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The Weekender: Tryptophan Coma

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Montreal Canadiens v Nashville Predators Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Last week we touched on the importance of being in a playoff spot after the 20(ish) game mark, which falls around Thanksgiving in America. There’s about an 80% accuracy rate with this prediction, and that’s enough to raise concern for some teams that are comically underachieving. Relax... most of these teams are in Canada.

Edmonton allowed 8 goals against the Blues and sit near the bottom of the entire conference. Their roster featuring the game’s most unstoppable player is shooting around 5% at even strength, despite have better chances than their opposition most nights. Cam Talbot hasn’t been great, but he’s not their sole issue. They can’t stop taking penalties, they can’t kill the penalties, and they can’t shoot. It’s like a whole team full of [insert name of 4th line player you disdain because of his play, not because of his personality]. That said, Talbot played an excruciating amount of minutes last year.

But no entity in the league hits the panic button harder than the Canadian media, and especially for the Montreal Canadiens. It’s a team with a “win now” goalie, some “win now” contracts including Shea Weber, but it’s still a team without a “win now” franchise center in a division where Toronto, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Florida, Boston, and Buffalo all have their own. Trades need to happen in Montreal, and their front office is not trusted by their own fans to execute those trades.

And for folks like us, it’s a real blast.

This was a fun week for us. The team has won 4 straight, and played a more responsible brand of hockey. And to cap it off with a statement win on the road makes it even sweeter.

LET US REJOICE AND WATCH THIS GOAL AGAIN.

The drive by Subban, the pass to Johansen, the pass from Johansen, and Forsberg’s persistence may make this the favorite play of the season for some. At the risk of sounding smug, this goal embodies the Nashville style of play. It’s showcasing smooth lateral passing, good shooting, and driving to the net by all 5 skaters.

BAH GAWD LET’S SEE THIS ONE.

MUHAHA. Backhanders are tough on goalies because the release point is harder to gauge. That goal was just silly.

Let’s be real for a minute: the Predators either need to defend better or learn to play with the puck during the entire game. The turtle should never be a team’s spirit animal during an entire period of a game. That said, our gorgeous hockey team is playing some gorgeous hockey. They will only get better when Ryan Ellis returns, and Scott Hartnell will help the team’s third line and power play. We did see some improvement in the Montreal game.

The fun question we’re going to have to answer about this team is going to be the third pairing. Alexei Emelin, Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber (currently hurt), and Tony Bitetto all have cases to make. Bitetto made the strongest argument this week, and showed some of the skill that’s kept him on this roster the last two years despite limited ice time. Full credit to Bitetto for keeping himself sharp. He played very smart minutes against the Canadiens and Blues, and his vision in the offensive zone is looking very refined. Take a look:

But this takes the cake:

This article: An improbable, but not impossible Shea Weber trade

The Habs could indeed trade Shea Weber, yes... that is true. They could ship him off for pennies on the dollar to get out of his contract, and start retooling their roster. Hey, the Oilers need a defenseman or 3. Both teams need to make a move to save their season, or at least put themselves in a better position for next year. Maybe the media finally gets their Weber for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade they’ve been asking for since 2014.

The Leafs have made too many smart moves to take on that contract as-is, and that’s a statement that feels dirty to type. I’m not clowning Travis Yost for floating the Leafs out there as a trade partner, simply because the assets do fit together... I just don’t see those two teams helping each other when Toronto can hurt Montreal more by not helping them.

Montreal spent their most valuable token on a similar but depreciating asset. That fact isn’t Shea Weber’s fault, but Weber’s legacy as a player will be diminished the more times he’s traded due to his contract counting against his production.

We also have to talk about this:

There’s a lot going on there. The empty net miss in Nashville has become the wasp that lives in your attic that remembers you, and perks up whenever you climb the stairs. The puck ricocheted off of Johansen’s knee into the net. Thankfully the Preds took 2 points out of this one... otherwise it would be a narrative we wouldn’t want to revisit.

Then... there’s this.

Video review sounds like a great idea.

Ken Hitchcock, ladies and gents.

But the real winner here is the incomparable Torts:

You folks brought it this week.

