from the point.

Both goaltenders were solid in this game. Anders Linback made several key saves throughout the game, and Niklas Backstrom put on an impressive performance for the Wild. Neither team had an abundance of scoring chances on the night, but both goalies were able to make key saves at key times for their respective teams.

After an overtime period that saw Lindback make several key saves for the Predators while shorthanded, the game went to a shootout. Lindback stopped all three shooters he faced in the shootout, while Alexander Radulov scored the lone goal for the Predators to give them the 2-1 victory. Radulov made a quick deke that froze Backstrom and allowed him to release a quick shot that ended up being the game-winner.

"When the game is on the line, (Radulov) wants the puck. That's what good players do, and he's a good player," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

One noticeable theme in this game was players on both teams falling down with regularity. The puck was bouncing over sticks and around the ice all night long, and players seemed to being falling down on every shift. Craig Smith, who was playing in his first game back after being a healthy scratch for the past five games, noticed the state of the ice as well.

"It's ice late in the season. That's how it's going to be. It was getting a little choppy out there, and you're always going to have that late in the season. That's kind of the playoff atmosphere coming alive out there tonight so you just have to fight through it," Smith said.

It was a warm day on Tuesday afternoon in Music City, which may have possibly played a factor in the condition of the ice. Still, the ice was the same for both teams. The Predators played through it, and were able to come out on top.

"You've just got to play through it and just know there is going to be weird bounces and stuff," Smith said.

Nashville, now with 100 points on the season holds a one point lead over the Red Wings for the fourth spot in the Western Conference. Detroit has one game in hand on the Predators, but their remaining schedule is tough. Tuesday night's victory could go a long way toward the Predators' push for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"We're really trying to climb and grab that spot. Big two points and 100 points tonight," Smith said.

Hockey Night in Nashville's 3 Stars of the game:
1. Anders Lindback(NSH)
2. Niklas Backstrom(MIN)
3. Nick Spaling(NSH)

Official 3 Stars:
1. Anders Lindback(NSH)
2. Gabriel Bourque(NSH)
3. Dany Heatley(MIN)

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pickard assigned to Nashville



The Nashville Predators announced today that Chet Pickard has been assigned to the team. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (April 3, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that goaltender Chet Pickard (CHEHT PIH-kuhrd) has been assigned to the team. The Winnipeg native completed his third professional season with the Predators’ ECHL affiliate Cincinnati Cyclones on Sunday.



Pickard, 22 (11/29/89), posted a 14-12-2 record with a 3.12 goals-against average, a .890 save percentage and a shutout with the Cyclones in 2011-12. This is the second time Nashville's second choice, 18th overall (first round), in 2008 Entry Draft has been on the club’s active roster – he was recalled on April 27, 2011 and stayed with the team through its Western Conference Semifinals series vs. Vancouver.

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Predators have already locked down their seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons, making them just one of five teams to do so – Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Jose are the others. The Preds finish out their home season with games tonight against Minnesota and Thursday against Dallas (both at 7 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game) before concluding the 2011-12 regular season campaign at Colorado on Saturday (8 p.m., FS-TN, 102.5 The Game). Visit nashvillepredators.com or call 615-770-7800 to purchase tickets for remaining Nashville Predators regular season games or to secure your seats for the first round of the playoffs.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Race for fourth place: Preds can retake home ice lead

Nashville can reach 100 points on Tuesday night




The Nashville Predators can jump back into fourth place in the Western Conference with a win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville currently sits in fifth place in the Western Conference standings with 98 points on the year.

Western Conference Standings
1. Vancouver- 107 points
2. St. Louis- 106 points
3. Los Angeles-93 points
4. Detroit- 99 points
5. Nashville- 98 points 
6. Chicago-98 points
7. Phoenix- 91 points
8. San Jose- 90 points
9. Dallas- 89 points
10. Colorado- 88 points
11. Calgary- 86 points
12. Minnesota-78 points
13. Anaheim- 77 points
14. Edmonton-73 points
15. Columbus- 61 points

Preds season series with Minnesota


November 23, 2011- Minnesota was able to come from behind in the third period to get a 3-2 win over the Predators. Cal Clutterbuck scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Wild while shorthanded to put Minnesota up 3-1 after it they had trailed 1-0 heading into the third period. Ryan Suter added a goal for Nashville to bring them within one goal, but the Wild were able to hold on for their lone victory over Nashville so far this season.

December 28, 2011- In a game that remained scoreless until seven minutes into the third period, the Predators were able to get the 2-1 victory over the Wild by way of a shootout. Jordin Tootoo scored the lone goal for the Predators in regulation, while Colin Wilson scored the game-winning shootout goal for Nashville on a nifty backhand move.

January 31, 2012- In what was perhaps the most improbable comeback of the season, Nashville was able to get a shocking 5-4 victory in Minnesota after being down by a 4-1 score at one point in the third period.  Brandon Yip and Patric Hornqvist scored to bring the Predators within one with 3:21 remaining in the third period. Mike Fisher tied the game for Nashville with three minutes left, and then proceeded to score the game-winning goal for the Predators with 21 seconds remaining in regulation.

Detroit will take on the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night at Scottrade Center. Chicago is off until Thursday night when they take on Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Follow Hockey Night in Nashville on Twitter: @hockeynightNSH

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Race for fourth place: Monday outlook

With three games remaining in the regular season, the Nashville Predators currently sit in fifth place in the Western Conference with 98 points and a 45-26-8 record. Here is today's outlook on the race for fourth place in the Western Conference:

Western Conference Standings:
1. Vancouver- Points: 107
2. St. Louis- Points: 106
3. Los Angeles- Points- 91
4. Detroit- Points: 99
5. Nashville- Points: 98
6. Chicago- Points: 98
7. Phoenix- Points: 91
8. San Jose- Points: 90
9. Dallas- Points: 89
10. Colorado- Points: 88

Regulation plus Overtime Wins:

Nashville currently holds the tiebreaker over both Detroit and Chicago if the teams were to end up with the same amount of points. The first tiebreaker after 82 games have been played is the total number of wins in either regulation or overtime by the respective teams. In other words, shootout wins don't help in this tiebreaking scenario.

The Predators currently have 41 wins in either regulation or overtime. Detroit has 39 wins in regulation or overtime this year, while Chicago has 38 wins in either regulation or overtime. If Nashville ends up having the same point total with Detroit or Chicago(or both) at the end of the regular season, the first tiebreaker will go to the team with the most regulation and overtime wins on the year. Right now, that would be the Predators.

Remaining schedule:

Detroit: 4/4 @St. Louis, 4/5 vs. New Jersey, 4/7 vs. Chicago
Nashville: 4/3 vs. Minnesota, 4/5 vs. Dallas, 4/7 @Colorado
Chicago: 4/5 @Minnesota, 4/7 @Detroit

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