Category Archives: Nashville Predators

Pure playoff team? Predators-Ducks (Round 3) recap.

Preds win!

You’ve heard of chokers, I assume. Players and coaches who deliver except when it matters most. Right or wrong, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Big 10 football, Barry Bonds, Kari Lehtonen, and Alex Ovechkin all have the choke label. Of course, “choke” is one of those strong words that get overused. After all, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Steph Curry, John Elway, and Sidney Crosby were called chokers at some point even though that was obvious bullshit! But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t players and coaches who do choke. Take the Washington Capi… come to think of it, no Washington team has gotten past the second round in forever! And they call Atlanta a cursed sports town…

But what about the opposite breed? The teams that don’t play well except when the lights are on. Take the 9-7 football Giants team several years with a bottom ten-ranked defense that went all the way. A year later, a Ravens team that lost four out of five leading into the playoffs proceeded to win it all! When it counted, they delivered.

Same deal with my Nashville Predators. Whatever happens next week, this is a magical season! You can see it in the home crowds of the playoffs. Yes, we’re assholes to the opposing goalies, but we’re energized in part because of something great happening in Smashville! Even with a 41-41 record and no starting home ice, I still thought we had a shot at overcoming Chicago in Round 1 simply because it’s a rivalry in which the games are usually close. But advancing all the way to the Finals? No way! But maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. We had the same record last season but came a game away from Round 3.

Of course, Pekka Rinne making saves like this makes all the difference.

 

What’s happened is that when the season was on the line, everybody delivered. Pekka Rinne has been playing at a super-elite level, stopping every shot he had to! P.K. Subban has become the amazing piece everybody thought we had traded for last offseason. Roman Josi has only continued to improve.

Even our forwards, the weakest link to our team in spite of their speed, come to play. With John Gibson stepping up his game probably because he knew his fellow Ducks wouldn’t be able to score at will on us like they had on Columbus and Edmonton, we turned it up put the puck in the net some more. I thought we might be done when Ryan Johansen got hurt, but we weathered that quite nicely.

Love the celebrating P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg or not, you have to admit that they’re fitting teammates.

Some say that Preds-Ducks is a real rivalry because we’ve met in the playoffs three times in a decade. I don’t know, seeing as how we won every single time. Kinda one-sided. Then again, the Nashville fans on social media that I see seem to hate the Ducks for how dirty they often play, even mocking the fact that the Ducks are based on those Mighty Ducks Disney movies of a generation ago. Mutual fan interest counts.

So now we’re in the Finals. I hope to see us win the Stanley Cup. I went through two heartbreaks at the finish line with Alabama football and the Falcons. A third in a matter of months would really suck. Welcome to Smashville!

Duck season begins. Predators-Ducks (Round 3) preview.

Vs.

This is one of a few recurring playoff matchups for Nashville in our short history. But the clashes with the Ducks have been different from those with the Red Wings, Blackhawks, and Sharks because we’ve never lost a series to this team. One of those two victories over them wasn’t even the classic Game 7 loss the Ducks used to keep having.

From last year’s memematic

At any rate, despite how dirty the Ducks can play at times I do have some respect for them right now. If we proved unworthy of the media praise until the playoffs began, the Ducks were better than anyone would have imagined. firing Bruce Beaudreau and going back to the guy they had before Bruce seems lampoon-able, but they are in the Western Conference Finals.

It’s not said in hockey news as much as the Caps’ latest inability to get past even a severely beat-up Penguins team or whether the Pens can still do it all with those injuries, but the whisper about how Pekka Rinne is playing out of this world can be heard. As someone who has actually been watching the games, he really has been playing as well as the .951 save percentage he’s put up in the playoffs so far. Defensemen like Roman Josi and P.K. Subban remain as good as ever, blocking many shots, creating turnovers, and even scoring on their own. This is the Preds team as it was hyped up to be after the trade for Subban, not the .500 team that we actually got in the regular season.

By the way, Montreal was eliminated in Round 1. Anyone still think they won the trade?

The Ducks’ path to a deep playoff run has been quite a bit different. John Gibson has been playing badly as their goalie. Don’t let last night’s Game 7 vs. Edmonton fool you. The Ducks are not very good on defense. They do, however, score lots and lots of goals with a firing squad spearheaded by Ryan Getzlaf and Rickard Rakell. Thus, we have classic offense vs. defense meeting.

I can’t have certainty here because I’m not a believer in the “defense wins championships” line of thought. I’d argue that this happens 55-62% of the time. Certainly not a definitive statement. recent examples of defensive powerhouses in other sports failing in the big one include the 2014 Seahawks, 2015-2016 Golden State, and 2012 49ers. So I don’t think “defense beats offense, Preds in 6” is the way to go.

That said, despite the different coach, the book on beating the Ducks remains the same: Keep the pace down and intercept the puck so their forwards can’t ball out, They will still probably struggle to come from behind if they have to because of our puck-hogging defensemen.

This needs to happen a lot.

Here’s hoping for a good series and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance for the Preds. Welcome to Smashville!

