Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Josi Scores Twice to Lead the Predators Over the Devils

The Nashville Predators embarked upon their first road trip of the season, traveling to New Jersey to take on the Devils at the Prudential Center.

Special teams were the difference for the Predators as Roman Josi scored on the power play and shorthanded on the penalty kill (a 6 on 4 empty netter).

Kyle Palmieri redirected an Andy Greene slap shot on the power play for the Devils lone goal at 18:20 of the third period to make it 2-1

Eric Nystrom added an empty net goal on the penalty kill for the Predators final goal at 19:08

Pekka Rinne picked up his third win of the season, having allowed only 2 goals in 3 games.

The Devils were without Cory Schneider in net, as his wife gave birth early this morning.

Keith Kincaid was in net for the Devils.

Some observations:

  • The great effort in the previous game by Gabriel Bourque earned him a promotion to the third line; Austin Watson got his first start of the season on the 4th line with Eric Nystrom and Paul Gaustad. The Aardvark- Viktor Arvidsson was the odd man out and scratched for tonight's game. While he didn't find the scoresheet, Bourque continues to play with hustle and drives the play when he is on the ice.
  • The Predators power play has shown some signs of life through the first three games of the season. Better puck and player movement have generated more quality scoring chances. Roman Josi's power play goal was a direct result of good puck movement and working to a quiet area for a quality shot.
  • Once again, the Predators had a flat stretch that saw them go 9:54 of the second period before they got their first shot on net. I understand it is early in the season and the team is still trying to gel and get chemistry right, but good teams are going to make the Predators pay for these kinds of droughts. The Predators mustered only 4 shots in the second period.
  • Give kudos to the defense, though. While the Predators struggled to get 4 shots on goal in the second, the Devils had only 6.
  • Coach Peter Laviolette put the lines in a blender tonight, and it showed. The Predators have some very good offensive talent but the chemistry is just not there with all the line juggling.
  • The Predators started 3-0 for only the second time in franchise history.
  • The Devils out shot the Predators 23-20.
  • Eric Nystrom is not going to be a prolific scorer for the Predators, but what he brings to the team is invaluable. he is a strong leader on and off the ice, and his grit and hustle are needed in the line up.
  • While he did not get a lot of work, Pekka Rinne had to make some good saves. He has been solid in net and the team has reverted back to the mode of falling back on the strong play of Rinne while nursing a 1 goal lead. I'm certain that Rinne would like to see more goal support, but fortunately he thrives under the workload and pressure.
  • Filip Forsberg picked up an assist, his second point in the last 2 games.
  • The Predators faced former teammate Jordin Tootoo, now a forward for the Devils. Good to see Tootoo find a home and settle in to the Devils line up. He played some quality minutes for the Devils and was very involved in the offensive zone. Tootoo, and his game, have matured in New Jersey.
Another ugly win, but you know what?

Wins are not graded on style points.

It will get tougher for the Predators on Thursday night as they face the explosive and talented New York Islanders in their new home at the Barclays Center.

It will be interesting to see if the Predators can elevate their game.

My three stars:

1. Roman Josi

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Eric Nystrom

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rinne, Predators Shut Out the Oilers

The Nashville Predators faced the Edmonton McDavids Oilers at the Bridgestone Arena and came away with a 2-0 victory in front of a sellout crowd. The Predators used goals by Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg and a stellar game by goaltender Pekka Rinne to secure the win.

Craig Smith opened the scoring on a 2 on 1 rush with Colin Wilson. Wilson was able to steal the puck and fed a nice saucer pass to Smith who roofed the puck over a sprawling Cam Talbot at 18:32 of the second period.

Forsberg was the beneficiary of a steal by Mike Ribeiro at the side of the Oilers net. Ribeiro found Forsberg streaking down the slot and he fired the puck under the crossbar for his first goal of the season and breathing room for the Predators.

The Oilers had what appeared to be the tying goal waved off. Ryan Nugent Hopkins got the puck past Rinne but after a lengthy review it was judged to have been kicked into the goal.

