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The Weekender: Smooth and Steady

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Nashville Predators v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The views and opinions expressed in this piece may not reflect those of the rest of the staff at OnTheForecheck.

As a relatively young sports market, perspective is not something we as Nashville fans have in abundance. We only know of one home arena, we only know of one general manager, and a pair of head coaches. That’s not a complete flaw, but that’s reality.

In spite of the great performance against Winnipeg, the game against New Jersey impressed me the most. They started like an unstoppable force, got some push back by the Devils, allowed a couple of “rusty” goals, then kicked it into gear and chimed the post like a campus bell. Johansen scores a typical late game goal for the Preds, set up by Ellis getting his shot through.

But if we’re talking about best stretches of play during the season, it has to be the first ten minutes against Winnipeg. I agree with Robby Stanley that the stretch that saw Nashville go up 3-0 and continue to shell the Jets was the best we’ve seen from a Nashville team in a long time.

I’ve avoided visiting this topic head-on for a while, but this feels like the right time. We in Nashville don’t have a ton of perspective when it comes to sports history and how our heroes relate to the sport’s history. We’ve only had two coaches of our local hockey team, and the football team has only known one era of success that feels like a generation ago.

The further we get away from the Barry Trotz era, the less I appreciate it. I miss Barry Trotz the person, but his teams always felt very frail. They seemed like they were one goal away from packing it in, or one injury away from being noncompetitive. Is that take 100% accurate? No, but that’s my lasting impression. Too many times we saw Nashville teams loaded with veterans (because that’s what he worked best with) start the game flat, or play the game with a defeated mentality. The team didn’t look like they were having fun compared to the last few years’ teams.

As an example, that New Jersey game had all the makings of a classic trap game. Instead, Nashville starts like they mean business. The Devils push back and grab a goal that Saros doesn’t see (iffy positioning combined with a screen), and the game levels out. The Preds allow a second goal, but then unleash the hounds of war. A strong late game push and the game-tying goal was all but a foregone conclusion. The shootout didn’t go Nashville’s way, but whatever.

The Jets game was as big of a regular season game they’ve had this year. And how did they start? They were scary good.

The Preds have become trustworthy. That’s something they never were under Trotz, even at their best. The Capitals have been good under Trotz, but they haven’t been able to earn the label of trustworthy. The Caps players themselves have even said it, but their actions were even more concerning.

Peter Laviolette isn’t perfect, but he’s not someone who gets bested by his counterpart much.

Let’s go there.

Copp did not face any supplemental discipline, which naturally is going to anger this fanbase given the Forsberg suspension.

Of all people to defend the hit, Stu Grimson steps up to the plate.

That take won’t sit well, and nor should it. The puck was 25-30 feet away when Copp made contact. If that’s clean, then this sport is beyond saving.

Your weekly praise for Pekka Rinne.

Glad to see someone at Sportsnet has noticed. (We like Andrew)

How about the game Kyle Turris had against Arizona? Turris has given us a great week, highlighted by a clutch performance against the Coyotes. His vision works well with Josi, which we saw a great example of against Winnipeg.

And who benefits from Turris and his vision the most? Kevin Fiala.

That one was absolutely swell. But what about doing his own version of Ray Whitney’s goal in Game 1 of the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals?

That’s Kevin Fiala, ladies and gents.

It’s a bummer about Jarnkrok going out, but I was glad to see Nashville keep their cool early in that game. As mentioned earlier, we’ve seen the Jets act foolishly in Nashville while trailing about once a year for a while now, and it felt good to see the team comfortable enough to avoid the urge to go vigilante against the Jets. Was the game poorly officiated? Absolutely. Poor Calle Jarnkrok got tripped while carrying the puck on the penalty kill, get slammed to the ice during a scrum by Byfuglien, then get boarded by Copp. The only way the Jets were getting back into that game was through special teams, and the Preds didn’t give them any “extra” penalties from scrums and dumbassery.

But in all seriousness, missing Copp’s hit into the boards but picking out a holding the stick call (which was correct) that needed a slo-mo replay to show was a bit frustrating. Do better, you stupid league.