There seems to be a lot of soccer fans that comment on this site

Can you do a recap of the controversy over the stadium site selection for the new team? I personally couldn’t care less about soccer coming to Nashville but I know a bunch of people were pissed over the land that was selected for the stadium (pitch?). Could you write up a cliff’s notes about it. The story was hard to follow on NPR during the morning commute and as it was evolving it became hard to follow. Not exactly a question.

Dennis.K.Morgan

The City of Nashville chose to develop a new area for the MLS stadium site as opposed to more tried-and-true options. Rather than building (or enhancing) a venue for MLS in an area that’s conducive to transit, parking, entertainment... the site they’re moving forward is in an area in need of some serious TLC. This may work in the long run, but it is an unnecessary risk for the city that’s about to be paying for a long overdue transit solution. There is blame to be spread to the MLS, Metro, and the ownership group for this risk that may have some lingering effects. Let’s start with the MLS, who praises Atlanta and their attendance numbers in the awesome new NFL stadium with their right arm, and instructs places like Nashville to build a separate smaller stadium with their left. The MLS is protective over their TV product, and doesn’t want more MLS games being played in mostly empty NFL stadiums. The ownership group and the city decided to build a new venue that would be capable of hosting Vanderbilt University Football (John Rich is part of the MLS ownership group, and a noted Vanderbilt booster). The ownership group has NFL ties, but Nissan Stadium is being neglected as part of this vision. That’s my gripe. The City has a stadium on the east bank of the river that is not close to the top tier of NFL stadiums.

Bud Adams is no longer running the Titans, but the team hasn’t been in Nashville long enough to earn a pension yet. Either a large renovation is coming before too long, or a new facility further down the road. This was a great chance to get ahead of the curve, and not only get Nissan Stadium back to the top half of NFL venues, but turn Nissan Stadium into a more versatile venue. If Miami can renovate an older stadium over 3 years for less than half of the cost of a new venue, Nashville can. If the MLS was cool with Vancouver and Atlanta hanging curtains (as their original plans showed) over their upper levels, Nashville should have called their bluff. With a more versatile venue that could accommodate the NFL and MLS, why not Vanderbilt too? Heck, with the type of canopy Miami retrofitted over their stands... Nissan Stadium could just as easily have a retractable roof over the field. That would put Nashville in the bidding for a Super Bowl, a Final Four, and plenty of other events even if the NFL fizzles out amid concussion lawsuits.

Instead, we’re getting a great soccer stadium in the fairgrounds. I’m a bit bummed the City isn’t thinking bigger, and just kowtowing to the MLS.

Your thoughts on Hattie B's opening a location across the street from Bolton's on 8th ave?

All is fair in hot chicken wars or playing dirty?

Kevin_hairless

I’m cool with it. I miss The Hook, but Hattie B’s going across the road from Bolton’s is going to do a few great things.

  • Bolton’s will have to raise their game some.
  • More people will try Bolton’s after seeing the line from Hattie B’s is silly.
  • That stretch of 8th Avenue will become our very own 9th and Passyunk.

Let’s not forget that stretch of Charlotte Avenue, where we have ML Rose, Farm Burger, and now Hugh Baby’s. That area was so hot that Flip Burger Boutique ran back to Atlanta.

I have trouble defining my favorite Predator because I like so many of them. I can also choose something to like/dislike about most of them as far as on-ice performance goes and I’m a huge fan of longevity, loyalty, contract demands being more reasonable, etc… However, Turris is currently holding that spot for me because he has truly impacted the team as much as his own line, not to mention his arrival has turned Ekholm into a Norris candidate, if only in my mind.

How do/did you get to your choose favorite player and does that evolve or stay the same with good and bad games, weeks, months, years?

jeffery101y

Even though the players wear helmets, we can still pick up plenty of their personalities on the ice. It’s an emotional sport. And with the new media outlets and avenues that provide content focused on the team, we can see more of their personalities. Mattias Ekholm checks all the boxes for me, and we have similar tastes. Kyle Turris is going to be a real fan favorite here. If the cost of keeping him wasn’t James Neal, I’d bet that Calle Jarnkrok would be a more popular jersey here. I do miss James Neal greatly, as he played like a guy who actually watched the Predators during those frustrating years when the roster was full of choir boys & try-hards that eventually buckled and bowed down to more talented teams. He played angry and vengeful. That spoke to my soul.

