TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend

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Saturday: San Jose at Montreal (7 p.m. ET)

The Sharks lost in regulation Thursday, the first time they’ve done that this season. They’ve also scored just once in their last two games, inviting at least a hint of adversity into what’s been a mostly worry-free start to their schedule. Against Montreal, they’ll try to bump their mini slump against a goalie, Carey Price, who boasts an impressive .936 save percentage. The Habs have won five of their last seven.

Saturday: NY Rangers at Detroit (7 p.m. ET)

Both teams are coming off tough losses. The Rangers fell 2-1 to Philly on Thursday; the Wings, 6-1, to Ottawa on Wednesday. Of course, New York (2-6-0) is in far more dire straits than Detroit (6-4-1). Consider: the Rangers’ goal differential (-19) after just eight games is even worse than Buffalo’s (-18) after 11. Anytime you’re statistically worse than the Sabres at something, you know it’s not good.

Saturday: Pittsburgh at Toronto (7 p.m. ET)

Sidney Crosby in Toronto! Sidney Crosby in Toronto! Yeah, there might be a few reporters at his stall for this one. The Penguins won both their visits to the ACC last season, 5-4 in a shootout on Mar. 9 and 3-1 five days later on Mar. 14. This season, Crosby is quietly off to a very loud start (if that makes sense); the 26-year-old leads the NHL with 17 points in nine games, just shy of a two-points-per-game average. Ho-hum.

Saturday: Minnesota at Chicago (8 p.m. ET)

A good test for the resurgent Wild, winners of two straight after going winless (and unlucky) in three. Unfortunately for Minnesota, goalie Josh Harding (lower body) won’t be available for this one. The 29-year-old has been brilliant so far, registering a .953 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against average in nine appearances. Niklas Backstrom, on the other hand, hasn’t been nearly as solid (.867, 2.98), and apparently isn’t fully healthy either.

Sunday: Edmonton at Los Angeles (9 p.m. ET)

We couldn’t pick all Saturday games (meaning we’re totally snubbing St. Louis at Nashville, if you care to complain about PHT’s blatant big-market bias below…seriously, the Rangers?), so we’re going with this one. Why? Well, that’s a good question. Hmmm. OK, here’s something to consider: in Jonathan Quick’s last 47 regular-season appearances (37 last season, 10 this one), his save percentage is a rather mediocre .903. Yes, he was excellent in the playoffs, but still, kind of interesting. Or not. Whatever. There aren’t any great NHL match-ups Sunday. Feel free to watch the World Series or football.

PHT Morning Skate: Four things the Pens need to do to eliminate the Sens

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–Pittsburgh Tribune writer Jonathan Bombulie breaks down the four things the Penguins need to do to close out the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. It starts with being ready to play, being desperate, scoring first and showing Ottawa some respect. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

–A few weeks after they were bounced from the playoffs, the Sharks are still deciding if they should bring back Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. If anything, it sounds like there’s a good chance they chose to keep Thornton over Marleau at this point. (CSN Bay Area)

–The city of Nashville has come a long way as a hockey market. They went from having fans that needed “Hockey 101” lessons to now being fully invested in their team. There were some lean years in Nashville, but they’ve seen the benefits of education young fans over the years. (New York Times)

–The Nashville Predators locked up their first berth in the Stanley Cup Final by beating the Ducks 6-3 on Monday night. Colton Sissons, who was the unlikely hero in Game 6, scored a hat trick. You can check out the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–The Philadelphia Flyers own the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, and there’s at least a chance that Nolan Patrick could be available at that spot. Despite dealing with some pretty significant injuries over the last year, Patrick believes he’s capable of staying healthy and playing in the NHL next season. Oh, and by the way, Patrick doesn’t like pizza, but he loves cheesesteaks. (Courier-Post)

–The Hockey News recounts the story of the old Cleveland Barons, who found out they were entering the NHL just three months before the start of the 1976-77 season. As you can imagine, those are some difficult circumstances, and problems arose from the beginning. “I couldn’t even give tickets away. I asked my mailman if he wanted tickets, and he said, ‘I’ve got bowling tonight,'” said former captain Al McAdam. (The Hockey News)

–Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Taylor Lewan was at the Preds-Ducks game last night, and yup, he threw a catfish on the ice after the Predators won the game. Here’s the visual evidence:

 

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the postseason yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.