Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Three Point Game in the NHL is for Losers!

Why should some games in the National Hockey League be worth three points in the standing and others are worth only two? I contend that the discrepancy should be corrected. A win should be rewarded with points and losers should get zilch and try to do better next time.

Currently in the NHL, when a game is tied at the end of regulation, both teams are awarded a point in the standings. A five minute sudden death period of four on four hockey ensues and a winner gets a second point. If the game remains tied after the sudden death period, the final point is decided by a shootout. Either way, the game that was unable to be concluded in the sixty minute regulation time is worth three points instead of two in the standings.

My contention is that simply because two teams can’t settle the matter during the allotted regulation time, other teams in the title hunt should not be penalized by having their competition rewarded with an “extra” point.

A prime example of my complaint with the current situation was the Predators game against the St Louis Blues on February 21st. Neither team was capable of scoring in regulation and the Predators finally scored during the overtime period. The Blues were awarded a point in the standings without scoring a goal in the game. The fact is that they simply got beat and should not be rewarded for a dearth of offense!

When the Nashville Predators first entered the league in 1998, a very simple formula was in place that had worked well since the league’s early days. Every game was worth two points. If one team won, they got two points. If the game was tied at the end of sixty minutes and it could not be decided in a overtime period, both teams got a point and everyone went home.

The following year, the overtime rules were changed to play four on four in overtime to increase the chance of a team scoring to break the tie, which was a good idea. Unfortunately, the losing team in overtime was first awarded the despised “extra” point, thus the birth of the three point game.

Further modification of that system in 2005, after the lockout, greatly increased the number of three point games. A shootout was added after the overtime period guaranteeing that every game that went into overtime was worth three points.

This season, when the standings for the final playoff positions in both conferences change nightly, the extra point awarded to the overtime losers will have significant impact on who plays on and who goes home in April.

Through Friday’s games in the Western Conference, Vancouver is in fifth place with 70 points and Columbus is in sixth with 68. Four teams (Minnesota, Edmonton, Dallas and Anaheim) were tied for seventh place with 65 points. The Predators are in eleventh place one point back with 64 points. St Louis (62), Los Angeles (61), Phoenix (59) and Colorado (57) round out the final slots.

If the “extra” points of overtime losses were removed, you would have a completely different set of standings. Vancouver and Columbus would be tied for fifth with 62 points. There would then be a four way tie for seventh that would include Nashville, Minnesota, Edmonton, and Anaheim at 60 points. Dallas would be in eleventh with 58 points. Colorado, who is dead last currently, would move up to twelfth with 56 points. St Louis (54), Phoenix (54) and Los Angeles (52) would finish out the conference standings.

One of the league’s arguments in favor of the “extra” point is that it promotes parity and keeps more teams in the playoff hunt. The above comparison disproves that theory. Currently, the gap from fifth to tenth is five points with the Preds another point back in eleventh. Under the “old school” two point per game concept six teams would be within two points of fifth place.

The game of hockey is now, and always has been, about winning and losing. While society as a whole has become soft, rewarding mediocrity and worrying about the self esteem of five year old soccer players who lose a game, there is simply no room for that in the National Hockey League. The time has come to go back to the roots of the game and make every game worth two points!

Tonight’s Action The Predators take on the Detroit Red Wings tonight at the Sommet Center. The Preds have had points in every game since being manhandled by the Wings last week in Detroit when they lost 6-2 with the Wings scoring on five of six power play chances.

O”Reilly Recalled The Predators called up Cal O’Reilly (pictured above) from the Milwaukee Admirals this morning and he is expected to make his NHL debut tonight against the Wings. The 22 year old O’Reilly was drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 draft and is currently second in the AHL in assists with 46 and tenth in points with 57.

Erat Questionable Mary Erat is questionable for tonight’s game since losing an edge and tweaking his leg near the end of Thursday’s contest with the Coyotes. The injury was not thought to be serious at the time but could cost the Preds a player who had nine shots in their last game.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and the Columbia Daily Herald

Friday, February 27, 2009

Predators Defeat Phoenix 4-1

The Nashville Predators won their third game in a row, soundly defeating an uninspired Phoenix Coyotes team 4-1 at the Sommet Center on Thursday night.

The win moved the Predators within one point of the elusive final playoff position. The Preds remain in eleventh place with 64 points right behind a four way log jam at 65 points with Minnesota, Dallas, Edmonton, and Anaheim all tied for seventh in the tightly bunched Western Conference race.

When asked about the tight race, Steve Sullivan said, “I don’t think we are sneaking up on anyone. There are about seven teams going for two or three spots and everyone is looking at the standings every single day and we know where everybody is and we know what we have to do. We still believe destiny is in our own hands”.

The Predators started off in familiar fashion, skating hard and moving the puck well. Steve Sullivan scored at the 13:29 mark in the first on a typical Sully move flipping the puck over the shoulder of Coyote goalie Ilja Bryzgalov. The first period ended 1-0 with the Predators out shooting Phoenix 19-10. The 19 goals tied the season high for a period last done on January 29th against Vancouver.

The Coyotes tied the game at the 11:04 mark in the second after the Predators has missed several scoring opportunities including an open net muff by Jason Arnott. Before you could get that sinking feeling that has been all too common this season, Jason Arnott put the Preds back in the lead less than a minute after the Coyote tally with what ended up being the game wining goal.

The third period included goals by Joel Ward and David Legwand to finish off the Coyotes and seal the victory. The Preds tied their season high in shots out shooting Phoenix 47 to 26. Marty Erat had nine shots for the game, which was the season high for an individual player. Joel Ward was the only two-point player picking up an assist on Legwand’s goal in addition to scoring one himself.

Pekka Rinne continued his excellent play picking up his 19th victory allowing one goal on 26 Coyote shots. Pekka commented after the game that it was better playing with a lead and that Phoenix didn’t have “that many scoring chances. We just need to keep winning, I think we are on the right track”.

Marty Erat sat out the final portion of the game after he lost his edge on a play and tweaked his lower body. Barry Trotz indicated that it was minor and that with a 4-1 lead they didn’t want to take any chances.

The potential Wade Belak – Dan Carcillo showdown never occurred. There were a couple of minor skirmishes, one that even had Steve Sullivan called for roughing. Sully pointed out “That’s not my style of game”. At the 14:57 mark in the third tempers flared again which resulted in both Jordin Tooto and Ed Jovanovski receiving game misconducts. After the game Barry Trotz commented, “That wasn’t really a fight, just a lot of pushing”.

The Predators continue their home stand with a match Saturday night against the Central Division rival, Detroit Red Wings. The Predators have 20 games remaining and will need in the neighborhood of 13 wins to make the playoffs. Detroit remains in contention for the President’s trophy that goes to the team with the best regular season record. They are currently five points behind San Jose in that race.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Predators Face Coyotes in Critical Contest

The Nashville Predators return to the ice tonight to play the Wayne Gretzky led Phoenix Coyotes at the Sommet Center at 7 p.m. This is a must win contest as the Coyotes are three points behind the Preds in 14th position in the tightly bunched Western Conference.

The Predators are fresh off the season’s most unlikely win Tuesday night, where they scored four goals in the third period to win 5-3 over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Preds have been offensively challenged all year and only scored four goals in four games last week, so the four goals in a period was certainly an unexpected boost to keeping the Predators in the playoff hunt.

After the game, Coach Barry Trotz emphasized the intense nature of the Predators situation, "We talked about having to play with desperation because we're down to the last 20 games. This is our chance to claw back into this thing. There's not a much better way to do that than being down a couple pucks to a pretty good team, so that should be a confidence boost.''

After two seemingly devastating losses to Ottawa and Detroit last week the Predators picked up 5 of 6 points in the last three games. Tuesday's win left the Preds with 62 points and in 11th place, 3 points behind a four way tie for seventh.

The Predators need to win 14 of their final 21 games to have a realistic chance to be in the hunt for the final playoff position. Since the all-star break the Preds have compiled a 9-5-1 record primarily behind the stellar goaltending of Pekka Rinne who is garnering interest in the rookie of the year voting.

