Archive for January, 2008

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This Means Something

January 31, 2008

For years games between the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets have meant very little to either team. In the beginning of this division rivalry the games resembled more of a fairgrounds wrestling night than a hockey game. Both teams lacked talent but made up for it with gritty players who were not afraid to drop the gloves. The Preds took many of the early games thanks to goaltending and not talent up front…but times have changed.

Tonight the Preds find themselves looking up in the standings at the Blue Jackets. Columbus sits in 10th place with 56 points while the Preds sit in 11th with 55…both sitting just on the outside of that number eight spot looking in. Right now each and every point is critical and both teams know that.

Ken Hitchcock will have his team ready for tonight and I can expect the same from Trotzy. Even though the talent level has gone up on both of these teams from the eraly days the physical nature of the games has remained in tact. While we may not see several fights chances are someone will drop the gloves. The BJ’s shipped off Jody Shelly to San Jose this week leaving Jared Boll to be voted as ‘most likely to drop his gloves.’

The Preds should have David Legwand and Darcey Hordichuk available tonight. Hordi’s presence is always welcome against Columbus and Legwand will help get 2nd line back on track. I know some Pred fans want Leggy gone but the fact reamins that he has turned into one of the best defensive forwards in the game. Yes i would love to see that scoring touch that he displayed in his youth a bit more but he is a solid two way player for us and we are better when he plays.

Gametime 7pm with coverage on the 104.5 The Zone and FSN.

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Ready??? Break!

January 25, 2008

At the end of last nights game you could almost feel a collective sigh from the team. The All Star Break is here and the Preds can use a break. After playing four game in six nights (including the brutal trip to Denver) the team gets a much needed break. A time to recharge. Time to heal. Time to take a look in the mirror.

Last nights 4-3 OT loss was frustrating because the Preds, at least in the second and third periods, really outplayed the Coyotes. They were swarming and throwing pucks at the net but could not get that key fourth goal past Bryzgalov (who played great last night by the way. I mentioned this yesterday but last night confirmed it…The Yote’s got the steal of the year in claiming Brzgalov off waivers. It was a smart move to ink him to the three year deal once they did. This guys is a stud!).

Some things I liked about last nights game:

Our intensity in the second and third.

Radulovs feisty play all night (was voted 2nd star of the game by attending media)

Another solid effort by Chris Mason.

The Refs just letting them play…only 5 penalties called all night and I saw several that in other games would have been called but ticky-tac.

Finished Strong: The Preds pushed hard and really finished strong heading into the all start break. They picked up 7 of a possible 8 points against the team immediately around them in the playoff race and that was huge. Yes two points last night would have put them into a tie for 8th with the Av’s but I feel like this team has really turned it around.

Looking Like Buyers: The Preds are looking like buyers heading down the stretch. I think the ownership feels like they need to make a Forsberg like splash to help nudge ticket sales. If the Preds come out of the break as hot as they went in I look for a move to be made before the deadline.

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Who Would Have Thought?

January 24, 2008

I mean no offense here to the Coyotes or to their fans but I never thought that this pre All Star break game between the Preds and Yotes would be so meaningful to both teams.

Seriously…the Coyotes have been awful
. Last year, for instance, they finished last in the West and the only team with a worse record was the Flyers. Nobody thought that they would contend for a playoff spot but here they are. Gretzky has them playing well with a mix of solid veteran leadership and promising youth. Add to the mix waiver claim Ilya Bryzgalov (who is proving to everyone in the league including his former team that he deserves to be a number one) and they are a team that can beat anyone on any night.

The 07-08 Coyotes are led in scoring by Shane Doan with 46 points and have four players with 30+ points including rookie of the year candidate Peter Mueller. This kid is the real deal and is proving to be just what the doctor ordered for this team. Add in twenty year old Martin Hanzel who has posted 25 points so far this season and you have a dangerous team with a top notch goalie.

The Preds will have to continue their recent game plan which involves heavy forechecking and getting shots and traffic to the net. You will not beat Bryzgalov often with a shot from the point…if he sees it he stops it.

Who Starts?
Does Trotz give Ellis the start again following his terrific 39 save performance in Colorado or does Mason get the nod. My guess is that you have to go with the hot hand. Mason has really been playing well lately so either way I think we are in great shape.

Who Do You Love? With the playoff race so tight I thought I would post the schedule of games of interest for Pred fans and who we should root for. The Team that we should be a fan of is in BOLD. That means that I believe the Preds would benefit in the standing more if the result would come out that way. Let me know what you think.

