Who will lead the offensively challenged Nashville Predators in scoring?

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arnottleaves.jpgIt’s unfair to judge teams “on paper,” but sometimes those paper rosters/lists can be awfully telling.

Take, for instance, this poll at On The Forecheck that asks the simple question: “Who will be the Nashville Predators leading scorer next season?” Here are a few of the names (and descriptions) from that post.

J.P. Dumont

He led the team in scoring in 2008-9, but ended up on the 4th line last season, receiving minimal playing time. If he earns his way back into Barry Trotz’s good graces, he could re-establish himself as a team leader.

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Patric Hornqvist

He broke through as a 30-goal man last season, so the big question is whether he trends up or down from there.

Matthew Lombardi

Greater opportunity played a big part in his growth as a player in Phoenix, and he should get every chance to produce in Nashville as well.

Steve Sullivan

He’s always in the mix, gets used in key offensive situations, and has seemingly addressed durability concerns by playing all 82 games last season.

Shea Weber

If the Nashville power play ever gets rolling, he’d be a major beneficiary.

weberanderat.jpgYear after year, Barry Trotz and the Nashville Predators defy conventional logic by scrapping their way to the playoffs without much star power or cash to bargain with. That being said, while you can make a very sober and sound argument that the team improved last season, Jason Arnott’s departure exposes the fact that this team’s offensive potential fails to “jump off the page.”

Seriously, with all due respect to Shea “Butter” Weber – and believe me, I haven’t exactly done a great job of masking my admiration for that physical force of a defenseman – it’s a bit alarming when a blueliner might end up being your team’s top point producer. It brings back bad memories of when I was a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins more than the NHL and Dick Tarnstrom – Dick Tarnstrom – ended up being the team’s leading scorer. (If you guessed that the Pens missed the playoffs that season, the University of Obvious will mail you your master’s degree shortly.)

The list also includes flighty forward Martin Erat and young whippersnapper Colin Wilson.

It’s honestly very difficult for me to even wager a guess regarding who might win the Predators scoring title. It would be easier if Steve Sullivan was durable, but despite Dirk Hoag’s positive feedback, Sullivan is basically a poor man’s Marian Gaborik. For that reason, I’m going to make a not-quite-fearless prediction that Patric Hornqvist will emerge as the team’s leading scorer. I say that without the slightest hint of confidence in my guess.

Anyway, feel free to vote in Hoag’s poll and share your thoughts on the Predators offense in the comments. Do they have enough firepower to compete in the Western Conference? Can I really go through the 2010-11 season without making some kind of joke about Barry Trotz’s appearance? Is Shea “Butter” Weber a horrible nickname? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Again.

Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

“We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.

Penguins’ Hornqvist hurt after blocking shot vs. Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have had to shuffle their forward combinations in the second period, after Patric Hornqvist was hurt blocking a shot in the first period of Game 2 versus the Capitals.

The Penguins forward was in obvious pain after taking a shot right around the ankle, which is a concerning development for Pittsburgh.

Per reports, he didn’t re-join the Penguins at the bench when the second period began.

Hornqvist can be a frustrating player to go up against, and he’s productive, too, with two goals and five points in six playoff games prior to Saturday.