Congrats! Congratulations to Dirk Hoag, who writes the "On The Forecheck" column, who is moving from Kukla's to SB Nation. SBN just completed a deal to receive wider exposure through Yahoo sports so this is a big opportunity for Dirk and the others at SBN. Speaking of SB Nation, James Mirtle, who is one of the premier hockey writers in North America and writes the "From the Rink" column, will be in attendance at tonight's and Saturday's Preds game. This would be a good time to show what Pred fans are made of to dispel all notions among some of those in Canada who think Nashville is not deserving of an NHL team.

New Owner Word is circulating that wealthy Canadian Brett Wilson is potentially buying a share of the Predators, alleged to be 5% or less. This is unrelated to the 26% share of the team tied up in bankruptcy that was formerly owned by “Boots” Del Biaggio. Wilson and majority owner David Freeman have had other business partnerships including joint ownership of the Jackson, TN. based Diamond Jaxx minor league baseball team and a soccer team in England. Freeman had indicated in an interview last week that he and co-owner Herb Fritch had guaranteed 60 to 70 million dollars recently related to the Del Biaggio situation, so this may only be a matter of bringing in fresh capital. This certainly is no threat to the team moving from Nashville, as has been the case in the past involving Blackberry head Jim Ballsille.

Twittergate The mini blog phone/internet application "Twitter” has become amazingly popular in the last few month allowing users to send out short messages to folks who are interested in their whereabouts. A major controversy arose in the hockey world in the last few days with an individual setting up fake accounts in the name of several NHL general managers as well as Commissioner Gary Bettman. Fake updates were sent out under the prominent names that many did not find funny. For the record, “taylorswift13” appears to be the real deal as she advised fans that she would attend Tuesday’s Preds game in a Twitter post midday Tuesday saying “A relaxing day off :) I think I'll go see a hockey game tonight?” and she did.

Pred Fan Taylor Swift Singer and heartthrob, Taylor Swift, has recently been the star of a Predators television commercial and is a big supporter of the team. The connection between the Predators and the music world was never more apparent than at Tuesday’s game. Near the end of the first period, Taylor Swift was shown on the Megatron sitting near an aisle in the lower bowl of the arena. Within minutes a throng of several hundred fans surrounded her during the game and throughout the first intermission. Event security finally had to disburse the crowd as the second period began. Note to Taylor: You may want to stay in the luxury boxes if you want to watch the game.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Predators Rally to Beat Hawks

The Nashville Predators played their best period of hockey this season scoring four goals to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3 in Nashville Tuesday night. Joel Ward scored the game-winning goal with 5:03 left in the game.

The game started out as tight contest with both teams skating well in the first period, which ended in a scoreless tie. The Hawks out shot the Preds 9-7 for the period while the Predators managed to kill off the only two Chicago power plays of the evening.

The Predators returned to the ice in the second period a different team. As we have seen in other games their play was inconsistent and without the same enthusiasm shown in the initial period. Chicago capitalized with two goals at 6:05 and 8:57 by Dustin Byfuglien and Martin Havlat to go ahead 2-0. Many fans that had seen this routine before were checking their watches and thinking about an early exit.

Captain Jason Arnott slowed the exodus with a goal at 14:57 to pull within one. The celebration was short lived as Patrick Kane answered with one of his own 1:06 later in the period.

The third period was all Predators. At 2:10 David Legwand was by himself by the net and mis-struck his shot causing an odd knuckleball type flip of the puck that Cristobal Huet was unable to respond to. At 5:11 J P Dumont scored a rare power play goal to tie the game 3-3 and bring the crowd back to life.

The teams skated fairly evenly until Joel Ward slipped a loose puck past Huet with 5:03 remaining in the contest. A few minutes earlier, Ward had missed an opportunity on a shot on the open side of the net when he overplayed the puck that only needed to be urged into the goal. Following a Chicago interference call, Shea Weber sealed the deal with the Preds second power play goal of the game at 17:10. Marty Erat had three assists during the third period.

This was the first time that the Preds had scored the five goals required for fans to receive free Frosty’s since the 5-3 win over the Penguins on January eight.

Pekka Rinne continued his streak of solid goaltending stopping 29 of 32 Chicago shots. While seemingly not at his best during the second period, he was outstanding in the final stanza stopping all 11 Hawk shots, many where no one else was here to help.

The fans gave the team a huge boost with a standing ovation during a TV time out in the third. What became a tradition during last year’s playoff run has been rarely seen during this roller coaster ride type season. Both the players and Barry Trotz commented on the fans support during the post game interviews.

After two seemingly devastating losses to Ottawa and Detroit lat week the Predators have picked up 5 of 6 points in the last three games. The win left the Preds with 62 points in 11th place, 3 points behind a four way tie for seventh at 65 points.

The Predators continue with the second game of their five game home stand Thursday when they take on the Phoenix Coyotes who lay three points behind the Preds in 14th place.

New Winger? Defenseman Ville Koistinen suited up as a winger and played seven shifts opposite Wade Belak in an odd makeshift role. Ryan Jones, who was roughed up during last weeks losses, was a healthy scratch. The other scratch was Radek Bonk who was injured Saturday and is expected to be out for a couple of weeks.

New Owner Word circulated on Tuesday that wealthy Canadian Brett Wilson was potentially buying a small share of the Predators, rumored to be 5% or less. This is not related to the share of the team tied up in bankruptcy that was formally owned by “Boots” DelBiaggio, Wilson and majority owner David Freeman have had other business partnerships including joint ownership of the Jackson, TN minor league baseball team and a soccer team in England. Freeman had indicated last week that he and co-owner Herb Fritch had guaranteed 60 to 70 million dollars recently related to the DelBiaggio situation so this may only be a matter of bringing in fresh capitol. It certainly is no threat to the team moving from Nashville as has been the case in the past involving Jim Ballsille,

Good Sport Award In an unexpected twist, for the first time in eleven years I won an in game contest taking home a prize pack in a drawing for the Good Sport designated driver contest. This proves that staying clear of the demon alcohol can pay off. Thanks to Budweiser for their sponsorship of the contest.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Sunday, February 22, 2009

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Visits Nashville

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Nashville Thursday for a full day of activities as he continues his annual tour around all the league cities.

Early in the day, Bettman paid a social visit to Tennessee Governor Phil Bredsen and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean before having a luncheon and meetings with the entire Nashville Predators ownership group.

After lunch, Bettman hosted his weekly radio show from the Sommet Center’s new XM studio. The show is broadcast worldwide by XM Home Ice radio and radio. As guests, he had Predators owner David Freeman, GM David Poile and Coach Barry Trotz.

The Commissioner discussed the long term relationship between Trotz and Poile in Nashville and how the pairing has lasted thorough the entire length of the Predator franchise.

Poile explained his philosophy, “I pride myself on good relationships in work and in life in general. With Barry, it has been easy. Not only is he a good coach, but he is also a good person. Over the years there have been a lot of highs and lows and no one handles it better than Barry”.

Poile continued, “Many times in the NHL there are a lot of knee-jerk reactions. Many times emotional decisions are made, not necessarily based on what happens on the ice. After a bad game is not a good time to reflect on highs and lows or make important decision."

Bettman and Barry Trotz discussed coaching in a non-traditional market. Barry related that friends in the Winnipeg (Canada) area are often critical that Nashville has an NHL team and they don’t. “Nashville is drawing better now than the best year they ever had in Winnipeg. Here it is a different mindset, we would sell out every game if they were all played on Saturday night”.

Lead owner David Freeman added, “We hope that others see that Nashville, Tennessee wants to be a part of the hockey world. It is confusing why others don’t swell up with pride and say, "Wow, these people want to be a part of the game", as opposed to pulling against us as a market”.

Freeman was positive about where the team stands financially, “We have good viability as a franchise. We made a small profit last year and expect to break even this year. We are pleased with our progress. As a franchise we are ten years into it. Montreal is celebrating their 100th year so we are 90 years behind them in developing fans as kids in order to grow the game”.

