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Showing posts from March, 2008

Three Games in Four Nights = The Whole Season

So it all comes down to this; a three-game string Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to determine whether the Predators will make the playoffs. Despite the frustration of Sunday afternoon's loss in Detroit, Nashville does have to feel confident in both their goaltender and the overall team effort, and be grateful to earn at least the OTL point. Dan Ellis has come up huge during this stretch run, setting this season's NHL-best shutout streak of 233:39 up through the OT goal against the Red Wings, with the team earning 7 out of a possible 8 points in the last four games. Vancouver remains one point ahead in the standings, and finishes out the season at home. To the Canucks' disadvantage, however, they are playing teams still fighting for position, whereas the Predators wrap up against the Blues and Blackhawks, who are simply playing out the string. While the main focus is on passing Vancouver, it shouldn't be forgotten that a stumble by Calgary could leave them out of the

Roll Over, Columbus

Can the Nashville Predators keep up their dominance over the Blue Jackets tonight in Columbus? They'll have to in order to keep their playoff dreams alive. Nashville is 14-0-1 in their last 15 against Columbus, but the Blue Jackets will be bristling for revenge after getting beaten on the scoreboard and in a few scraps during Tuesday's 3-0 Preds win in Nashville. As for the teams they're chasing, Vancouver has lost Brendan Morrison for the rest of the season, dealing a blow to their already anemic offense. Colorado may have pretty much wrapped up their playoff berth with victories over the Flames and Canucks earlier this week; they'd have to really flop hard for both Vancouver and Nashville to pass them. In other notes, the Preds are very concerned about Dan Ellis' ability to keep his weight up considering the steady work he's been seeing lately. Since Cracker Barrel is one of the Predators' sponsors, maybe they could rig something like this o

Load up on the rum & fried chicken

If, as Barry Melrose Rocks posited the other day, the Nashvile Predators stretch drive for the playoffs most resembles the film Major League , then hopefully someone in that locker room has set up the shrine to Jobu (I'm guessing Radulov, as his scoring touch seems to have departed of late): The funny thing is, the Major League -style drama is really what was avoided when Gary Bettman stepped in to put the kabosh on Jim Balsillie's purchase of the team last summer. Balsillie was all set to purchase the team and submarine their performance in order to trigger the paid attendance clause in their lease and pack the team off to Hamilton, where he'd already made his arena deal and started taking deposits for Predators season tickets . The bottom line here is that although the last few days have gone well in the playoff hunt (victories over Columbus and Chicago, while Vancouver stumbled against Calgary and Colorado), much still needs to fall into place to assure a post-seas

One PC to rule them all...

Sorry for the lack of content lately, but I'm happy to announce that the new computer has arrived and I've brought over as much data as I could from the old one that I torched inadvertently. At 42 feet tall, the new Forechecker Data Center towers over the neighborhood... I configured it online via the good folks at (using the coupon code MYSPACE I got $30 off the order), and went with an Intel 2.66Ghz dual-core setup, 2GB RAM and an NVidia 8600GT video card, good enough for my purposes. I was able to harvest the hard drives and DVD drive off my old box, but some things were lost, so I've got a lot of data to rebuild. On the downside, it looks like the Fab Forecheckers are going down in the Fantasy Hockey playoffs to Mirtle's Merry Men. So much for that regular season dominance ...

Playoff Hunt Becoming Elusive

So many things to say about last night's 6-3 loss to Detroit, it's best perhaps to break it into Good News/Bad News: Good News : The Predators fought back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game in the 3rd period. Bad News : Nashville gave up a 1-0 lead due to soft goals allowed by Dan Ellis, which caused Barry Trotz to pull him five minutes into the 2nd. Chris Mason gave up his share of softies to, so rest assured, there's no #1 goalie controversy in Nashville because right now, the Predators don't have a #1 goalie. Good News : The fans sold out another game, and Saturday's game against Chicago is sold out as well. Bad News : The Preds have packed the house lately, but flopped horribly. This marks six losses in a row at the Sommet Center, hardly the formula for making that push to the postseason. Good News : Colorado lost their 3rd game in a row, leaving them just 4 points ahead of Nashville for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Bad News : With only