Our lovable duo of penalty killers were at it again.

The amount of confidence these two play with on the penalty kill is a vast departure from the strategies we’ve seen for so long in Nashville. For a larger player, Watson has some decent speed and he uses it well to keep Dustin Byfuglien insecure on his way back to protect his poor goaltender.

Sissons would add two goals as he stepped to the third line in Colorado. We talk about how Calle Jarnkrok is the multi-tool you keep in your toolbox for any occasion, but Sissons fits that mold as well. He showed some patience and poise while battling for the good real estate in front of the net.

Viktor Arvidsson also gets into the act while shorthanded.

Stability breeds chemistry, and chemistry breeds stability. Sissons and Watson know where each other are on the ice, and likewise with Arvidsson and Forsberg.

Viktor Arvidsson has 26 goals with 12 games remaining. He was too kind for his own good with the empty net in Colorado.

Wildcard teams in the West

Which team(s) could 1. Sneak their way into the Wild Card spots and 2. Surprise first-round opponents? I’m betting on Colorado doing some damage to their first matchup.

Rachel K

I don’t want to see the Ducks in the first round. Nashville will likely handle them, but it’s the toll the take on your roster. Vegas would struggle with them during a series. Colorado seems scary right now, after MacKinnon their lineup isn’t near as terrifying. Semyon Varlamov can steal a game or two, but I don’t see them winning a series against Nashville. Colorado vs. Vegas would be fun, and could go either way.

By the way, the Avs are the winner of the Erik Johnson for Kevin Shattankirk trade. It took a while, but here we are.

The other team I’d like to see Nashville avoid: Calgary. It’s not looking like the Flames can claw their way in, but that’s a matchup I wouldn’t want just based on the style the Flames are comfortable with. They’re completely cool with playing on the counter.

Which Preds, in order, would most decrease the odds of a parade down Broadway if injured this postseason?

Gnash4President

Pekka Rinne is the obvious number one, but after him I’d go with Ellis, Johansen, Subban, Josi, Turris, Forsberg, Arvidsson, Ekholm, Fiala, Sissons. Ryan Ellis may not be the best defender in Nashville, but he’s a huge part of what the Preds do on offense. His return also allowed Emelin to play on the third pair where he could be the alpha as opposed to Emelin trying to be the beta defenseman to Subban on his pair.

Non-hockey question

Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?

rpnociti

No. Neither should the steroid users, neither should those convicted of violent crimes, or those who showed themselves to the racists, bigots, abusers, etc. This is my opinion, but the hall of fame should only enshrine those who can be trusted as a spokesperson for their sport. An easy way to think of it: when a Hockey Hall of Fame member is in the room, they need to be presented as if this person IS hockey. If it’s Mark Messier in the room, we see a scary, tough, and wise player who everyone trusts. If Bobby Hull is in the room, we’re presented with a great goal scorer, a toupee wearer, and domestic abuser. The same applies to baseball. Ken Griffey Jr., Johnny Bench, Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, those are all Hall of Fame members to me and the voters. Ty Cobb? Nah. If you want to denote someone statistics in a museum, cool. But he wasn’t the type of person that needs be representing the sport.

This wasn’t meant to be a direct dig at Chicago or the Blackhawks, even though they gave him a statue. He’s just the example I chose to use due to his well-documented past.

No one is perfect, and we all fall short. We all make mistakes and we all end up disappointing people. I can forgive a gambler before I can forgive someone who physically harmed their spouses, but the gambler interferes with the “integrity of the game” and baseball won’t forgive Rose. I’m okay with Rose not making it in, but it would be more well-accepted if the sports had better standards on who made it in.

Pekka’s HOF chances

With a cup and Vezina:

Cup only:

Vezina only:

Neither:

ppeterson614

With both: 55%

With 1 cup (and Conn Smythe): 55%

With 1 cup: 40%

With 1 Vezina: 33%

Neither: 8%

I don’t think Pekka Rinne will be fully appreciated until he’s been gone for a few years.

Who is going to write

”It Takes a Blog” about raising the youngsters here in the Predator way?

rpnociti

I would trust Jim Diamond to write anything. Even that. After him, probably Chris Brooks.

Here’s one that I’ve been wondering about:

Which current and former Preds players do you predict will have their numbers retired by the Preds at some point?

And a bonus question: what is your favourite number on a hockey jersey?

No Ma’am

It will start with Pekka Rinne or Mike Fisher, then Josi, then Subban, then Forsberg/Johansen/Arvidsson. My caveat will be if they win the cup this year and Fisher is on the ice when they win it.

The big numbers have been cool as of late, but I’m a fan of comfort above all else. A single digit number or #11 is more comfy to me. I haven’t worn a jersey in a long while, I’ve migrated to biz-cas and pullovers.

Preferred Playoff Series Wrap Up Music

Shout, Pts. 1&2 – The Isley Brothers

Heartache Tonight – The Eagles

If I remember correctly both have been played but usually one or the other at a close out game. I think both were played game 4 against the Hawks last year. WCF clincher only had Shout.

Dennis.K.Morgan

They were too nice.

I’d go with “Lights Out” by Royal Blood...

...or “Hot Blood” by Kaleo.

But for the team you really hate: “Walk” by Pantera.

I’d like something mean and something that works well with a video package.

William M. Jennings Trophy

Hey Dan,

media finally caught up to pekka when it comes to the vezina.. my Question would be what is your opinion on Pekkas and Juuses Chances to win the William M. Jennings Trophy ?

KatharsesD

Their chances are great. Unlike the other teams they’re competing with, the Preds can afford to play their backup more. The Bruins and Kings are the closest competitors, and the Bruins have to play the Lightning a few more times. The Kings have Jack Campbell as their backup right now, which means they’re going to be riding Quick the rest of the way as much as they can. As long as they can avoid blowouts, they’ll be good for the Jennings.

So with the NBC putting celebrities between the benches at NHL games

Who would you want at a Nashville game? I vote Rex Ryan.

musamonster

With Rex Ryan working for ESPN, I doubt that will happen. Carrie wouldn’t do it, but I could see Tim McGraw or Brad Paisley take in a game between the benches.

  • Jokerit began it’s series with CSKA Moscow on Friday. They’re down 1-0 to CSKA, and playing game two today.
  • I’m pulling for Jokerit.
  • This may be my least favorite coach interview I’ve seen in a long time.

You’re coaching Ohio State, one of the largest universities in the United States. You beat South Dakota State. Credit your team, give credit to your opponent, and thank your fans for the support. Don’t act like a smug child.

  • The Reds signed Eugenio Suarez to a seven-year extension worth $66 million. For many of you, this the first time you’ve seen the name Eugenio Suarez. The Reds are starting to round the corner of their rebuild, allegedly. Meanwhile, my Orioles held on to Machado hoping to make “one last run” this year despite doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to upgrade their pitching staff. Their pitching could be historically bad this year, which is great news for the Yankees and souvenir collectors.
  • They didn’t trade Eeli Tolvanen.
  • If the Capitals don’t make it out of the second round this year, what are the odds Barry Trotz comes back to Washington? Not great.
  • More and more when I watch the Predators, it feels like they’re having more fun making that extra pass on the rush.
  • John Tavares is going to get paid this summer, but Tyler Seguin might command more money the following summer. Keep an eye on how Dallas handles this, and if they decide to pay the man. If the Stars can’t make a playoff run in the next two years, it makes the decision harder. Keep in mind: they’re paying Jamie Benn $9.5 million (cap hit) until 2025.
  • Arizona looks to be finally figuring it out. That’s a good defensive lineup, and they have a good mix of kids and vets. I’m hoping they make the playoffs next year at the expensive of Anaheim, because the universe owes us that one.
  • I get the feeling that Nashville is waiting for the playoffs to turn up the intensity. We see flashes of it at the opening of home games and after the other team scores, but they don’t sustain it during the full 60 minutes. That should excite you.
  • Also, don’t be surprised to see Saros get more playing time as the season draws to a close.

On to the next one.

-Dan