When asked about the “Boots" Del Biaggio situation where 27% of the Predators ownership is tied up in federal bankruptcy court, Freeman was direct in his response. “Honestly, we try not to talk about it. His issues are personal. No one saw it coming. In the end it is our hope and expectation that it will have no effect on the club, and we see where it can be a benefit. Herb Fritch and I have provided sixty to seventy million in guarantees to cover Boots' obligations”.

In closing the radio show, Bettman commented, “So as a franchise, you are not going anywhere, except maybe the playoffs." Freeman was in full agreement.

Later in the day, Commissioner Bettman held a 30 minute press conference at the Sommet Center that covered a broad range of topics concerning the Predators and the league in general.

Bettman addressed the recent concern of many that the Predators were rumored to be buying their own tickets in order to reach attendance figures to qualify for the league’s revenue sharing plan. “That doesn’t work. Based on the information that I got today, and based on the attendance, especially in the last nine games, they (Predators) have every expectation that they are going to meet the threshold on their own, assuming that everyone continues going to the game, which is very important”.

Continuing, he said, “The franchise is headed in the right direction and is on solid footing. They could have done without the hiccup (Del Biaggio bankruptcy) but based on the lunch I had today, everybody is committed and, long-term, it’s going to work. The expectation was that just because the franchise changed hands to a local group that it would happen overnight and that’s not realistic. The media speculation from other areas about Nashville is just that, speculation, and is completely unfounded."

Bettman was questioned further about the Del Biaggio bankruptcy and whether the team has a right of refusal on who the 27% could be sold to. He indicated that he wasn’t an expert on the local ownership agreement but that the league "has the right of approval as well”.

Bettman addressed Alexander Radelov breaking his contract with Nashville and jumping to Russia’s KHL. He indicated that he was very concerned about the breach and it is a primary reason that the NHL and KHL have been unable to come to a transfer agreement between leagues. “Radulov is in breach of his contract with the Predators. He owes the Predators a year under his contract. If he wants to play in the NHL, he will have to deal with the Nashville Predators”.

While Bettman was in Nashville, the NHL announced that four teams would open the season in Europe next year. Chicago and Florida will play two games in Helsinki, Finland while Detroit and St. Louis will play a pair in Stockholm, Sweden.

Bettman explained the league's strategy. “Twenty-eight percent of the league’s players are from Europe, so there is a lot of interest there in the best league in the world. By looking at clicks on we see a high level of interest there. Also, the players enjoy it. Detroit has seven Swedes on the team, so going to Stockholm to play in front of people that saw them develop there is very exciting for them."

When questioned if the league had any plans to change the rules on fighting in light of last month’s death during a Canadian senior league fight and the subsequent OHL ban of fighting, Bettman indicated that it would be addressed during the off season. “Based on discussions with our constituent groups, I don’t foresee a point that fighting as part of the game will be eliminated. I do think we will have a good candid discussion about the role of fighting. I do believe we will discuss the rules of engagement, how fights start, what happens when the helmet comes off, the takedown, are all things we need to look at to modify how fighting is done to perhaps make it a little safer."

One of the more controversial events in the league this year was the suspension of former Dallas Star Sean Avery for “conduct unbecoming to the game”. As part of his “rehabilitation”, Avery received “treatment” for anger management.

When asked if Avery was free to return to the NHL, Bettman explained, “He’s welcome back from a league standpoint. He’s served his suspension and is under contract with the Dallas Stars. It will be a club decision (Dallas) as to what to do with him. He would have to clear waivers to return to the NHL with another team since Dallas has indicated they don’t want him”.

In a bit of levity at the conclusion of the press meeting, Bettman was asked what the league office could do to help the Predators score some goals. Bettman was emphatic, responding, “My suiting up wouldn’t help!” He then followed with a parting shot at the Russian league, which he appeared openly bitter about. He pointed out, “Radulov, his 30 goals would have helped.”

Based on all the information relayed by Commissioner Betman and the local ownership throughout the visit, Predator fans should be encouraged by the indications that Nashville is a healthy franchise and is under little threat to be sold or moved to another city.

Financially, the Predators appear to be on the most solid ground that they have experienced in the team’s 11-year history. In spite of the inconsistent play on the ice this year, the Predator ownership group should be commended for bringing stabilization to a franchise that was on the verge of leaving town less than two years ago.

Buddy Oakes for predsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Predators Win by a Roll of the Puck in OT

Game Winner from

The Nashville Predators kept their fragile playoff hopes alive by beating the Blues in a 1-0 in overtime. Shea Weber broke his goal drought at 2:36 into overtime when he drilled a shot into Chris Mason's pads. Mason made the initial stop but the puck rolled slowly on its side across the goal line to end the game. For Blues fans it was like waiting for a train wreck with no one able to stop it as the puck rolled almost surrealistically out of the blue ice.

Pekka Rinne continued his outstanding play in net stopping all 30 St. Louis shots. He was left as the last line of defense repeatedly as St Louis out shot the Preds 30-22. Rinne received first star honors for his fifth shutout of the year.

The first period got of to an interesting start with 7:41 of play before the first whistle. Both teams skated well but the Blues had more scoring chances out shooting the Preds 9-6 in the period. The Predators took a couple of unwarranted penalties at the mid point of the period on infractions by Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Pekka Rinne kept the Preds tied with several point blank saves on Blues scoring chances.

The second period produced similar action. At one point the Predators were inches away from a goal when a puck caught iron on one side of the net and traveled through the blue ice to the other post before clearing the area. Again, the Blues out shot the Preds 12-8. It appeared that Radek Bonk may have reinjured his wrist as he left the game with the "upper body injury". Rinne and Mason both looked solid in net.

The end to end skating intensified in the final period as both teams were desperate for points and wanted to win in regulation, not giving the loser a point in overtime. St. Louis came close to a goal at 12:05 when they caught a post. After that, the action became almost frantic with the Blues having several good runs at the net including one at 13:10 that left Rinne laying in the back of the net that somehow did not dislodge. The teams continued to appear evenly matched as the finished regulation in a scoreless tie. The Blues out shot the Preds again in the final stanza 9-7.

For the fourth time in six meetings this year the Preds and Blues went into overtime. Weber's goal was set up on a pass from J P Dumont as they skated past the blue line and toward the net. Weber's shot was the only one for either team in the extra period and it was all the Predators needed.

The win left brought the Predators to the 60 point mark, three points behind the eight place Anaheim Ducks who currently hold the last playoff spot. St Louis fell two points behind the Preds into a tie for last place in the tightly bunched Western Conference.

The Predators return home for a five game home stand that begins Tuesday night at the Sommet Center against the Chicago Black Hawks. It the Predators are to remain in the hunt for a playoff position they must dobetter than the 2-2 record they had in the just completed home stand.

Trade Talks With the trade deadline less than two weeks away and everyone getting into the fray of who is going where, I am going to attempt to chronicle rumors about the Preds that I read cruising through the webosphere. I don't intend to create any new rumors but merely keep a list so that when all is said and done on March 4th we can reflect on the validity of any rumors that may or may not come to pass.

Here's the rumors that I've seen so far. Feel free to email any that you come across with the original link to to add to the list.

Erat and Hamhuis for Staal and Eaton (2-17 Bleacher Report)

Koisteinen asks to be traded (2-19 Tennessean)

Ellis to Flyers (2-20 Eklund)

Hamhuis, Bonk and draft picks avalible (2-20 Forchecker posting for Illegal Curve)

Sullivan to Calgary (2-21 Calagry Sun)

Hockey News Goalie Ratings The hockey news released it's list of the NHL's top 30 goalies. Pekka Rinne was listed at 19 while former Preds Vokoun (9th) and Mason (16th) were rated higher. Tim Thomas of Boston was listed number one while Niklas Backstrom, Steve Mason, Henrik Lundquist, and Ryan Miller rounded out the top five.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Friday, February 20, 2009

My First Q and A with The Commish

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Nashville on Thursday as part of his annual tour around the NHL.

Bettman was congenial enough to meet with the local press for about a half an hour discussing a wide range of topics. I plan to have a more extensive review of the entire event in a separate post but did capture a brief clip of my first two Q’s and A’s which is presented here.