Red Wings - Predators Tonight

Detroit comes to Nashville night for another key game in the Predators drive for a playoff spot; this isn't a game that one would bank on the Predators winning, but after devastating losses to L.A. and Washington over the last week, there's precious little room for error left. Barry Trotz has challenged his top line of Radulov/Arnott/Dumont to carry the team on their collective backs again, but to be honest, that's difficult when offensive support is few and far between. The lackluster play of late only underscores David Legwand's importance to the team. The key to victory is to come out and simply outwork the Red Wings; no mean feat, to be sure, but desperate teams need to play like their season is on the line (because, duh, IT IS ) against more talented opponents. I don't have time to post a full-scale preview, so I'd recommend checking On the Wings and Pred Joe for their insight. I'll be at the game tonight, however, and should have some thoughts t

Too Little, Too Late

One bad period is the touch of death for a hockey team; during poor stretches in February and early March, the Nashville Predators seemed to have continuing problems in the 2nd period. Tonight against Washington, a fellow come-from-behind battler for playoff position, the Preds seemed to sleepwalk through the first, leaving them with a 3-0 deficit that proved too difficult to overcome en route to a 4-2 loss at home. Will they follow this up by beating the NHL-leading Red Wings, as they did last week after losing to the L.A. Kings? I wouldn't count on it; that's a hardly a formula for a successful stretch drive. The Capitals took the 1-0 lead off a nice shot by Alexander Semin just inside the faceoff dot to Ellis' right, but Greg Zanon had gone down (once again) to the ice to block a potential shot far too early, which gave Semin all the room he needed to skate into prime scoring position before firing away. It's the same gaffe that Zanon's been committing for s


Lose at home to the worst team in the league, then go on the road and beat the best. That, my friends, is what a borderline playoff team is all about. Enjoy the ride! How about those for mustard-colored jerseys? I'm still on the road (Hartford, Connecticut to be exact), but when I saw the score yesterday I just had to shake my head.

Out of action...

I'm headed out of town for the weekend to visit family, so the posting will be few and far between until I get back Monday night. While I'm gone, Preds, be sure to score a win in Detroit on Saturday to make up for that shameful debacle last night against the Kings.

Well ain't that a...

Despite Atlanta doing their part by coming back to beat Calgary 6-4, the Predators put in a woeful effort against the worst team in the Western Conference, losing to Los Angeles 4-1. There's nothing like watching a supposedly playoff-hungry team get stoned by the Kings "Goalie of the Week", who I believe won the job thanks to sending in the appropriate number of cereal box tops. Right now, I don't think it would matter if the Preds faced J.C. Petit in net; they'd find a way to bury pucks right into his chest. A special boo-hiss goes to the linesman who whistled Radulov offsides as he broke into the L.A. zone well in behind the defense with about 4 minutes left in the first. I backed it up on the old DVR, and he clearly kept one skate on the line until the puck had crossed into the zone. It was a horrible call that took away a golden scoring chance in what was, at the time, a 0-0 game. I know how ya feel, bud Oh yeah, and I lost my job today too. What a

Here we go, folks...

Tonight's tilt against the L.A. Kings could be considered the kickoff to the "Do or Die" stretch of this NHL season for Predators fans. With 10 games left after tonight, and a gap to make up relative to the Northwest Gang that sits ahead of them in the standings, almost every single day brings at least one important game to the Western Conference playoff picture. It's time to bite those nails down to the bone, nervously click "Refresh" on the out-of-town scoreboard every 30 seconds, and live or a die a little with each goal for or against the Preds for the next 3.5 weeks. And if they succeed? You guessed it, more stress to come thanks to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Hold on tight, this is gonna get bumpy! Some might think this is too much to ask of devoted fans who have had to deal with stress and turmoil surrounding their team ever since Craig Leipold put the franchise up for sale last May. Between the Tomas Vokoun trade, the Balsillie-ness, and the hag

I like it...

Is this a preview of an upcoming Nashville Predators advertising campaign? Kudos to the folks at the Predators message boards who pointed this out last night. For those who may not know (as I didn't when I moved here in 2005), Dierks Bentley is a country music star who has gotten into adult rec-league hockey over the last few years. When his record label wanted to celebrate a recent #1 hit, he rented out the Sommet Center for an evening so his two teams could play a game on the Predators' home ice. So don't sweat it, Toots; Dierks looks fine out there. He did, after all, notch two goals and an assist in a win over Cici's Pizza back in January!

Does it really help to score first?

UPDATE : The more I look at this piece, the more I wished I had just hit "Delete". I worked up some numbers, thought I had something interesting, started writing the piece, dug a little more, started to wonder whether it was worth it, and by the end, while becoming less enamoured of where I was headed, I figured I'd stitched enough together that I should just put it out there anyway. In retrospect, I really shouldn't have bothered. The following scene is sure to replayed throughout NHL telecasts this spring, whenever an important game is on tap: Polished announcer : "... yes, this is a big one tonight indeed. So tell me, [ color commentator], what do the [insert your favorite team] have to do tonight to pull out the victory?" Crusty Ex-player/coach : "well, if there's one thing all my years in the league have taught me, [polished announcer], it's that they really need to get that first goal of the game, and avoid playing from behind.&quo

Shark-bit again

Last night's 2-1 loss to San Jose was a classic tale of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Good : Jason Arnott scored his 25th goal of the season from his favorite haunt on the power play, near the faceoff dot to the right of the opposing goaltender. Also, owner David Freeman has clearly been bitten by the hockey bug, as he was stewing over calls (and non-calls) by the officials; it's always good to see an owner get that worked up over what's happening on the ice. Dan Ellis turned in a solid effort as well. He gave his team a chance to win even when perhaps they didn't deserve it. The Bad : More dumb-dumb penalties for the Predators gave San Jose all the momentum in the 2nd period. In the 3rd, Radulov took a senseless tripping penalty after getting frustrated by the officials not calling Craig Rivet for interfering with him; the bottom line is that you have to fight through that stuff and keep working. It seemed like the refs were in the Predators' heads just

Sharks on the menu tonight...

Tonight's game against San Jose (Free Food Night!) certainly isn't a "must win", but it will be important for the Nashville Predators to keep pace with the Northwest division teams that just keeping plugging away; last night Vancouver should have lost in L.A., but (shockingly!) the Kings blew a late 1-0 lead and let the Canucks escape town with an overtime victory. Dan Ellis gets yet another start in goal for the Predators, and Rich Peverley has been called up from Milwaukee to fill in for David Legwand, who's out for a week with a foot injury. While there hasn't been a formal coronation, it's apparent that Ellis has assumed #1 status, as tonight will mark his 5th start in the last 6 games. Coaches generally prefer to have a clear #1 goaltender heading into the playoffs, and it looks like Ellis is getting his chance to earn that role. Yesterday I took the opportunity to catch about half of San Jose's practice at the Centennial Sportsplex in Nash

A Regular Season Title Comes to Nashville

Yes, I've heard all that nonsense about how the Presidents Trophy is somehow cursed , and that winning the regular season is a sure-fire ticket to postseason collapse. Well, I certainly hope that doesn't hold true for Fantasy Hockey. Remember, James, send this to Nashville, not Hamilton! Not to toot my own horn here ( ah, who am I kidding? That's exactly what I'm doing! ), but the Fab Forecheckers have just concluded a very successful regular season in James Mirtle's Blogger Invitational Fantasy Hockey League over on Yahoo Sports. Follow some of the links below to find a who's-who of the NHL blogging world: Mirtle's Blogger Invitational Final Regular Season Standings Rank Team W-L-T Pct Pts Moves *1. The Fab Forecheckers 188-86-25 0.671 401 9 *2. The blogless wonders 154-114-31 0.567 339 10 *3. The Alcoholic Army 149-110-40 0.565 338 17 *4. Mirtle's Merry Men 153-118-28 0.559 334 35 *5. Matt of the Battle 149-114-36 0.559 334 5 *6. Spector's S

Alexander Radulov, a different kind of coach-killer

I didn't catch the entire Flames/Predators game last night, but I did see enough to know that while some folks are wondering when Barry Trotz and his assistants will get a contract extension, his cardiologist might wonder whether coaching this team might be taking years off his life. The pressure was incredibly high late in the game; tied at 1, on the road against another playoff contender, the Predators were battling to get the puck out of their zone with just over two minutes left to play in the third. Alexander Radulov lost his stick, and as the puck came to him along the boards, he did something I wouldn't even expect a beginning beer league player to do; he picked the puck up and threw it out of the zone, as clear a penalty as you'll ever see. At that moment, I thought it would be neat to have biometric telemetry on Barry Trotz; so the home viewers could watch his heart rate and blood pressure soar as his super sophomore committed a potentially game-losing blunder

Will David Freeman open the pocketbook?

Just how much are the Predators' owners willing to spend to build a winner? Paul over at Geek Thoughts pointed out quite a whopper that's buried in an interview posted on the Nashville Predators website today with David Freeman: Have you starting planning the budget for next season? DF: Sure. Yes. Strategically it's probably not good for us to talk about that publicly for competitive reasons. Our budget will be significantly higher than it was this year. In fact, I'm quite certain we will spend more on payroll next year than at any time in the history of the club. We're that committed to building this team right back up. This year, the team's salary cap number comes in just under $36 million , so when Freeman calls for the biggest Predators payroll ever, that certainly means a big step off the NHL's required salary minimum, which is set $16 million below the top end of the Salary Cap. This year, that cap is roughly $52 million, so if you figur

Out of the Garage, Into the Fire

Just a few notes as the Predators head into Calgary this evening (8:30 Central start, only TV in Nashville is Center Ice coverage): 1. Dan Ellis gets the start in goal ; again, this looks like a clear indication of #1 status. No word about any other lineup changes. 2. There will be no suspensions for any of the parties involved in last night's nonsense at the end of the 6-2 beatdown by the Canucks. My take on the whole fracas can be found towards the end of my coverage of that game. 3. For a preview of the game from the Calgary perspective, check out Five Hole Fanatics, a Flaming great blog . There's also the boys at Battle of Alberta , with their pregame piece. Obviously, the Preds need to come out with a tighter defensive effort tonight. Chicago, Phoenix and Columbus haven't quite given up the fight yet, and there's no time to allow Colorado, Calgary, Minnesota or Vancouver to pull ahead of Nashville and catch up later. Perhap's it's time to dre

Flames In Atlanta (no, not from Calgary)

Wow, I knew the natives were restless in Atlanta, where the Thrashers are drifting aimlessly , but this is special. Courtesy of Southeast Shootout , we have here one season ticket holder's brilliant response to the renewal package he recieved in the mail: They've definitely got a mess on their hands down there, and I don't think anything short of firing the general manager and the coach will get things headed in a new direction. Fortunately for the Thrashers, they can do that in one swell foop . We may not have the perfect situation here in Nashville, but at least there's no doubt about the ownership's commitment to doing their best to make things work here. UPDATE : It looks like the season ticket holders are breaking out the torches and pithcforks tonight!

Preds @ Canucks on a Thursday Night

With tonight's game not carried on Fox Sports South, it's time for another live blog, with the Predators in Vancouver to try and avenge a 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks suffered in Nashville on February 21st. Again, I'm trying out the Cover It Live blogging tool that I used for Tuesday's victory in Edmonton. So far I think I'd definitely recommend that others kick the tires on this app as well...

Solving Luongo

The Predators suit up tonight in Vancouver for yet another critical Western Conference matchup; currently the Canucks are two points behind Nashville for the 8th playoff spot, and they've got a game in hand on the Preds. Vancouver comes into this one stumbling as of late, coming off four consecutive losses to Columbus, Chicago and Colorado (twice), with the first two being OT/SO losses. The Predators, meanwhile, are coming off impressive road wins in Dallas and Edmonton. Can they keep it going against the goaltender who stymied them back on February 21 , when Robert Loungo made 49 saves on the way to a 3-2 overtime win for the Canucks? At the other end, it will be very interesting to see if Dan Ellis gets the start in net, which would be his 3rd straight and probably serve as an unofficial coronation as the team's #1 netminder. If Barry Trotz is truly running a meritocracy, where players get ice time based on their performance, you have to give the nod to Ellis based on wh

Defending The Crease

Back in February we looked at which NHL teams were generating those precious rebound shots , dangerous offensive opportunities wherin a player fires a close-in shot within two seconds of a previous shot on goal. When controlling for factors like shot distance, type, on-ice strength (power play, penalty kill, even strength) and other factors, rebounds still remain significantly more likely to score than other shots. As the playoffs approach, and the pressure builds on those teams battling for postseason berths, these high-percentage scoring chances become critically important. Since we've considered the offensive side of that situation, it's time to turn our attention to the defensive end of the ice. Which teams are standing strong in front of their goaltender, sweeping away loose pucks and denying position to crease-crashers like Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom, while others roll out the red carpet and leave their goaltender hanging? When looking at this statistic I prefer

Predators-Oilers Live Blog

Trying something a little different tonight for the live blog of Predators vs. Oilers, at the suggestion of Paul in my previous post: I'm on about an hour DVR delay, so don't be surprised if you're following this in real time, but I should catch up by the 3rd period. Feedback is welcome in the comments, of course, as to whether this is the way to go for this kind of thing (keeping in mind that I'll probably do this at least once or twice more this week).

Predators-Oilers Game Day

Tonight the Predators kick off a critical three-game swing through Western Canada, with playoff competitors Vancouver and Calgary coming up Thursday and Friday after this evening's game in Edmonton. The last time Nashville made this trip (Oct. 30 - Nov 2), they went 2-1, getting stomped by the Flames 5-1 before shutting out the Canucks 3-0 and topping the Oilers 4-1. If they can snag four points out of these three contests they should continue to hang right in the thick of the playoff hunt, with the obvious caveat that they certainly don't want to let Calgary or Vancouver earn a charity point for making it to overtime. While the Oilers have certainly slipped out of playoff contention, they're generally playing excellent hockey of late, having won the first four games of their current home stand against Colorado, Detroit, L.A., and Columbus. Two of those wins were via the shootout, which Edmonton has dominated this year; their 14 SO victories are an NHL-best since it wa

Confirmation comes, Gelinas is done

Word from the Tennessean has come this evening that Martin Gelinas has decided to have surgery for his torn ACL this week, which ensures that he's out for the rest of the season. Many casual fans may see the 20 points in 57 games and conclude that Gelinas wasn't a major factor in the Preds lineup and this isn't really a big loss, but Gelinas' impact on and off the ice was greater than his 9 goals and 11 assists would seem to indicate. For one, when he was on the ice, good things usually happened; at even strength , Shots For exceeded Shots Against by about 10%, and the Goals For exceeded Goals Against by about a third of a goal per 60 minutes of play. He's been effective on the penalty kill , and, much like Greg de Vries on defense, has filled in without a hitch in a variety of situations. Off the ice, it's been mentioned often that Gelinas in particular has helped mentor Jordin Tootoo, and that may help explain #22's outstanding season, as he's co

Help Me Build a New Monster

While I know you Gentle Readers are hockey fans first and foremost, chances are you're fairly PC savvy as well, since the online version of this humble tome does so much better than the print subscription. So I've got a thoroughly non-hockey related problem that I'd like to get your input on... OK, here's the scoop; I may have, through my own stupidity, fried my desktop PC at home, and am facing the prospect of getting a new one, so I'd like to get some input on which direction I should take, since it's been almost 5 years since I last did this. The PC that may be dead has a Intel P4 3Ghz processor on an ASUS P4C800 Deluxe motherboard, 1GB RAM (DDR400) and some peripherals worth salvaging (hard drives, DVD drive, etc.). I was trying to plug in some additional memory, decided to take it back out and check a few things online before proceeding, and closed the box. When I fired it up, a rather nasty smell starting coming out of the case, and when I powered back d

Predators Outshine Stars, May Outshines Us All

Saturday night's win in Dallas was noteworthy on a number of levels; the Preds went toe-to-toe with the hottest team in the NHL and dominated the 3rd period on the way to a 3-1 victory. A great win, all-around. Along the way, however, there was a play that was a guaranteed highlight, and drew some rather interesting commentary afterward. Stars captain Brenden Morrow ran the Preds goalie Dan Ellis as Ellis was playing a puck behind his net. Morrow caught Ellis in the jaw, spun him around to the ground, then wrestled with Ryan Suter who came to his goaltender's defense. Now Morrow's an honest, tough hockey player, and to me it didn't look like he meant to catch Ellis that hard. But a commentator later on didn't just discuss this hit, he lauded it. On the Preds/Stars recap on the NHL Network, they had Alan May as an analyst, and his description of Morrow's hit on Ellis ranks as possibly the most imbecilic minute of television I've ever seen. May's

Preds Head Deep Into the Heart of Texas

Tonight's game in Dallas just might be the perfect game at the perfect time for the Nashville Predators; an elite opponent that's currently firing on all cylinders puts forth a challenge to a good team that's stumbled defensively recently. Simply put, the Preds should be fighting mad about their recent performance in Buffalo, and motivated to put in a top-notch effort against perhaps the hottest team in the NHL. So far this season, Nashville has won two out of three games against Dallas, including a 5-1 victory back in October, and a 1-0 win in Dallas on New Year's Eve. Last Saturday, the Stars came in to the Sommet Center and rolled over the Preds 6-3 . Yes, Dallas is flying high these days, and new acquisition Brad Richards got off to a good start with his 5-assist effort against Chicago on Thursday. But the Stars have yet to face the combined might of Jan Hlavac and Brandon Bochenski, the Predators' own trading deadline pickups. Those tough Texas hombres