The Predators are heading to the playoffs once again. Nashville downed the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 in front of a sold out Bridgestone Arena to clinch a playoff berth for the 6th time in 7 seasons. Patric Hornqvist scored twice, and Sergei Kostitsyn and Matt Halischuk each added goals of their own for the streaking Predators who have now won 9 of their last 11 heading into tomorrow's contest against the St. Louis Blues that could be for home-ice in the first round of the playoffs.
Update: The Ducks beat the Kings tonight, and Nashville has the tiebreaker over Phoenix, so 2 points tomorrow means home-ice for round one.
Follow after the jump for some thoughts on the game as well as video highlights and post-game audio.
- The first bullet has to go to Pekka Rinne who was without question the best player on the ice tonight. Nashville's defense gave him no help at all, allowing 44 shots, of which Rinne saved 43. If the Predators want to finally get out of the first round of the playoffs, The Vezina and Hart trophy candidate will have to continue his stellar play.
- Most night's Rinne can bail them out, but Nashville's defense has to do something about their poor play as of late.They've given up 44, 36, 41, and 34 shots on goal in their last 4 games. Tonight they had given up 32 shots towards the end of the 2nd, and the 33rd ended up beating Rinne. Weber and Suter are two of the best in the game, but Pekks makes them look even better.
- Nashville's first goal was a thing of beauty, and it's a shame Mike Fisher won't get credit for it. Fisher beat multiple defenders, ended up falling forward, but was still able to slide the puck in front of the net and all Hornqvist had to do was tip it in.
- Trotz is gonna have one helluva decision on his hands when Erat gets healthy, because Matt Halischuk has been playing out of his mind as of late. Halischuk's goal tonight was a thing of beauty, first faking left, and then moving the puck back to his forehand where he slid it past a sprawling Mason.
- Steve Sullivan didn't have a great game tonight, but he didn't have a terrible one either. He did take a tripping penalty, but didn't make any crucial mistakes after that. It was awesome to see the crowd give him a round of applause when he took the ice for the first time, and I loved the Mosters, Inc. clip game ops played afterwards.
- I didn't think I could love Blake Geoffrion anymore than I already did, but he gave me another reason to tonight, beating the snot out of Derek MacKenzie in his first NHL fight. When he first dropped the gloves, I had my face half-covered, but when he grabbed the jersey, and started throwing those upper-cuts, my doubts were gone immediately. Good job, kid. (Can I call him a kid? He's 4 years older than me....)
- I don't care what anyone says, Nashville has some of the best fans in the NHL. The TV timeout ovation tonight was awesome, as was the one at the end of the third. And as I write this, I'm sitting in the drive-thru at the Franklin Wendy's and the line is wrapped around the building. I wouldn't have it any other way.
- But Nashville isn't done just yet in their playoff prep. They have to turn around and play the Blues in St. Louis in a game that, barring tonight's late game results, could be for home-ice advantage in the first round. It'll also be a great opportunity to get the defense back on the right track.
- Extra bullet? The Preds are 9-1-1 since Dirk, Chris, and Sam took me under their wing a few weeks ago. Just sayin'...