My questions centered around the range of options the league may choose to consider in regards to fighting and the status of Sean Avery’s “rehabilitation”.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Predators Gain a Point in OT Loss vs Blues

Postgame footage - Pekka Rinne, Steve Sullivan, Jason Arnott, Marty Erat, and Barry Trotz

The Nashville Predators limped home from Detroit and managed to salvage a point out of a game that started promisingly and ended with the St Louis Blues winning 2-1 in overtime.

Both teams were coming off deflating losses from Wednesday night’s actions. The Predators were steamrolled in Detroit while the Blues were beaten in Columbus.

The Predators first period was as good a period of hockey as they have played since last Saturday against Boston. Steve Sullivan scored at the 9:59 mark in the first to give the Preds an early lead. Sullivan told the story of the goal, “J P did a great job of keeping the puck in at the half wall and dumping the puck off to Arnie and I was just coming down the slot and Arnie made a great pass to me and I just kind of redirected it and it was a bang-bang play and I don’t think Mason had time to see it or react to it and it went in”.

The other highlight of the game for the Predators was the never-ending outstanding play of Goaltender Pekka Rinne. For the game he stopped 34 of 36 shots including six of seven shots in an incredible barrage during 2:52 of overtime play. There were numerous saves where Rinne had been left hanging by himself in odd man situations.

St Louis’s regulation goal by Andy McDonald came at 14:06 in the second period and was a result of a misplay by Dan Hamhuis that left Rinne by himself and virtually hand cuffed to stop the goal. The Blues overtime goal, a few seconds after the end of a St Louis Power play, was also an odd man situation where two Pred players collided momentarily leaving Rinne vulnerable to the point blank wrister of Keith Tkachuk at 2:52 into the overtime period that ended the game.

The game was probably the most physical game around the Predator net that Pekka Rinne had ever experienced. He was crashed into repeatedly and delivered a shove early in the game to Brad Winchester. Rinne should have been credited with a hit late in the contest when he rammed a Blues player into the board behind the net. Jason Arnott explained his view after the game, “It wasn’t like they were trying to run Peks, there were a lot of loose pucks around the net”.

The overtime loss left the Predators in 12th place with 58 points four points behind eight place and the final playoff position. This was the first time this season in 14 games where the Predators were leading after the first period that they lost the game. The Preds were the last team standing in that arena.

The players as well as coach Bary Trotz are insistent that they feel they are still in the thick of the race and are positive that they can complete another playoff run.
Steve Sullivan said “We wanted two points but got one so we move on and get ready for the next one”. Captain Jason Arnott added, “It was a tough loss, but we’ll take the point. We still have time, we just have to battle”. Barry Trotz added, “It was a playoff atmosphere, we’ll take them on again Saturday”.

Coming into the game, I had a feel that this would be a critical turning point in the season. If the Preds rebounded with a win, they would still be in the chase. If they had played as poorly as they had against Ottawa and Detroit, it would be time to turn out the lights. With a point, it probably falls somewhere in between. With 23 games left they will need 16 wins to get to 90 points so there is little opportunity for another off night for the rest of the season. The next opportunity will be Saturday night in St Louis against the Blues, once again.

The Commish NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Nashville for the day. He met with Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and hosted his weekly radio show from the Nashville XM Radio studio located in the Sommet Center. He also held a 32 minute press conference prior to the Preds- Blues game. A full video will be placed on on Friday.

Nickelback in the House Canadian Rock band Nickelback attended the game and received a locker room tour after the game hosted by David Legwand.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Predators Limp Home After Massacre

The Nashville Predators headed into Joe Louis Arena with visions of resurrecting their slim playoff hopes and nearly got trampled by the “fat lady” getting ready to make her ceremonial appearance. Actually it wasn’t really the “fat lady”, it was the Detroit Red Wings power play unit that led the Wings to a 6-2 massacre of the Preds.

The Good

Steve Sullivan, possibly angered by an article in the Tennessean this morning, finally had the breakout game that everyone has been waiting for, scoring two goals, one on the PP.

Very little else would qualify as good.

In Between

The Predators scored on the PP (for a change) but couldn’t convert with the 5 on 3 late in the game.

No one’s plus-minus record was significantly adversely affected since five of the Wings goals were on the PP.

The Bad

Uninspired play, including too many bad penalties, resulted in the Predators giving the Wings far too many opportunities for the league’s best power play unit to hit the ice.

The Predators fifth ranked penalty kill unit gave up five goals on six attempts to fall to eight place.

Dan Ellis did little to move from the pine to the ice giving up six goals on 41 shots. This probably solidifies his number two slot for the rest of the year.

J P Dumont left the ice late in the game with what appeared to be the proverbial “upper body injury”.

The Predators have to return to Joe Louis two more times before the season is over as well as playing them one more time at home next week.

The Predators have less than 24 hours to regroup and take on the St Louis Blues at the Sommet Center Thursday night.

Many other points could be listed under the bad but it might be considered piling on at this point. Apologies to all, my uninspired writing tonight was in honor of the Predators similar on ice performance. Just look at it as an example of what we saw on the tube.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Predators Face Top Three Team in Detroit

After last Saturday’s win over the Boston Bruins, the Nashville Predators have now played the top teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference. Boston currently has the best record in the NHL and a nine point lead over the second place New Jersey Devils. Barring a collapse, they should finish atop their division.

However, there is much debate about how competitive Boston would be in the tougher Western Conference. After the game Boston Coach Claude Julien said that he did not enjoy the Western Conference style of play, claiming that it was "a little more open".

After Monday’s 2-0 loss to Ottawa, the Predators record against Eastern opponents is 8-6-1 for the season. The overall record of the Western Conference versus the East this year is a fairly dominant 112-72-20. Only two Western teams, St. Louis and Anaheim, actually have a losing record against Eastern opponents.

After the Boston game several questions were posed as to who was the best team among Boston, in the East and Detroit and San Jose in the West.

Barry Trotz was fairly diplomatic in his response saying “You play the best from the East and from the West, you have to play at a higher level. Against Detroit (last week) we had way too many turnovers and were way too casual in some areas”. He further relayed, "Against the East, with unfamiliar opponents, you worry more on your own game and less on the opponent’s. Teams in the West probably make more adjustments against us”.

David Legwand was asked who was better between San Jose and Boston and replied, “San Jose might be a bit better, Boston is a good team that is missing a few guys”.

Pekka Rinne did a good job at avoiding a direct answer as to who was better, “I don’t know, I think today (versus Boston) we were a better team, but against San Jose and Detroit when we’ve been playing them, they were all over us. It’s hard to say, they are all really good teams”.

In direct meetings between the top teams San Jose defeated Boston handily by a 5-2 score in Boston on February tenth. Boston played Detroit in Boston on November 29th and won by a convincing 4-1 margin.

There is really no way to settle the matter until the Stanley Cup Finals but the discussion does make good fodder for talk shows as the season winds down.

The Nashville Predators will get another shot at one of the NHL’s top dogs when they play the Red Wings in Detroit tonight at 6:30 p.m. They currently are in 12th place with 57 points, five out of the last playoff position. They return home Thursday for the first half of a home and away with St. Louis.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Predators Burned by Senators

Pekka Rinne, David Legwand and Barry Trotz

The red hot Ottawa Senators came in to Nashville and burned the Nashville Predators by a score of 2-0 on Monday night. The Sens scored two goals in the first period and never looked back in route to Ottawa's fifth straight road victory. They are now 5-1-1 under new head coach Cory Clouston who replaced Craig Hartsburg on Feb. 2.

The game started with a special "Canadian" feel to it as it is one of the few games that have been beamed into Canada from Nashville via TSN. Pierre McGuire was perched in his normal center ice position and added humor to the game when he jumped onto the ice during the first period startling Steve Sullivan, Barry Trotz and others.

Nick Foligno first scored at 5:20 of the first period when Pekka Rinne tried to clear a pass to the blue line and it was intercepted by Mike Fisher who quickly passed to the closing Foligno who wristed it past Rinne. Rinne claimed credit for the miscue, "I didn't get it off of the ice and they had it on a two-on-one, and they put it in the back of the net. That is my mistake. It should not have happened." Rinne clearly was not completely to blame as the Pred defenders were out of position due to a line change leaving one side of the ice wide open.