Some observations:

  • Rinne was outstanding tonight, making 31 saves and cleaning up some turnovers by the Predators defense and stopping some very good scoring chances by the Oilers. Rinne recorded his 37th career shutout (a Predators record) and tied Tomas Vokoun for most games played by a Predators netminder (383 games). 
  • Once again, the Predators faced an opponent that controlled the puck for lengthy stretches in the the defensive zone. Rinne made some good saves, but it is troubling to see the Predators get hemmed in their own zone so often. Give the Oilkers credit- they have some talented forwards and they put lots of pressure on the the defense and forced some turnovers that led to lots of possession time. The Predators had 9 giveaways, mostly in the defensive zone.
  • Colin Wilson had a very strong game. he drove possession, had some good scoring chances, and was instrumental in Smith getting the first goal of the game. Wilson drew the defense to him on the breakaway and got a nice pass to Smith in a shooting position. Wilson has been skating well and is creative with the puck on his stick and was the best skater on the ice for the Predators.
  • Craig Smith scored a beauty of a goal, putting the shot off the pass from Wilson just under the crossbar. Smith has two goals in the first two games of the season and has been a force on the ice. Good to see the Honey Badger get off to a strong start.
  • Great vision by Ribeiro on the pass to Forsberg and a superb finish by Filip. That is a goal scorer's goal and Forsberg made no mistake with his scoring chance.
  • Cam Talbot played an excellent game in net for the Oilers. If Talbot had some quality blue liners in front of him, his job would be a lot easier. Talbot kept the Oilers in the game and gave them a chance to win.
  • 17 years ago tonight was the first game in Predators history against the Florida Panthers.
  • Cody Hodgson was 78% in the faceoff circle. Mike Ribeiro was a miserable 21%.
  • The Predators out hit the Oilers 27-13.
  • Shea Weber led the team in TOI with 22:57.
  • The Oilers have scored 1 goal in their first two games of the season.
It's good to start the season 2-0. It's also apparent that this team is still a work in progress and has much to improve upon. Nevertheless, I would rather be 2-0 while working on those deficiencies than 0-2.

The Predators now go on the road for a three game swing in the Eastern Conference.

Time to keep working and build on the momentum of these first two games.

My three stars:

1. Pekka Rinne

2. Craig Smith

3. Filip Forsberg

Honorable mention: Colin Wilson

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Predators Use High Energy First Period to Defeat the Hurricanes

The Nashville Predators opened their season with a dominant first period highlighted by goals from Craig Smith and Viktor Arvidsson to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena.

Eric Staal scored the Canes lone goal at 18:20 of the third period when his shot toward the net caromed off the skate of Shea Weber and into the net.

Pekka Rinne was solid and made some good saves, stopping 25 of 26 shots. Cam Ward took the loss for the Hurricanes as he stopped 23 of 25 shots.

The Predators out skated and out worked the Hurricanes in the first period, dominating offensive zone time and shots, out shooting the visitors 14-5.

With the Predators on the power play, Craig Smith took a slap pass from Ryan Ellis and redirected the puck between the pads of Ward for a 1-0 lead.

Viktor Arvidsson went to the front of the net and deflected a shot from Seth Jones for his first NHL goal and a 2-0 Predators lead.

The Predators got some push back from the Canes in the second and third period as Carolina started to control the puck and pinned the Predators in the defensive zone for long stretches at a time. Rinne made some good saves to keep Carolina off the board until the deflected Stall shot late in the third period.