Edmonton at Florida-do you ever root for an east team against a west team?
Columbus at Chicago – Don’t want to see OT for sure!
Buffalo at Dallas – C’mon Buffalo!
Minnesota at Colorado – Let’s go wild! No OT!
Nashville at Phoenix – Need I say anything?
Anaheim at Los Angeles – Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then!
St. Louis at San Jose– Boy! I hate to root for them!

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Performance Under Pressure

January 23, 2008

Knowing that the playoff push has started in earnest for them the Predators posted an impressive 4-0 road win over a team that they are chasing in the standings. Resembling the M.A.S.H 4077th more than the team that started the year the Predators played inspired hockey in their victory over the Av’s.

While Chris Mason’s recent play (4-1-1, 1.32, .948 in last 5 GPI) has diminished talk of a goalie controversy here in Nashville it was back up Dan Ellis (1-0-1, 0.96, .971 in last 2 GPI) who shined once again posting a shutout while stopping 39 shots. Nashville has been waiting all year for both goalies to be firing on all cylinders and both seemed to have hit their stride leading the Preds to a 6-2-2 record in their last ten and three wins in a row.

JP Dumont continues to play for a big contract next year as he extended his point streak with a gorgeous assist on Alexander Radulov’s third period goal. While JP might still prove to be trade bait were the Preds not be able to continue their run towards the post season he is playing arguably the best hockey of his career right now. Pred’s Captain Jason Arnott was vocal in the paper recently saying how much he wants the Preds to resign the UFA siting the great chemistry he has with the top line winger.

Martin Erat came back to life last night tallying two scores. I have been wondering where Erat’s game had gone recently. I thought he had appeared lost and wondered if his recent line assignments had made his game suffer. Erat, to me, always seems to play to the level of his line. Put him on the top line and he is creative as they come. Put him on the third line and he appears lost not knowing his role. Great to see him get back on the score sheet in impressive fashion last night.

A Couple Personal Notes: Some have been wondering what had happened to my blogs. I have a loyal readership both at Hockeybuzz.com and at http://www.predjoe.wordpress.com and I apologize for not writing lately. A week out of town for a wedding and then playing catch up at work and home has kept me away from the keyboard. I’m back.

I make my living in the radio business and our profession is a small world. One of our own, Rick Burgess (of the syndicated morning show Rick and Bubba), suffered a horrible tragedy this past weekend when his two year old son Bronner drown in their backyard pool. I listened this morning to their show and they played comments from Rick at the memorial service yesterday…it was the most compelling radio I have ever heard. Rick was, in this time of great pain and suffering, giving glory to God and calling believers to go out and be warriors for God. It was amazing. I am not sure if they will post an MP3 of this or not but you can check their web site http://www.rickandbubba.com/ if you are interested. Please pray for continued strength for the family.

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Solid Win

January 4, 2008

The Preds posted an impressive 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oliers who continue to find Nashville a tough place to play losing their fourth straight appearance here.

Getting two goals from Alexander Radulov, a goal and an assist from captain Jason Arnott, a short handed goal from Jared Smithson and JP Dumont added a powerplay goal in a game that the Preds seemed to control from the start. The Predators played a great first period (which has been typical of them this year actually) outshooting the Oilers 20-9 and leading 3-1. The Preds were flying around the ice last night during that first period throwing the body and shots at the net like their lives depended on it.

The recent play of Alexander Radulov (5 goals and 2 assists in his last five games) has to have Preds fans excited about the future of his game. We have all been waiting for the floodgates to open and the goals to start coming for ATG (Alexander The Great) and last night we witnesses how special he can be. He is a pure goal scorer and knows the moves to make to get to the net (his second goal last night was a thing of beauty!). He seemed to be clicking well with Arnott and Dumont last night as Erat is still trying to recover from a back injury and was limited last night.

Barry Trotz says that there is no goalie controversy here in Nashville and is being real up front about who is going to play. The bottom line is the guy who is playing better is going to get the start. I heard Trotz on a local radio show this morning mention for the third time in two days (yesterdays goalie announcement and last nights post game presser) that ‘egos will have to be pushed aside.’ If you were to read between the lines you would think that Trotz is talking directly to Mason on this one. I think, however, that this is a message to both of these guys. It’s almost like he is saying ‘I don’t care who you think should start I’m going to play who I think gives us the best shot to win.’ Right now that goalie seems to be Ellis and I hope that he gets the start tomorrow against the Wild.

Inconsistent Blogs: I apologize for my inconsistency the past few days. I came down with a terrible case of the flu and truth be told hockey blogging was the last thing on my mind. I would like to say that it will get better but I am going out of town for a week to DC for a family wedding…I am not sure how much I will be able to blog. Keep checking back…I’ll be back soon!