At the 13:56 in the first, Dany Heatley came from the side at an angle and lifted a shot up that hit Pekka Rinne in the shoulder that then flipped up and over into the net. When asked if he thought he had stopped it Rinne said that he thought he had and really seemed dejected, claiming credit for both Senator goals. Again, Rinne was not the problem as Heatly should never have been allowed to be by himself with the puck in that position. Barry Trotz quickly called a timeout which seemed to help the team regroup somewhat defensively, but the Predators never really got it going offensively.

The two first period goals were all that Ottawa needed on a night when the Predators were unable to generate any offense. The Preds first line of Jason Arnott, J P Dumont and Steve Sullivan only generated 2 shots with Arnie and Sully having one each and J P getting the donut. The Preds second line of Legwand, Erat and Jones had the most scoring chances with eleven shots but could not convert.

Pekka Rinne again was the player of the game for the Predators stopping 22 of 24 Senator shots, many of which were odd man situations because Ottawa spent most of the night skating past the sluggish Predators. Oddly enough, the Predators had more hits (27) than shots (24). Another oddity was that the game was free of fisticuffs which was surprising with two of the games bigger agitators in Jordin Tootoo and Jarkko Ruutu being on the ice on the same shifts for much of the night with no incidents.

Ottawa was clearly the best team on the ice playing with much more hustle and jump than a Predators team that looked somewhat weary and out of sorts. Scheduling may have played a part as this game against a non-contender was nestled in between games with two of the best teams in hockey, Boston and Detroit. That in itself makes the loss a tough one to swallow. The Preds ended the four game home stand 2-2 with both victories coming in overtime shootouts.

Barry Trotz was unhappy with the poor play during the first period saying, "We came out and stood around and watched a team that is playing very well right now and we've done that four of our last five games. We are 1-3 when we have done that and that's not a good recipe."

The loss leaves the Predators in 12th place with 57 points, five out of the last playoff position. After a morning practice on Tuesday they will travel to Detroit for a 6:30 CST match up on Wednesday before returning home Thursday for the first half of a home and away with St. Louis.

As much as last Thursday's come from behind victory was the kind of games that you have to have when making a run for the playoffs, this game was the opposite. This is the kind of game you have to show up for and be ready to play if you have hopes of playing in the post-season. If the Predators are still close at the end, this will be a game that they will point to as being one that they would like to have another shot at. Realistically, with 25 games left, and the race in the west as tight as it is the Predators will now need to win at a three of four clip for the rest of the way if they are to have a good shot at the postseason. That hasn't happened thus far in the season and appears unlikely that it will start now.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Predators Beat the Best of the East in Overtime

Postgame remarks by David Legwand and Pekka Rinne

Postgame remarks by Barry Trotz

The Nashville Predators continued their post all-star game surge by beating the Boston Bruins 3-2 in a shootout thriller. David Legwand had his best game of the year scoring two goals and the game winner in the fourth round of the overtime shootout.

Pekka Rinne again was outstanding in goal stopping 22 of 24 in regulation and the Bruins only shot in overtime. In the shootout after allowing a goal to the first Boston shooter, Blake Wheeler, he stopped consecutive shots by Patrice Bergeron, P J Axelsson and Phil Kessel to set up Legwand’s game winner.

The first two Predator shooters Vern Fiddler and Steve Sullivan missed their shots with Fiddler coming close by hitting the post. In a score or go home situation, Marty Erat nailed his shot to tie it 1-1. After Kessel missed in the fourth round, Legwand took advantage of the opportunity and snuck one past Manny Fernadez to end the contest in the sudden death shootout.

David Legwand played his most dominant game of the year firing six shots and having five takeaways. His first goal was a tip in at 14:24 in the first and a his second was a shorthanded goal at 12:24 in the second. That was all the scoring the Preds would have before the shootout.

Barry Trotz was thrilled with Legwand’s night stating “"Legwand's first two goals were huge, he’s skating really well right now. Leggy has a tremendous amount of talent. We’ve always wanted him to produce offensively and when he’s skating like that he can be a force”.

Boston came back a minute after Legwand’s second goal with a goal by Blake Wheeler to pull within one. With their goalie pulled, Zdeno Chara scored at 18:44 in the third to tie the contest sending it into overtime.

In the overtime period the Predators outshot Boston 4-1 primarily on the strength of a power play generated by a Shane Hnidy holding penalty. The closest shot to a score was break-away chance by Boston’s Phil Kessel in the closing seconds that was stopped by Pekka Rinne.

Pekka Rinne describes the breakdown on the Preds end that led to the near game ender, "We only had three guys on the ice at the time and it was just a mistake by some of our guys and it was 4-on-3 even though there wasn't a penalty. I was watching at the time and there was about 10 seconds left and I thought that I better make the save, luckily I made the stop".

The Predators extended their perfect 13-0 record in games where they lead after one period. When asked about that Rinne said, “That’s a great stat, it gives us a little bit of confidence, when we realize that we are leading after the first period it good and you think let’s keep it going. You shouldn’t be thinking about that too much but it gives you confidence that we know we are a good team when leading the game.”

Barry Trotz added, “Starts are huge. In this league this time of year teams are buckling down defensively and it creates some momentum. When you get the first goal the other team has to get two to beat you.”

The Predators ended the evening with 57 points which is three points out of the last playoff position and only four points out of a tie for fifth in the tightly bunched Western Conference. Boston still has the best record in hockey with 86 points and an 11 point lead over New Jersey.

After a true off day on Sunday, with no practice or meetings, the Predators will return to the Sommet Center Monday to play the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa comes in riding a four game winning streak in what otherwise has been a fairly dismal season. The Preds then travel to Detroit on Wednesday for an important division match up against one of the best teams in the west.

Tootoo Returns Jordin Tootoo returned after missing seven games with a cut to his hand during a fight when he got it hung on Todd Bertuzzi’s necklace in Calgary.

Post All-Star Success The Predators are tied for the second best record in hockey since the all-star break at 7-3. Only the red hot New Jersey Devils are better at 8-2.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Friday, February 13, 2009

Predators Rise from the Dead to Win in Shoot-out

Postgame Remarks from Steve Sullivan, Pekka Rinne, Joel Ward and Barry Trotz

For 59 minutes and 57 seconds the crowd of 14,307 had few reasons to cheer for the Nashville Predators. The St. Louis Blues had frustrated the Predators with tenacious defense and solid goaltending. When Captain Jason Arnott snuck a shot past former Pred goalie Chris Mason with three seconds remaining, there was bedlam in Music City.

The Predators and Blues were unable to settle the match in the five minute overtime period forcing the game to a shootout. Steve Sullivan was the Preds second shooter and flipped a wrist shot past Mason on his glove side for the only goal in the shootout. Seconds later, Pred goalie, Pekka Rinne stopped T J Oshie to seal the victory and give the Predators two points in the 4-3 win that they desperately needed.

Sullivan was pleased after the game stating “I’m not afraid to say that throughout all of the years, we’ve done a lot of shootouts and we try to avoid Mason in practice as much as possible. To go against him was a little bit of a treat… glad I was able to sneak one by him. He’s very good at them.” When asked if it was a traditional Sully shootout move, he joked “I don’t have too many moves, you got to stick with what you can do”.

The rest of the game leading up to the dramatic ending was not pretty for Predator fans. Before Kevin Klein’s wrap-around goal at 7:55 in the third period the crowd was restless and probably was one St Louis goal away from a mass exodus. After out shooting the Blues 14-7 in the first period shots were few and far between for the home team in the second as the Blues out shot the Preds 13-5. Three minor penalties also helped keep the Preds in more of a defensive mode.

For the game, the Predators actually sent plenty of pucks toward the net as they ended up with 34 shots, 11 misses and 22 blocks by a hustling Blues defense. As has been the case for most of the year, the puck could not find its way to the back of the net.