Some observations:

  • Viktor Arvidsson went to the hard area in front of the net to get the deflection and his first goal. I really liked the way Arvidsson played, and although a smaller player, did not shy away from contact, was strong on the wall, and showed a willingness to go to the front of the net. And how about that celebration after his goal? I loved the enthusiasm and exuberance.
  • Craig Smith played with his usual hustle and energy. He just looks more mature and confident on the ice. He scored the first goal tonight, and for you trivia fans, also scored the first goal of the season last year.
  • Seth Jones had a strong game, picking up 2 assists. Last season, Jones did not have a multi assist game all year. Jones made some good decisions with the puck and was positionally sound in the defensive zone.
  • What Barret Jackman brings to this team can be summarized in one play. A shot went to the net and Rinne was trying to cover the puck. Eric Staal was poking around for the puck when Jackman cleaned him out of the front of the net and pinned him to the ice. He was paired with Seth Jones and Jones seemed very comfortable with Jackman as his D partner. Jackman is not flashy, but he is solid and tough and takes care of the defensive end very well. He was a good pick up by David Poile in the off season.
  • Pekka Rinne is looking like his usual solid self. Good glove, great positioning, and amazing reflexes. He did a good job of thwarting the Canes when they were pressing in the last 40 minutes, and this team is going to need that kind of play from him this season.
  • I have to say that the eye test shows this team has lots of talent and speed. The eye test also reveals that this team cannot let off the gas, because good teams will make the Predators pay for not playing for a full 60 minutes. The Hurricanes out shot the Predators 21-11 over the final 40 minutes, a trend that cannot continue throughout the season.
  • The Predators are 4-1-1 in their last 6 home openers.
  • Shea Weber led the Predators in TOI with 23:07, showing no ill effects after off season surgery
  • Roman Josi led the team with 5 blocked shots.
The Predators showed flashes of how good they can be in this opener. There is lots of talent on this team. Now they need to put it together for 60 minutes.

My three stars:

1. Viktor Arvidsson

2. Pekka Rinne

3. Seth Jones

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Petey's Party and the Predators Foundation Kick Off Hockey Season in Style

The unofficial (or maybe it is official) kickoff to hockey season in  Smashville begins with the Petey's Preds Party at Bridgestone Arena. This fund raising event is a great night with Predators fans and players enjoying a lively evening of food, fun, and entertainment to benefit the Peterson for Parkinson's Foundation and the Nashville Predators Foundation.

Both organizations have an amazingly positive impact in our community. The Predators Foundation has contributed several hundred thousand dollars annually to worthy community organizations since the team has been in Smashville, and this is one of their premier fundraising events.

Peterson for Parkinson's Foundation is the brainchild of former Predators Coach Brent Peterson. Coach Peterson saw his NHL coaching career cut short after being diagnosed with Parkinson's. After undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery at Vanderbilt, Brent has obtained new mobility and a drive to raise funds to support research to find a cure for Parkinson's.

It is the energy and compassion of these two organizations that have resonated with Predator fans and supporters that have made them so successful in their fundraising efforts.

Here are some scenes from the event:


 A look at the stage before the evening started


The event was held over the ice at Bridgestone Arena


 Gnash made an appearance in a dance off. I called it a draw.




The event always has some spectacular silent auction items. Trips, date night packages, and numerous sports memorabilia items were available for bid. I am always impressed with the quality of the items that are offered at the auction.


Coach Brent Peterson speaks to the audience. Brent is an amazing man that has not let his disease slow him down


 America's Got Talent winner and Vegas headliner Terry Fator was the entertainment for the evening, and he did a fantastic job of entertaining the crowd with his amazing vocal talents.

The event raised over $200,000 on Monday evening. this is a tribute to the support of the Predators fans and the efforts of the Predators and the Peterson Foundation.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ponderings From the Predators Prospect Scrimmage

The Nashville Predators wrapped up their prospect camp with an intra-squad scrimmage at the Ford Ice Center. Here are some thoughts:

