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Who Knew We Were Invited…

October 16, 2008

Who knew the Preds were invited to a coming out party last night? I didn’t…but that is exactly what happened. The Preds, and the rest of the NHL, got a look at the force that is Fabian Brunnstrom. The 23 year old Swedish talent became the third player in NHL history to net a hat trick in his first game and in the process has everyone wondering just how good this guy will be.

In the midst of all this last night I couldn’t help but notice that Fabian (as hard as it will be, I won’t ever make fun of that name again!) shares a number with another pretty good Swedish player Tomas Holmstrom…number 96. How good is this guy? Well he plays a pretty physical game, isn’t afraid to park in front of the net and showed some good speed and nifty puck handling last night. I think he is gonna be okay.

Our Own Party Was Overshadowed:
In the midst of an incredible night from Fabian (I’m not going to make fun of the name but he doesn’t sound so intimidating when you use his first name) two young Predators also made their marks on the NHL. Young Ryan Jones and Patric Hornqvist both scored their first career goals last night. A great sign for Pred fans as we will need production from both of these guys if we want to make it back to the post season again.

What I Liked:

Obviously I liked that we got production from Jones and Hornqvist but I really loved Jones goal. It wasn’t pretty but it was made because he was positioning himself right in the crease looking for a loose puck to pounce on. He did and it went in. We need those dirty Espisito junk type goals this year more than ever.

Coming back: After two backbreaking goals seperated by mere seconds (the first with 9 seconds in the first and the second just 29 seconds into the second) the Preds could have packed it in but they didn’t. They kept going and began to chip away at the Stars. Tieing it up a 2-2, then again at 3-3 and again at 4-4. They didn’t quit.

I am really liking Joel Ward. He is playing with energy and seems to be playing every shift with purpose and intensity. Wish I could say that for every Pred.

What I didn’t like:

David Legwand. Listen…I know that there is an ongoing love hate thing with Leggy. Pred fans fall on either side. They either love him or hate him. Me, to be honest, tend to give him the benefit of the doubt more often than not but last night was unacceptable. I don’t know if I heard his name called three times by Pete and Terry. He was invisible. He was someone I called out in yesterdays post and he did not show up.

Shea Weber seemed to be like a new accessory in the penalty box last night. There are good and bad penalties. there are times to take a penalty. I don’t think any of his were good and none were the right time. He is too valuable a player to be sitting down three different times in the box. Play more disciplined Shea. (I know you read this!)

Overall: It was a heartbreaker. I felt the Preds had the momentum so many times last night but could not finish the Stars off. Maybe it was just young Fabio’s (okay…I lied…maybe I will make fun of him but he is one heck of a hockey player!) night or maybe this is just going to be the way it is this year.

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Seeing Stars Tonight…

October 15, 2008

The Preds (2-1) ride a modest two game win streak into Dallas (0-1-1) to face a hungry Stars team. Sound familiar? Sound like an opening line to the blog about the game at Chicago on Monday? The only difference is that Dallas has already had their home opener…but this team is no less hungry.

With an OT loss to open the season at home and then a road loss in Nashville the Stars are left scratching their heads and wondering what they need to do different to win a game. This Stars team is talented but will rely more on Turco than ever before as the team in front of him tries to find their identity.

The Stars and Preds played a VERY physical game on Saturday and I expect tonight to be the same. The Stars have not played another game since Saturday and you can bet that they have spent quite a bit of time thinking of having another shot at the Preds. You can bet that Jordin Tootoo will be a marked man tonight and it will be interesting to watch Avery and Hamhuis tonight. Will Avery try to go after him again after seeing Hamhuis tell the media what Avery did to start the fight.

I have to wonder if Dallas management wonders what they did when they let Dan Ellis leave their system. Ellis always plays strong but you have to think that he plays with a little harder against the team that gave up on him. Ellis might be bitter against his old team but he does owe his style to the time he spent in their system.
tonight.

We need some guys to step up over the next couple games to take the place of Arnott who is out with a fractured finger. The obvious choice would be Legwand but it might be nice to see someone like Peverly show up in a big way (I thought he played a good game the other night in Chicago).

Should be a good one tonight! Why did I even say that? Aren’t they all good?

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Jason Arnott Injury Update…

October 14, 2008

Arnott Update: The Predators are reporting that Jason Arnott has fractured one of the fingers on his right hand. He is expected to miss at least the next three games.

Preds did not release which finger it was…odd…does it matter?