Defensively the Predators were inconsistent. Trotz said it best, “I didn’t think our defense managed the puck particularly well, as well as they can. At the same time, there were a couple of times when our forwards didn’t give them a chance either.”

Pekka Rinne was solid in the overtime and the shootout but did not have his best game during regulation. One troubling aspect has been an increase in the number of rebounds allowed in the last two games, giving the opposition too many second chance opportunities.

When questioned about Rinne’s play Barry Trotz defended his goalie saying “I wouldn’t say he looked shaky on the second goal, it was a really well placed shot. The guy comes out of the corner and looks like he was about to fall and he roofs it. Usually guys aren’t able to roof it on the way down so Peks was trying to seal the bottom of the net of and the guy went upstairs. I didn’t think he was shaky at all.”

After games with Boston on Saturday and Ottawa Monday, the Preds make a quick trip to Detroit on Wednesday and return to play the Blues here again next Thursday. They then travel to St Louis on Saturday for the third game in 10 days with the Blues.

When asked about the three games in ten days with the Blues, Barry Trotz said “It’s going to be intense, they’re trying to claw their way back in this race and we are a rival and play them three times and they are a good hockey team. There isn’t a bad hockey team in the Western Conference, every game is a battle. They play a relentless fore checking style of game, they forced some turnovers and we made some turnovers, they are a tough team to play against.”

The win gave the Predators 55 points kept them within four points of the final playoff position. St Louis picked up a point in the loss and is now four points behind the Predators.

At years end, if the Predators do make the Playoffs, this game will be considered a key turning point in the season. It is probably a game that they didn’t “deserve” to win but by perseverance and never giving up, they put themselves in a position where they were still within a single goal when Arnott scored at the end of the game. While the crowd was ready to throw in the towel, the team never did.

For 11 years Barry Trotz has never received the recognition that he deserves for instilling the “never say die” attitude in his teams. He has consistently done more with whatever talent he had than many other coaches who have won simply because they had a team full of talented players.

Bonk Bonked? Radek Bonk suffered an “upper body injury” in the first period after playing only three shifts. Trotz indicated that he didn’t think it was serious but that he would be reevaluated on Friday.

O’Ree Honored Willie O’Ree, who was the first black NHL player, was honored before the game as part of the Predator’s “Hockey is for Everyone” Night. Joel Ward took the honorary face-off drop from O’Ree for the Preds. After the game Ward called him “the Jackie Robinson of hockey” and said, “It was obviously a big moment for me in a game I love so much”.

Belak return Wade Belak returned from his five game absence due to a shoulder injury just in time to take on the Blues who are a team that doesen’t mind dropping the gloves. At 5:35 into the game Belak had an opportunity to do his thing after he was challenged by Cam Janssen over a clean hit that Belak had made on a Blues player. Belak clearly came out on top in the tussle.

Scratches Jordan Tootoo is still recovering from the cut on his hand and is day to day. Ville Koistinen and Patrik Hornqvist were both healthy scratches for the Predators.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Original Winter Classic

Growing up as a kid in the South in the pre-video game era, summer days and after school afternoons were filled with whatever sport was in season at the time. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball or wiffle ball in the spring and summer were the order of the day. Being outside and playing sports was a year round passion that weather rarely hindered.

So what about youngsters in the Northern parts of our country and Canada. How do they pass time in the middle of winter when daytime temperatures never approach the freezing mark and the ground is covered with snow for months at a time? The answer to that question is fully explained in the release of the new movie "Pond Hockey". The film would be considered a documentary by genre, but the story is told in a way that actually gives the film a beginning, plot and conclusion so it is much more than a History Channel type presentation.

The movie begins with the origins of hockey when the only ice available was on frozen lakes, rivers and ponds and hockey was played seasonally as weather permitted. The framework of the movie is provided by the 2005 International Pond Hockey Championship, which was held on a frozen lake in Minneapolis, Minnesota and involved one hundred teams of all levels of playing abilities. The human interest part of the story that appeals to hockey fans and non-fans alike is a personal look at two individual teams, one a finalist (Federal League All-Stars) and another (Sofa King Lazy) made up of childhood friends who never grew up to leave the sport behind. You meet the individuals that made up the two teams and peek into their lives and see what drives them to play and compete outdoors under brutal weather conditions. Additionally, the film is interspersed with commentary by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, current star Sidney Crosby and many other players that you have and haven't known.

I found the movie to be a real gem and would imagine that most folks who are fans of any sport would find the story an interesting and compelling look into a culture that most folks in the South have never imagined. The movie web site states "More than just a celebration of a beloved game, Pond Hockey searches the open ice for the true meaning of sport." The one thing that all sports have in common beyond competition is the story of the people who play the game. We have all heard the tales of the great athletes in all the sports but the stories of everyday players can be equally absorbing as we see in this wonderful film.

The movie was screened in limited release and is available as a DVD at

This year's annual Labatt/USA Pond Hockey Championships is slated to be held on Dollar Lake in Eagle River, Wisconsin this week as part of the Hockey Weekend Across America.Over 200 teams from 24 states are slated to participate.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

“Hockey is for Everyone” Tonight at the Predators Game

Nashville Predator players Jordan Tootoo and Joel Ward appeared on Wednesday’s NHL Live radio show promoting the National Hockey League’s “Hockey is for Everyone” program.

Joel Ward, who is an African-Canadian, is having a breakout rookie season with the Predators. Ward has become a solid two way player this year, scoring eight goals and adding nine assists while becoming a leader on the penalty kill unit. His two goals Tuesday night against the Red Wings were a career highlight for him.

On the radio show Ward said, “I feel like I represent a lot of people as a role model and that is a big responsibility”. Ward grew up in Toronto, Canada around New Jersey Devils goalie Kevin Weekes who helped him realize that he could play in the NHL despite his racial make-up.

Ward said he looked up to Weekes who taught him “to believe in himself and his abilities and that he could go far in a sport that has few minority players”.

Jordan Tootoo, who is the first NHL player of Inuit decent, also appeared on the program. Tootoo claims that “it is a great honor to be the first player of Inuit playing at the NHL level. It takes heart and perseverance to get there but these days the sky is the limit for anyone who wants to play hockey”.

Tootoo said that the biggest obstacle for him was cultural. He claims going from a small town of 2000 people to an area with over a million in population was a difficult transition. Tootoo left home at 14 to play hockey and counsels others that “they need to have the right mindset and to be positive because anything is possible”.

The NHL has designated February as “NHL Diversity Month” as it actively pursues minority kids to learn about hockey and to play the sport.

As part of the “Hockey is for Everyone” program, the Predators will honor Willie O’Ree, at Thursday’s game with the St. Louis Blues at 7 p.m. at the Sommet Center.

O’Ree broke in with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958 and was the first black player in the NHL. He has held the position of NHL Director of Youth Development since January of 1998 and travels the country promoting youth hockey programs.

Former Predator Goalie Chris Mason is expected to start for St. Louis where he has moved into the number one goalie slot with the recent demotion of Manny Legace to the minor leagues.

The Predators are 5-3 since the all-star break but have dropped their last two games including Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to Detroit. They are currently four points out of a playoff spot and play 11 of their next 14 games on home ice at the Sommet Center.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and the Columbia Daily Herald

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Detroit Rolls Through Nashville

The Detroit Red Wings came into Music City battered and bruised and left with another victory in hand as they blistered the Nashville Predators by a 5-3 score.

The Predators are usually “loaded for bear” when the Wings come to Nashville but on Tuesday night they had trouble getting out of the starting gate. Had it not been for stellar goaltending by Pekka Rinne during the first period, when the Wings out shot the Preds 27-8, the game would not have been close.

The Wings 27 shots ties the record for most shots against the Predators in a period that was set in the team’s first month of play in October 1998, also by Detroit. The final shot count of 51-21 was reflective of the dominance that the Wings showed on the ice than the final score .

The Predators played much better after the one-sided first period but had already dug themselves too big a hole to claw out of. Detroit led off the second period with a power play goal by Marion Hossa. After goals by Radek Bonk and Joel Ward the Preds pulled within a goal at 3-2 and seemed to be on their way to an amazing comeback.