Uncharted territory. Predators-Blues (Round 2) recap.

Preds win!

My Nashville Predators are now officially the top dogs in Central this season. Take the records of the Wild, Blackhawks, Blues, and fire them out of a cannon! Because we made it the farthest in the playoffs. That’s what will be remembered more.

Particularly by us.

Which brings me to what this afternoon’s Game 6 means. With a 4-2 series win over the St. Louis Blues we have reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history! This is an official benchmark for our hockey team. At the very least, we are officially more accomplished than the Capitals when you factor in how short our history is. Although perhaps I shouldn’t have taken shot since they do seem to have shown signs of life in their last three games against the Pens (plus, cappin’ the Caps is an old hat at this point).

This series started kind of surprisingly. We split the opening two in St. Louis with both teams’ goalies, Pekka Rinne and Jake Allen, suddenly letting quite a few pucks into the net. Were they going cold?

No colder than the ice. Do you want to punch me for that pun?

No, this became a series of defensive standoffs after switching to Nashville. Both Rinne and Allen became walls in front of their nets. To say that points were at a premium would be like saying that a few people were surprised to see us sweep Chicago.

I suspected that Game 6 would decide the series because if we lost that, the Blues would have home ice and a 2-game streak on us in a “win or go home” finale. And with a 1-0 lead after the first period expired, we seemed to be headed for that situation. But Rinne stepped up. So did Allen, really. I didn’t like seeing all those breakaways and power play chances happen without goals being scored. Still, Peter Laviolette seemed to make adjustments that enabled us to capitalize on our speed to close out this series with a 3-1 single-game win over the Blues.

I’m now about to watch the Ducks and Oilers go at it! Our next opponents could be determined tonight. Welcome to Smashville!

A second wind for this rivalry? Predators-Blues (Round 2) preview.

I’ve never seen the St. Louis Blues as that much of a rival. This Predators fans’ main rivals come in the following order: Blackhawks, Stars, and Red Wings. But rivalries can be intensified by the playoffs.

Could this series create greater hostility between the Preds and Blues?

Both the Preds and Blues have eliminated the top two seeds in the Western Conference in short order. Now we face each other in the second round.

Defensively speaking, we should probably have the advantage. We allowed just three goals in four games against Chicago. The Blues’ defense is pretty good, but it hasn’t been as good as ours, especially in their last two games.

Offensively, though, our lack of depth is concerning. We’ve mostly been scoring with the top lineup. I don’t think we can hang around in shootouts.

The key is what it was against Chicago. Pekka Rinne has to be a wall again And we have to outpace the Blues’ big-ass defensemen so we can hold onto the puck. Keeping the puck is obviously the best way to stop the opposition from scoring.

Like so.

The players and coach Laviolette have said that they expect this series to be harder. I wouldn’t doubt it. It’s not always going to be a sweep. Not in the playoffs.

Obviously, this is a big series for both teams. Both are on the surprisingly long list of teams that have never won a Stanley Cup. Making it to the third round is an important step to this goal. But only one team can do that. That is why a real hockey rivalry may be about to emerge.

Hope our guys are on this side of the series and rivalry.

Thanks to the NBA and NHL playoffs and release of the NFL schedule, I’ve had to blog frequently. So much so that I skipped my usual weekend review of a movie or video game. But this sure isn’t dull. I’m having a good time watching my basketball and hockey teams in the playoffs and writing about them here at Gimili’s Palace. I sincerely hope that they keep me busy. Welcome to Smashville!

SWEEEEEEP!!! Predators-Blackhawks (Round 1) recap.

Preds sweep ‘Hawks!

Well, that’s an unexpected pleasure!

Favored to win the Stanley Cup once again, It goes without saying that the Chicago Blackhawks were expected to win this series with the Nashville Predators. So what actually happened? We proceeded to win all four games, two of which were blowouts! Whoa!

Me? These games are often close so I thought we had a chance. But I knew that we had to win one of the first two games in Chicago. Sure enough, we did that in game 1 with a shutout of the Blackhawks. We then followed that up by crushing Chicago 5-0!

There sure was.

At that point, we seemed favored to win the series. Then Chicago took a 2-0 lead in game three. I’m like, “Oh, shit! If Chicago wins, we have a series!” And you can’t give a team like the ‘Hawks a chance to come back. So Chicago is starting to open the door. But then Filip Forsberg slams the door with two goals and gets the Nashville crowd (no Chicago invasion this time) to chant his name. And then rising star Kevin Fiala bolts the door shut in overtime. A 4-1 win in game 4 and that’s all she wrote!

So how did we do it? I’m happy to report that the late regular season surge we were on has continued. First of all, Pekka Rinne is playing out of his mind! His save rate so far in the playoffs is crazy! Three goals in four games! That’s one way to beat a #1 seed — stop them from scoring goals.

No explanation needed.

Despite his stats and the apparent opinion of the home crowd in game 4 (“Crawford! Crawford! Crawford… YOU SUCK!!!”) Corey Crawford did a good job himself. But Chicago was outpaced throughout this series, particularly by defensemen like P.K. Subban and Roman Josi. Even when we couldn’t get the puck, like we couldn’t in game 1, we were logjamming them and making it difficult for them to get a good shot. Throw in decent scoring and you understand how we got the sweep.