MOAR TURRIS QUESTIONS

What effect do you think Tu-Chainz will have on RyJo’s play this season (and into the future)? Personally, I think the better the Turrminator plays, the better Joey plays. It seems to me that Joey plays his best hockey when he feels like he has something to prove, but I’m curious whether you agree.

Gnash4President

Ryan Johansen is most definitely an emotional player, and giving a player who just received his career-defining contract a competent and veteran 2C to share the load AND provide some extra motivation was a master stroke. There may be something to the Johansen being a bit more aggressive in shooting and driving the net since the trade, but the Preds can now match his line more favorably since there is better depth behind him. Nick Bonino’s line is looking better as well, and I’m more excited to see Scott Hartnell back in the fold when that time comes. With Nashville’s defense and speedy wingers, the center doesn’t have to be the hockey equivalent of Jason Kidd (all passing, no shooting) to make the offense work. Something I’ve noticed since the start of this year: the play in the offensive zone is much more precise. There is not as much skating in circles, and the play doesn’t resemble some frantic high school freshman trying to work his combination lock for the first time.

Best new place (could be restaurant/venue/activity) to come to Nashville in the last 5 years?

Biggest travesty of a place that closed down?

bfarrish05

New place? The Omni Hotel. The food is great, the location is in a good spot, and the design is great. BarLines is good, and Kitchen Notes has a breakfast buffet worthy of a cruise ship.

I’ll miss The Hook. That joint had a chance to be special. I’ll also miss Porter Road Butcher’s location on Charlotte Pike (where Hugh Baby’s is now). They took over an old Mrs. Winner’s parcel, and sold breakfast out of the drive-thru during the weekends. When I lived in Bellevue, I’d go over there for an SEC (sausage egg & cheese biscuit... not sure why that phrase hasn’t caught on around here) and a Hatcher Farms chocolate milk on days I had to go to the studio early. The Hook was more of a travesty though.

SPOILER: THAT TRADE ACTUALLY HAPPENED TWO MONTHS LATER

The Predators have most definitely addressed their center depth for the present and future.

  • The Blues are off to a great start to the year, and while everyone is passing along praise & love to Brayden Schenn, Paul Stastny is having himself a good ol’ contract year. Stastny will be 32 when his contract expires this upcoming summer, and he’s earning a $7m cap hit ($7.5m salary this year). The Blues’ status as a cup contender past this year could come into questions, with half of their NHL defensemen being up for free agency in 2019. If the Blues decide to not renew Stastny, they’ll have more than enough to extend Robby Fabbri this summer and prepare to keep their defensive core. That’s a tough decision looming for a team that’s been a step behind the elite teams of the west for the last six years.
  • Plenty of words have been spilled on the Predators’ possession numbers this year. They aren’t great, but they aren’t near as bad when you consider the context. Nashville has been building leads as of late, and teams tend to press harder when behind; that’s the good ol’ Score Effect. Nashville is below 50% on shot attempts for according to raw counts, but when we look at the score adjusted counts... it’s not bad at all. Under Peter Laviolette, the Preds have finished 6th, 5th, and 8th in the league in score adjusted shot attempts for during his tenure. Adding key pieces back to lineup like Ryan Ellis will help immensely.
  • Pekka Rinne has so far been the workhorse for this team, posting some vintage numbers and earning a key shutout over the Blues. For as bad as last week was, he answered the bell.
  • As of right now the Ducks, Sharks, Blackhawks, and Penguins are all out of a playoff spot. The Western teams got passed by the Stars, who have played two more than Chicago and San Jose. Points count the same in November as they are counted in March, and banking points now makes for better roster choices down the road.
  • The Predators are 6-1-0 since acquiring Kyle Turris, who has 5 points with Nashville. The Senators are 2-4-1 with Matt Duchene, and Duchene has yet to register a point. Duchene is somehow a -10, despite neutral possession numbers. For his sake, I hope Duchene finds his gear in Ottawa.

On to the next one.

-Dan