Henrik Zetterberg’s goal 3:10 into the third period brought Detroit back to a more comfortable two goal lead. Joel Ward’s second goal at 10:36 in the third was a thing of beauty. He single-handedly fought from the blue line to the blue ice and snuck the puck into the net.

The Predators played desperate hockey for the remainder of the third period but were stymied by the Wings defensive efforts. Pavel Datsyuk’s empty netter at the end of the game was the icing on the cake for Detroit’s efforts.

Rekka Rinne made numerous spectacular saves in spite of giving up four goals. Rinne, who did not have his best game, probably would have liked to have had another shot a couple of the goals and had more problems with rebounds than usual but much of that can be attributed to the great job the Wings always do in front of the net. It is a rare occasion when a goalie can give up four goals in a game and improve their save percentage but this game proves that it can happen.

The Wings came in to Nashville without Johan Franzen, Thomas Holstrom and a host of others but on a team full of all-stars they were not missed. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each scored two goals. Marion Hossa added another goal and Brian Rafalski had three assists in the star-studded performance by the Wings top players.

The loss was a tough one for the Preds who are 5-3 since the all-star break and are currently four points out of the last playoff spot. After a four game win streak, they have now lost two in a row.

The Predators are looking to right the ship Thursday night against St. Louis and play 11 of their next 14 games at home so it is critical for them to bring their best game every night.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Expect Predators to Be Conservative at the Trade Deadline

Will the Nashville Predators be buyers or sellers at the NHL trade deadline? Historically, the Predators have not been major players in the trade deadline theatrics that many clubs seem to relish in due to their conservative management. Rarely does General Manager David Poile roll the dice in personnel matters preferring more of a long term strategy approach.

Traditionally, teams that are in the hunt for a playoff position pick up players from teams that are willing to trade current players and build for the future. This year may be a bit different than in the past as 25 of 30 teams are still in contention for the playoffs with less than two months left in the season.

In the early days of Predators franchise history, it was an annual tradition for players to be shipped off near the deadline in return for draft picks or other considerations. In 2000, all-star forward Sergei Krivokrasov and defensemen Joel Bouchard and Bob Boughner were dealt. The following year the Preds traded Drake Berehowski.

In 2002 many Predator fans felt that the heart and soul of the team had been sent away as the Predators traded Capt Tom Fitzgerald and leading point producer Cliff Ronning.

By the 2003-2004 season, the tables had turned and the Predators became buyers as they were in the playoff hunt for the first time. The Preds acquired Steve Sullivan and defensemen Brad Bombadir and Shane Hnidy who helped Predators make the playoffs.

After the lockout year in 2006, the Predators picked up two veteran players, Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt that helped take a young Predator team to the playoffs for the second season in a row.

The most uncharacteristic move in franchise history came in 2007 when David Poile traded Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and two draft picks to Philadelphia for future Hall of Famer, Peter Forsberg. The move was considered a failure as the Predators exited quickly in the first round and Forsberg did not return so the team was less four prospects and had nothing to show for their efforts.

Last year, as the Predators headed for their fourth straight playoff appearance, they returned to their conservative roots adding only Brandon Bochenski and Jan Hlavac giving up only one seventh round pick in return.

This year, before the Predators recent surge, they clearly looked to be on the selling end. At the all-star break, Predator players that were unsigned, unrestricted free agents for next year appeared to be prime candidates to be offered to teams needing a late season boost.

Included in that group are Radek Bonk, Vern Fiddler, Greg Zanon, Greg de Vris, and Villie Koistinen. Steve Sullivan and Scotty Nichol also fall within that category but would be unlikely candidates due to injury situations.

Currently, with the Predators moving up in the standings, it is no longer a certainty that they will be sellers. Their biggest need is obviously a scoring forward as they are currently 29th in the league in goals per game. Steve Sullivan's return has provided some additional scoring opportunities but they still need another sniper if they plan to compete through the end of the season.

In addition to the list of potential free agents, the Predators have an abundance of draft picks in next summer's draft that they can use to trade for a needed scorer. They have five picks in the first three rounds that would be attractive to a team building for the future.

How the Predators play on the ice over the next few weeks will weigh heavily in providing the answer to the original question as to whether the Predators will be buyers or sellers prior to this year's trade deadline of March fourth. An overriding factor will be that the Predators have a tight budget and will not commit limited resources that will affect their long term strategy to build from within the organization.

Either way I expect to see movement from the current roster that will either strengthen the team for this year or for the future. Any move will be a conservative one and will do nothing to mortgage the future of a team that is loaded with prospects and has a bright future with the current core group that has been signed for the long term.

The Predators return home to the Sommet Center Tuesday at 7 p.m. to play their division rival, the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of a four game home stand that also includes visits by St. Louis, Boston and Ottawa.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Predators Go Quietly In Dallas

The Nashville Predators, riding the crest of a four game winning streak, ran into another hot team in Dallas on Sunday and fell 4-1 to the Stars. The Predators were outplayed by the Stars on both ends of the ice and did not play as sharply as they have in the last few games.

The Predators got off to a shaky start when they allowed a short-handed goal by Brian Sutherby at 5:07 in the opening period. The odd man situation originated when Mike Modano caught Steve Sullivan in the face with his stick resulting in a four minute penalty. The Preds were unable to convert on their end of the power play.

Dallas scored again at 15:32 in the first when a shot by James Neal slipped though Dan Ellis's five-hole leaving it unprotected in the blue ice. Mark Parrish jumped on the unprotected puck and swept it in for an easy goal. This was a prime example of the type of second chance goals that have given Dan Ellis fits and have led to his losing the number one goalie slot this year.

The Predators made a comeback in the second period with a goal by Jason Arnott at the 14:04 mark. It was a beautiful play where Ryan Jones passed to J P Dumont who sent it to Arnott who buried the puck in the net behind Dallas goalie Marty Turco. The goal extended Arnott's goal streak to four games.

The Predators started the third period a man down due to a four minute high sticking penalty given to Steve Sullivan at the buzzer in the second. The Preds situation deteriorated quickly when Dan Ellis flipped the puck over the glass seven seconds into the period resulting in a five on three advantage for Dallas.

At 1:42 Brad Richards took advantage of a breakdown in the Predator defense and scored the power play goal putting the Stars up 3-1 signaling the end to any further Predator comeback hopes. The goal was the tenth goal given up by the Predators in five on three situations which is the league high.

The final nail in the coffin was an empty net goal by Steve Ott with a minute and a half left in the contest.

The Predators actually out shot the Stars 26-22 and had another 15 shots blocked and missed another 14 shots. The Preds first line accounted for half of the teams shots including six by Arnott and five by Steve Sullivan.

Dan Ellis earned his seat back on the pine with his play tonight. I can't help believing that had Pekka Rinne been in net, we could have seen a different result. As tight as the race in the Western Conference is, it may be time to revisit the Predators “rule” where a goalie getting a shutout starts the following game.

With the loss, combined with the win on Friday versus the Wild, the Predators did what was needed in the long run on by playing .500 on the trip. The Predators are in good position to make a move in the standings as 10 of their next 12 games are on home ice.

The Predators return home to the Sommet Center Tuesday night to play their division rival, the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of a four game home stand that also includes visits by St. Louis, Boston and Ottawa.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Surging Predators Put Streak on the Line in Dallas

The Nashville Predators, who are currently riding a four game win streak, travel to Dallas for a 5:00 PM showdown with the Stars, Sunday afternoon. Dallas is one of the NHL’s hottest team and have not lost in regulation at home in over six weeks. This is the final meeting of the year between the two teams as the Preds have taken 2 of the 3 previous games.

The Star’s season got off to a rocky start that came to a head on December 2 with the suspension of malcontent Sean Avery after comments he made about a Calgary player led to a firestorm of controversy. The evidence that Avery was creating a morale issue in the locker room is borne out in the Star’s 17-7-3 record since he left the team compared to 8-12-4 with him in the lineup.

Dallas had been picked by many pundits to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference and are finally living up to that billing. They are currently in fifth place with 57 points and appear to have righted their ship.