Not good news for the Preds but it could have been worse. Let’s hope that the time line of three games is true.

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Gutsy

October 14, 2008

With a sold out United Center and a hungry team looking for it’s first win of the young season the Predators responded with a gutsy performance and a shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks last night.

The early schedule is brutal to the Preds. Having to play three different teams for their home openers is tough. Teams are up and pumped for those nights and typically they respond with an intense effort. In Chicago last night it was no different. the Hawks came out flying and jumped out to and early. Even though there were times that the Preds seemed to be chasing their tails they never really lost composure last night and kept plugging along.

Things I loved:


Physical Play
– The Preds were hitting hard. Saw many hits from Hamhuis last night that looked really good. I love when he plays his game and keeps it physical. Saw Toots line up a few guys…I love how his game has matured. I can remember his first year where he would see someone across the ice and take off charging after them…sometimes he would hit him and other times he would crash the boards. It was pretty comical. Toots plays a much more controlled game.

Defensive Play – overall the boys looked good in our end. Minus a couple breakdowns they kept Chicago’s big guns in check. Don’t know about you but every time Havlat, Sharp or Toews touched the puck I just held my breath…they are so fast and so talented but our guys kept position and shut them down pretty good.

Suter and Weber – Wow. These guys look pretty special on the PP together. They are developing quite a chemistry and could quickly develop into one of the top defesive PP pairings in the league.

What I didn’t Like:

Arnott Leaving – Didn’t like seeing Arnott leaving with an injury. It doesn’t sound too serious but you never know. If there is one thing teams are famous for it’s not telling the truth with injuries…let’s hope it’s nothing serious and we have Jason back for the next game.

Other than that there was really not much from last night that I didn’t like. A few defensive breakdowns…some ill timed penalties…nothing huge last night. This is not me being a rose colored glass guy either…what I saw last night was a solid team effort. Our boys matched their enthusiasm and got a well earned two points. While you hate to give a point to a team that you will be competing with for a playoff spot I don’t think of it that way…I think of it as taking a point from them.

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State Of The Preds…Offense/08-09 Predictions

October 10, 2008

So far I have touched on the defense (I think we are good), goaltending (bold prediction…I think we are great) and now comes the offense.

I have saved the most difficult for last. Let me say up front that offensively I think we are going to have problems. I am not blaming all this on Radulov’s journey back to play for the Russian mafia but we will miss his 26 goals for sure. I am also not blaming this on the growing prospect that we will never see Steve Sullivan in a Preds uniform, or any uniform for that matter, again. We made it through without him last year so I can’t blame him.

The fact is that the Preds did nothing to bring in a goal producer. Before you go shooting at me I understand that these type of players don’t grow on trees…they are tough to find. I know that but we did nothing. Yes Joel Ward is a great story. The emergence of some of our young prospects (Rich Peverley, Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Jones) is exciting but is it the answer?

Who Needs To Step Up:
Jason Arnott – We need him to be solid, strong and to not afraid to park his big body in front of the net.

JP Dumont – If the Preds are going to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year I think that JP will have to have a career year. We will need him to produce like never before!

Jordin Tootoo – It is time for his game to go to the next level. I have been a huge supporter of his and continue to be but it is time for him to show up on the offensive side. 15-20 goals is you don’t mind Jordin. [:)]

The Young Guns – Rich Peverley, Patric Hornqvist, and Ryan Jones need to show us why they made the roster out of camp. You need not look further than Chicago last year to see the impact that talented young players can have. The Emergence of two of these guys will give us a huge boost.

Overall Prediction: As much as I want to say that the Preds will make the playoffs again I just don’t think we will see it this year. Too many other teams got stronger while the Preds seemed to have taken a step back. Until we see someone replace Radulov’s output and someone else step up we are destined to finish somewhere between 9-11 in the west.

Please let me be wrong…Please!

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State Of The Preds…Goaltending

October 8, 2008

I go into this season with a bit of a deja vu feeling. No…not the club next to the interstate with all the neon lights on the outside and poles on the inside but that uncomfortable feeling that I may see a repeat of something I have seen in the past. Is seems like only a year ago…wait…it was exactly a year ago…that the Preds were heading into the season with a new starting goaltender by the name of Chris Mason. This guy had played so well in relief of then starter Tomas Vokoun that the Preds traded TV away leaving Mason to be ‘the man.’ Many, including yours truly, thought we would be just as good with Mason as we were with Vokoun. Wow…how wrong we were.

This year seems a similar situation. A back up goalie that made a name for himself last year is anointed as the starter in Nashville. He was outstanding for us last year and the Preds climbed aboard his shoulders many times on route to victory. The question I have as I look at our goalie situation for this season is, ‘can Ellis be the number one guy all year?’

My answer is yes. I truly believe that the Preds have found a diamond in the rough. A goalie who was victim to being in a system (Dallas) that was deep in goaltending. Ellis was the odd man out and the Preds were able to bring him to camp to compete for a roster spot. Little did the Preds even know what they had…but they would soon find out. When Mason went mental the Preds turned to Ellis who, single handedly, saved the Preds season with his outstanding play. Splitting time for most of the year it was obvious to Pred fans that Ellis was the stronger of the two and he eventually won out toward the end of the year and going into the playoffs. While I am guarded in my optimism I really believe that Ellis is going to become a top five goalie this year.

His numbers last year prove that he is legit:
GAA – 2.36
Save % – .923
SO – 6

I am not, however, convinced yet that Pekka Rinne is our goalie of the future and truth be told I hope we don’t have to find out this year. I hope I only see him about once every 12-15 games or so to spell Dan for a game. Pekka has yet to impress me but the same could have been said of Vokoun or Ellis before they were given chances to step up.

Whatever the case, whoever is in-between the pipes will have to win some games. We will not be putting up many goals this year and it will be our defense and goaltending that will keep us in games. Ellis can play that role for us and like last year, he is going to have some spells where he is out of sight and will be player of the week in the NHL…just as he was last year.

Predator fans the state of our goaltending is great. (that was me going out on a ledge making a bold prediction…all the eggs in the Dan Ellis basket…here goes nothing!)

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Immigration Issues…State Of The Preds

October 7, 2008

Well…after a short stint as a vodka vendor in Russia and getting caught up in a immigration for what seemed like a life time I am back. Now that I’m back the question I’m asking myself is, what is the state of the Preds?

My fellow Pred fans I am here to tell you that the state of the Predators is good. Not great…good.

Over the next few of days I will be breaking down the Preds and giving you a preview of what I see for the coming year.

Let’s start with the positive stuff -

Defense: I think people will be hard pressed to find a better group of young, dynamic d-men on one team. With Shea Weber and Ryan Suter both wrapped up until 2011 and 2012 respectively the Preds have some stability on the blueline. When I think of championship teams they are all marked by great play from the point and these guys give that to us. Both these guys are so good and so young and I am confident we have yet to see the best from them.

Both of these youngsters have much to prove but I think it’s Shea Weber who, perhaps, feels it more than Ryan. He has been talked about in the same breath as Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf and wants to break out of the shadows to being not only a team leader but a top D-man in the NHL.

Suter has played his entire life trying to live up to the name on the back of his sweater. Last year he went a long way towards doing that. His solid, dritty play during the playoffs last year changed my opinion of him. I think I used to think of him as begin too soft but we saw some fire from Suter. This year we will see more. I don’t think we will see an offensive explosion from him but solid play.

There is more to our D than these two young stars. Veterans Greg De Vries and Greg Zanon provide some stability for the defesive corps. I, like many Pred fans, would not mind seeing De Vries leave via trade (I think it might be possible that he could before the year is out…regardless of the Preds position) and think that trial by fire for some of our younger defensemen might not be a bad idea. Zanon doesn’t dazzle you with finesse but he is a picture of team and sacrifice. He knows his role and throws his body out all the time for the sake of the team. He is a bargain!

We have seen flashes of brilliance from Kevin Klein and Ville Koistinen but they need some more ice time for us to get a clear idea of what we can expect from them each night. They both have offensive gifting and this year we may need that creativity more than their defensive play. I’ll never forget Klien taking the puck in his first game and going coast to coast to put a great shot on net.

Last but not least is Dan Hamhuis. When I think of Dan I think of one word and that is solid. He has a great all around game and continues to play whatever role is asked of him. Whether on the PK, PP or 5 on 5 Dan has the game to fit. He is a physical presence out there who does a good job of getting under the skin of the opponent. I just love watching him when he is out there.

Overall the Preds D is in very good shape. There will be a few games this year that they alone win it for us. Not only by playing solid D but by chipping in a goal or two in those 2-1, 1-0 games that we may see more of this year. With our offense struggling this year our D may be more important than ever.

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