  • I have been to a number of these scrimmages and one of the things that stood out to me was the overall talent level of the kids on the ice. Now for sure, these guys aren't playing against NHL caliber players, but the talent level really was better than I recall at any of these events. The creativity and athleticism of these young Predator prospects bodes well for the future of this team.
  • With a split squad, there was a lot of ice time for every player. The structure of the game was more pond hockey than anything, but it gave the players an opportunity to showcase their skills and several stood out.
  • I really like the play of Yakov Trenin. The big center skates well and has great hockey sense. He was solid in all zones and distributed the puck well in the offensive zone. He also showed a good shot and is the kind of smooth skating big body that hopefully develop into a top flight NHL forward.
  • Dadgum, Viktor Arvidsson has some wheels. His speed was better than anyone else on the ice and he used it to create some good scoring chances.
  • Last year, Filip Forsberg played like a man on a mission to make the Predators opening day roster. Today, that energy and effort belonged to Kevin Fiala. Fiala skated hard and was all over the ice and showed a wickedly quick release on his shot. Fiala looks  stronger and possesses excellent vision on the ice and does a good job of finding the open areas of the ice.
  • Jonathan-Ismael Diaby is a man-child. At 6'5" and 246 lbs., he is an imposing physical force and, while there were no big open ice hits against his teammates, he did manage to staple a couple of opposing forwards to the boards. Diaby moved well, and if his skating ability continues to improve, he will not be long in the AHL.
  • The goaltenders all split a period of action. Juuse Saros played the first period for the blue squad and gave up 2 goals on 11 shots. Saros made some very good saves in his period of action and moved well in the crease. At 5'11", Saros is the smallest of the goalies that were in camp.
  • Jimmy Vesey looked bigger and stronger and played a solid game. Vesey has already declared that he is going to return to Harvard for the next season, but shows a lot of skill at the forward position. 
  • Lots of size among the prospects on the ice. It will be interesting to see these young men grow and develop over the next few years. The Predators will potentially have some big bodies to put on the ice.
  • Nick Saracino was not drafted but was an invited player to the prospect camp, and Saracino showed that he was not intimidated. He made some good moves in the offensive zone and scored a sweet goal.
Director of Player Development Scott Nichol has some good, raw talent to work with. Today was a good glimpse of their potential. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Predators Sign Ribeiro and Jackman, Add Depth in Free Agency

The Nashville Predators were active in free agency, re-signing Mike Ribeiro and adding some players to augment the roster.

Ribeiro signed for two years and $7 million, which brings back the Predators number one center and second leading scorer from last season. Ribeiro's off ice issues that occurred when he was with Phoenix have become very public, which more than likely limited his options on the free agent market. And the Predators needed his services. Since Ribeiro has been in Nashville, he has been a good citizen, so this was a good fit for both sides.

David Poile went to the bargain bin once again, signing Cody Hodgson to a one year, $1.05 million contract. Hodgson is 25 years old and struggled last season with the Buffalo Sabres, tallying 13 points (6G-7A) in 78 games. He is two seasons removed from his best campaign in which he had 44 points (20G-24A) in 72 games for the Sabres. It is hoped that Hodgson can revive his game under Head Coach Peter Laviolette and slot into a third line position. If he revive his career as Ribeiro did then the Predators will have hit a home run with this signing. The pressure is on Hodgson to prove that he can be consistently productive and this upcoming season is critical to his career continuing at the NHL level.

The Predators continued their bargain hunting by acquiring Max Reinhart from the Calgary Flames for a conditional 4th round draft pick in 2016. Reinhart has appeared in 23 NHL games and has scored 4 points (1G-3A). Reinhart was a third round pick of the Flames in 2010.

The Predators added a quality veteran to the blue line, signing Barrett Jackman to a 2 year, $4 million contract. Jackman played 803 games for the St. Louis Blues and served as an alternate captain for the Blues over the past 9 seasons. Jackman brings a gritty, physical element to the Predators D corps and will be a valuable presence for the Predators on the back end.

In the midst of these acquisitions, the Predators parted ways with goaltender Magnus Hellburg. He was shipped to the New York Rangers for a 6th round draft pick in the 2017 entry draft. The departure of Hellburg solidifies the position of Marek Mazanec in Milwaukee and opens the door for Juuse Saros, the talented Finnish draft pick to settle in at the AHL level.

The Predators adds are good for creating some competition at the center position, but the truth is that the Predators are desperate for elite pivots. The great teams in the NHL are strong down the middle. The Predators are not. They have some serviceable players, but it going to be imperative that the Predators develop their young talent at that position or acquire exceptional centers via trade. Fail to do that, and the Predators are going to continue to struggle to go deep in the playoffs against the best teams in the West.

The free agent crop was thin this year, but the Predators made a solid add with Jackman and added some depth and potential with Hodgson and Reinhart. More importantly, they didn't overpay for the players they brought in to the fold. Now it will be up to the coaching staff to bring out the best in Hodgson and Reinhart.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Predators Draft Fills Needs at Center

The Nashville Predators completed the 2015 Entry Draft by selecting 4 centers, 2 goalies, and 1 defenseman. The team is looking to stock the pipeline where they are the weakest, and that is at the center position.

Now the Predators have to develop these young players, especially at the center position, something that the team has been unable to do well throughout its history. The Predators 4 centers that were used in the past season all came to the organization via trade or free agency.

The talent at the pivot position in this draft is there. And the Predators have shown they can develop young talent at other positions that they have drafted into their system. They must now develop this talent and hope they mature quickly as the Predators are weak and thin at center.

Lets take a look at the players drafted:

Iakov Trenin 

Trenin is a 6'2', 194 lb. Russian that played for Benoit Groulx at Gatineau in the QMJHL. Trenin was ranked as the 36th best prospect by hockeypropsects.com; and the 48th best prospect by Future Considerations and the NHL Central Scouting service. That he fell to the Predators in the 55th pick (their first pick of the draft) of the second round was fortuitous. Trenin is considered a good two way player and rates high in his hockey sense. Trenin posted 18 goals and 49 assists in 58 games as a 17 year old in his first year in North America. His biggest weakness, according to scouts, is his skating, but it is believed that this can improve significantly.

Thomas Novak

The 85th pick in the draft, the third rounder has committed to the University of Minnesota. The 6' 179 lb. center is considered to be a highly skilled play maker that plays with good vision. Novak has a reputation as a play maker first and a scorer second. Herepresented Team USA in the World Junior A Challenge and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and played last season for Waterloo in the USHL. Novak is rated as an excellent skater and playmaker that plays an up tempo game.

Anthony Richard

Richard, a 5'10" 163 lb. center, played for Val d'or of the QMJHL and posted 91 points (43G-48A) in 66 games. Although smallish, Richard is not afraid to go to the hard areas and mix it up physically. Richard has been compared to the Boston Bruins Brad Marchand as a similar type of player. Richard is a very fast skater that uses his speed to attack a defense. Richard was selected in the 4th round with the 100th pick.

Alexandre Carrier

Carrier was a teammate with Trenin and was the captain of the Gatineau squad. The defenseman led the Olympiques blue liners in points with 55 (12G-43A) in 68 games and was third on the team in scoring. Carrier is 5'11" and 174 lbs, and the 19 year old is a good puck moving defender. He has a hard shot that gets through to the net. He is considered an all around defenseman that has good hockey sense and can create offense.

Karel Vejmelka

In the fifth round, the Predators selected the 6'2" 202 lb. goalie from Pardubice, Czech Republic. The 19 year old is currently signed for HC Dynamo Pardabuice. He is a big goalie that moves well and shows great agility in the crease. Hw qon a silver medal for the Czech under 18 team in the World Championships in 2014.

Tyler Moy

The 6' 195 lb center will return to Harvard for his junior season with the Crimson. This past year, Moy was voted by his teammates as the most improved player on the squad. A good two way player that uses his body well to protect the puck. He is just starting to come into his own as a hockey player and will need to continue to show the progress that he has shown in the past two seasons.

Evan Smith

The 6'7" 174 lb Smith is a clone of former Predators netminder Anders Lindback- big and lanky. He will need to grow into his frame, but he moves well and covers a lot of net with his size. He will play for Victoria in the Western Hockey League next season.

The Predators have drafted some players with lots of potential. The real test will be to see if these players can develop and realize that potential and make it to the big club.