Having won 5 of 6 since the all-star break, the Predators are playing their best hockey of the year. Dan Ellis, who lost the starting job in goal to Pekka Rinne, shut out the Wild on Friday night in Minnesota, in the second game of back to back nights.

It was Ellis’s first game in three weeks and placed coach Barry Trotz in a predicament as to who to start against Dallas. The Predator tradition is for a goalie to be rewarded for a shutout with a start in the following game. Rinne has played so well over the last few weeks that it will be a difficult choice for Trotz as to go with the tradition or to return with the hottest goalie in the league.

With the recent surge, the Predators have moved up to tenth place are only two points out of the last playoff position in the tightly bunched Western Conference. Going into Saturday night’s games, only six points separated the ten teams between fifth and fourteenth place.

The Predator’s streak has been led by Captain Jason Arnott, who has scored goals in the last three games. Steve Sullivan, who is eleven games into his comeback after two years off due to injury, is looking more comfortable on the ice and is contributing more each game.

This short two game weekend road trip has been a special time for the Predator players as it is the annual “dad’s weekend”. The players fathers travel with the team and get to experience life of the road with their sons.

After the game against Dallas, the Predators return home to the Sommet Center for a four game home stand that starts Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald

Friday, February 6, 2009

Predators Shut Down Wild

The players that the Nashville Predators were planning on being the big guns before the season came up big in the Predators 2-0 shutout of the Wild Friday night in Minnesota. Dan Ellis, Jason Arnott and David Legwand provided the keys to the Preds fourth win in a row, the longest win streak in almost two years.

Dan Ellis, making his first start in over three weeks shut down the Wild offense stopping all 22 shots. Ellis was strongest near the end of the game when he stopped several point blank shots including one off the stick of Cal Clutterbuck with four minutes left where Ellis guessed right in a 2 on 1 situation. It was Ellis’s third shutout of the season bringing the team total to seven, which is tied for the league lead.

Ellis was slated to be the number one goalie this year but recently lost that title to Pekka Rinne who has started the last six games. Had it not been for a grueling February schedule Eliis would have been back on the pine against the Wild.

Team Captain, Jason Arnott, scored the game-winning goal at 12:15 in the second period taking a pass from J P Dumont from behind the net and burying it behind Wild Goalie Niklas Backstrom. That was all the Preds needed for the win. Arnott now has four goals in the six games since the all-star break including goals in the last three contests.

David Legwand provided an insurance goal for the Predators one minute into the third on a shot set up by Antti Philstrom. Minnesota looked like a team desperate for goals from that point forward.

The Predators defense picked up where it left off Thursday against the Ducks, playing a trapping, hard skating style that got in the way of any offensive efforts that the Wild attempted to generate. The Preds held the Wild to just four shots in the first period and six in the second before the Wild were able to fire 12 shots in the final stanza.

As we have seen in the prior two games, both played without Jordan Tootoo and Wade Belak, the opponent was very chippy, trying to play a physical game that the Predators couldn’t match. The Preds held their own with Shea Weber leading the team with five hits including a couple of big blows seconds apart midway through the game to show that the Predators wouldn’t go quietly.

A key point in the game was when the Preds incurred penalties 24 seconds apart at the mid point of the second period presenting the Wild with 1:36 of a five on three advantage. The Preds penalty kill unit, ranked sixth in the NHL overall, has had problems in two man advantage situations having given up nine goals, ranking in a tie for last in the league. Tonight they were able to hold firm and keep the puck out of the net allowing only four shots in four PK situations.

The win gave the Predators 53 points and for the moment, moved them within two points of the last playoff position.

The Predators continue on the short road trip traveling to Dallas to face the surging Dallas Stars on Sunday in a 5:00 start time before returning home to face the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night.

This continues to be the “fathers weekend” trip where the player’s dads travel with the team. FS Tennessee did a really nice interview piece with the players and their dads giving their recollections of each player’s first NHL game. Hopefully, the dads will continue to bring the team good luck in Dallas on Sunday.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Predators Roll over Ducks (full article)

Pekka Rinne and Ryan Jones Postgame

Barry Trotz Postgame Comments

The Nashville Predators continued their rejuvenated play with a 4-2 victory of the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night at the Sommet Center. The Predators clearly out skated the tougher, more talented Anaheim squad at both ends of the ice, frustrating the Ducks especially in the third Period when they were held to only six shots as the hustling Predator defense seemed to be in the way every time they tried to make a play.

The Predators scored first on a goal by Ryan Jones and never trailed. The Preds other goals were added by Jason Arnott and Marty Erat, and completed with an empty netter by Vern Fiddler near the end of the contest. Anaheim's only goals were provided by winger Corey Perry.

Rookie Ryan Jones had his best game since his recall from Milwaukee, scoring a goal, firing three shots and playing a complete game with a lot of jump. After the game Jones said, “when I got the recall I told myself that I would do anything and everything to stay here.” He also indicated that he was less focused on “not making mistakes” than he was earlier in the season.

After his “unofficial” promotion to the number one goalie slot, Pekka Rinne continued his stellar play in net stopping 28 of 30 Anaheim shots.

The game stared with both teams skating hard with nonstop up and down the ice action. The Predators opened the scoring at the 11:19 mark in the first period on a goal by Ryan Jones that actually caromed off an Anaheim player at an odd angle to end up in the goal behind goalie J S Giguere.

The goal seemed to spark the Predators who had been out skating the Ducks up to that point. The Ducks responded at 18:16 on a goal by Corey Perry. Each side finished the period with eleven shots.

The Predators started the second period with a quick rebound goal at the 1:08 mark by Captain Jason Arnott. The Ducks were visibly frustrated which led to a roughing call against Steve Montador a minute later. The Preds were unable to take advantage of the man advantage.

The Preds extended their lead at 11:22 in the second on a rebound goal by Marty Erat. Immediately after the goal, Anaheim's Ryan Carter paired off in a bout with Preds D-man Kevin Klein and bit off more than he could chew as Klein had to be stopped by the officials. After the game Barry Trotz said “When the Ducks go two down you pretty much expect something like that.”

The Ducks came back to close the gap to 3-2 with Corey Perry's second marker at 18:54, seconds after the Preds had killed off a Dan Hamhuis holding penalty. The Ducks out shot the Preds 13-11 during the second stanza.

Anaheim's first shot of the third period at the 1:19 mark was the save of the game by Pekka Rinne. He stopped a point blank wrister by Bobby Ryan as Ryan Jones was knocked into the net. The Ducks were clearly frustrated by the tenacious Predator defense through the middle of the period. Giguere kept the game close at the three-minute mark on a point blank save.

The Ducks frustration rose to a crescendo when Ryan Getzlaf was called for high sticking with 2:45 remaining in the contest. Play returned to even strength with 1:48 left when Jason Arnott was called for holding. Anaheim then pulled their goalie that led to a Vern Fiddler empty net goal with 1:11 left in the game capping the Predators third straight victory.

Surprisingly, the game was relatively penalty free, with only three per side.. The Predators knew they would face a chippy team that would try to take advantage of the absence of Jordan Tootoo (hand) and Wade Belak (shoulder). Other than the Klein-Carter match there was little evidence that the traditionally heavily penalized Ducks were able to play their usual style of game against the Predators.

Both teams came into the game having won three of four since the all-star break. The win gave the Preds 51 points bringing them within 4 points of the final playoff position in the tightly bunched Western Conference, where four points separates sixth and fourteenth place.

The Predators left immediately after Thursday’s game and headed to Minnesota where they play the Wild Friday night at 7:00 PM. Dan Ellis is expected to start in goal against the Wild. The Preds will continue to be without Tootoo and Belak against a team that has roughed up the Preds in the past.

The Predators then travel to Dallas for a game Sunday against the surging Stars before returning home Tuesday night for a game against the rival Detroit Red Wings for the first game in a four game home stand.

The weekend trip is a special one for Predator players as this is the annual "Father's Weekend" trip where the players’ fathers travel with the team and get to experience life on the road with their sons.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass