You can rest assured that I won't make any puns regarding the Tampa Bay hockey team that's coming into Nashville tomorrow night to face the Predators. After titling yesterday's Carolina-Nashville pregame post "Hurricane Warning for Middle Tennessee", we had severe thunderstorms and tornados rip through the area, killing 26 throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky, and causing widespread damage to homes and businesses. In the late stages of the 3rd period last night huge thunderclaps were heard inside the Sommet Center, and after the game concluded fans were not allowed to leave due to a Tornado Warning that was in effect for downtown Nashville, so I and 13,948 of my closest friends hung out for a while on the concourse and waited for things to pass.
As to the game itself, it was as exciting a 1-0 game as one could hope for. There was plenty of offense from both teams, but Cam Ward and Chris Mason (3rd and 1st Star, respectively) were outstanding, not just stopping initial shots but bottling up rebounds for the most part as well. Alexander Radulov had a couple good looks that either failed to connect or were turned aside by Ward, and Mason was extremely sharp, particularly on one play in the second period when the puck was behind the Nashville net, and the play suddenly reversed; Mason had to lunge quickly to cover his right post and shut down a stuff attempt by one of the Hurricanes.
Interestingly, the winning goal got launched by a big defensive play. Marek Zidlicky stepped up and levelled Eric Staal near the Nashville blue line (yes, you read that right), which provided the opportunity for a 3-on-1 the other way, with Radulov coming up the middle, Jason Arnott on the right, and J.P. Dumont on the left. The Predators' offensive leaders closed the deal, with Radulov dishing off to Arnott, then Arnott sending a cross-crease pass to Dumont who redirected the puck past a helpless Cam Ward.
In terms of matchups, you should check out Vic Ferrari's Time On Ice tool, which tells us that the Dan Hamhuis/Greg de Vries pairing got the bulk of the work against Rod Brind'Amour, Sergei Samsonov, and Erik Cole, while Shea Weber and Greg Zanon worked against the Whitney/Staal/Stillman line. Marek Zidlicky and Ryan Suter were spotted against the more pedestrian Carolina forwards.
I'll follow up later today with a report on the Town Hall meeting that was held before the game. Until then, keep the folks who've been hit hard by last night's storms in your thoughts.