If the truth be told, we dominated that stat sheet in the 2015 series against Chicago as well. Even in the one stat that matters, both of the blowouts in that series favored us. We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. We did this time. And so we get the sweep and advance to the second round.

“I am Forsberg, destroyer of goalies!”

We’ve got a bit of rest as we wait for the Blues to (probably) close things out against Minnesota. That could make the difference in whether we make the third round or not, but for now, I’m going to enjoy this moment. Welcome to Smashville!

Start at the top and work down. Predators-Blackhawks (Round 1) preview.

The Nashville Predators are now in the playoffs. But it didn’t come as easy as most had figured. The acquisition of P.K. Subban was expected to boost us to a Central Division Championship and Stanley Cup contender-ship. Instead, we have the same record and pretty much the same strong defensive play and inconsistent offensive play as last season.

Funny thing is, we’re essentially starting at the top of the mountain. The Chicago Blackhawks are my most hated hockey team. Ever since we stopped being in the same division as Detroit, the ‘Hawks have been our top rivals. But though we may not like it, they are the kings of hockey with three Stanley Cups so far this decade. Wouldn’t surprise me if they make it four right now.

Not saying I would like that.

Who concerns me the most about the Blackhawks? Pretty much the whole team, but here’s the top dogs: near impenetrable goalie Corey Crawford, the swift Patrick Kane, and the general that is Joel Quenneville.

That said, am I scared of the Blackhawks? No! The players tell the press that they’re not scared. I believe them. We have never been afraid of the Blackhawks. We beat them our fair share of the time. We can win this series. The psychological boost of beating possibly the best team in the NHL would go a long way towards winning the Stanley Cup.

Meantime this rivalry is on!

Will we do it? Pekka Rinne and (and Juuse Saros, although he won’t be playing) has been tending our goal well lately. He’s allowed more than three goals just twice and less than two three times in his last ten games. Despite the phenomenal talent of Corey Crawford, that’s good enough to do the job on defense.

Trouble is, we haven’t been so good on offense. Sometimes we score a lot, sometimes there’s only a vertical line on the scoreboard. I hope guys like Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen can deliver here.

We have to step up in these situations.

So yeah, much respect to the run Chicago has put together, but they’re still rivals and in our way. Welcome to Smashville!

Nashville disappointments

nashvillepredatorsIf you try to list the number of NHL teams that have mostly made the playoffs as of late, there’ll be one you probably can’t remember. That would be my Nashville Predators. Why? Because our admittedly short history isn’t too rich. We’re not only on the short list of teams that have never won a Stanley Cup. We’re on the short list of teams that have never made it past the second round.

Never said I don't love my Predators!

Never said I don’t love my Predators!

I mean, it was one thing when our first five seasons were losers. It was a new team. What do you expect? Eventually, we got to the playoffs. Lost the first round 4-2 to the Detroit Red Wings. What’s worse is that the Red Wings were our archrivals before they left the Central Division. No matter, we’re trending up. Next year we’ll — how the hell did we only win one game against San Jose in the first round? With starting home ice? Why, we were well into the Obama administration by the time we won our first playoff series.

I actually thought we might go all the way last year when after being a midseason dumpster fire, we streaked our way past the first round over a very good Anaheim Ducks team. Looks like we’re showing up when it counts. Next? San Jose. And this series looks no different… until game 7, when we utterly crapped the bed to lose 5-0!

Always next year. And sure enough, we got a trade you’ll ordinarily make only in the video games. Arguably the best defenseman in the game, P.K. Subban, came to town. This made Nashville the trendy pick to win a loaded Central. And after that, who knows? Sure enough, a win over the dynasty and hated rivals that are the Chicago Blackhawks opens up the season. Subban even gets a goal even though he’s not first and foremost a offensive player. What a great time to be a Predators fan. Oh no, six of the next seven games are losses. Subban’s feeling discomfort in our unique formations (we are built more around defensemen than most teams). What’s worse is he got injured for an extended period. Mike Fisher not being as strong a leader on the ice as Shea Weber was before we traded him for Subban hasn’t helped either.

Hope we're not the reason he never wins a Stanley Cup.

Hope we’re not the reason he never wins a Stanley Cup.

Thankfully, we have somewhat rebounded and are in the playoff picture. Part of the reason is that a back in action Subban seems more like the guy we thought we were getting. We have been playing fairly good hockey in the year of 2017. Thing is, the hype we brought Subban to Nashville with means that anything less than a great playoff run will be a disappointment.

Having said that, we have been playing well enough (the two losses before yesterday notwithstanding) that it’s not impossible that we again get hot just in time for the playoffs. And if we make it to the third round of the postseason, nobody cares about how badly we played in the fall.

nashvilledisappointments3

Winning makes Pekka Rinne happy!

So I have hope… but not necessarily too much optimism. Welcome to Smashville!