SheaWeber

Weber having ‘best season as a pro,’ says Trotz

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The Nashville Predators are going to miss the playoffs for the second straight year, but their captain’s never played better.

That’s what head coach Barry Trotz said this week, claiming that Shea Weber is in the midst of his best season since breaking into the NHL nine years ago.

“He’s not getting the accolades across the league that he would if we were a little higher in the standings, but it’s by far his best season in terms of production,” Trotz said, per The Tennessean. “And we’re basically breaking in five defensemen, maybe four … and he’s having a terrific season.

“So to me, he’s having by far his best season as a Predator, as a pro.”

Statistically speaking, Weber’s been very Weber-like this season. His 18 goals are five off his career-best 23 and his 46 points are seven off his career high of 53. He’s playing a ton of minutes, which is nothing new — though it’s worth mentioning he’s averaging a career-high 27:56 TOI per game, in large part because of all the new blueliners Trotz referenced.

The bigger narrative, it seems, is pushing Weber’s Norris Trophy candidacy.

After finishing as the runner up to Nicklas Lidstrom in 2011 and Erik Karlsson in 2012, Weber plummeted to eighth in voting last year, failing to get a single first-place ballot. At times, it seems like Weber’s play is taken for granted (because he’s so consistently good) and often overlooked because of the market he plays in.

There might be something to it.

Though he undoubtedly has many years left in his career to win one, the fact Weber — who turns 29 in August — hasn’t won a Norris yet is kind of surprising; especially since three of the last four winners (Karlsson, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith) were all 26 or younger.

Of course, the age thing doesn’t mean all that much.

Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer didn’t win their first Norris Trophies ’til they were 30; Zdeno Chara was 31 and, perhaps most famously, Hockey Hall of Famer Al MacInnis won his first and only Norris when he was 35 years old.

Whatever the case, Trotz wants it to be known Weber should be in consideration for this year’s Norris.

“If you were doing a coaching poll, I know he’d be in the top three,” Trotz said. “He has been an absolute beast this year in terms of the way he’s played. On and off the ice, he’s taken a leadership role. He’s been a difference maker.

“He can play in every situation you want to throw at him, and he’s having a great season.”

Forsberg’s three points push Predators past Sharks, 6-2

at SAP Center on October 28, 2015 in San Jose, California.
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NASVHILLE, Tenn. (AP) Recent call-up Viktor Arvidsson scored twice, Filip Forsberg had a goal and two assists and the Nashville Predators beat the San Jose Sharks 6-2 on Saturday night.

Pekka Rinne made 28 saves and James Neal, Calle Jarnkrok and Shea Weber also scored to help Nashville end a three-game home losing streak.

Joe Thornton and Logan Couture scored for the Sharks. Their 17-8-2 road record is the best in the Western Conference, and the Sharks fell to 9-2-2 in their last 13 games.

Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, regained his form after allowing six goals in a loss Thursday night to Philadelphia.

Arvidsson was recalled from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Monday.

San Jose goalie Martin Jones allowed five goals on 29 shots. He was 8-1-1 in his previous 10 starts and has an NHL-best 15-5-2 road record.

The Sharks dominated early and took eight of the game’s first nine shots, but Rinne stopped them all.

Nashville scored on its third shot when Neal fired a slap shot from the low slot past Jones 13:12 in. Neal leads the Predators with 19 goals.

Jarnkrok’s wrist shot from the mid-slot bounced over Jones’ glove and in for a 2-0 lead at 6:26 of the second period.

Johansen assisted on the play, giving him 14 points in 13 games since arriving in a trade with Columbus on Jan. 6.

Jarnkrok also scored in a 6-3 loss to Philadelphia on Thursday, giving him nine goals on the season.

Thornton cut Nashville’s lead in half when he swatted a loose puck in the crease into the net at 15:41 of the second period.

Nashville responded quickly when Arvidsson roofed a wrist shot that beat Jones glove side at 17:01 of the second period.

Forsberg’s short-handed goal built Nashville’s lead to 4-1 at 6:51 of the third period. He beat Jones with a wrist shot to the far post. Forsberg now has 101 career points.

Arvidsson scored his second goal on a 2-on-1 breakaway, deking Jones before sliding a backhander past him to give the Predators a 5-1 lead at 8:44 of the third period.

Couture’s slap shot narrowed the deficit to 5-2 at 13:37 of the third period.

Weber got an empty-net goal with 4:37 left.

Notes: Predators center Mike Ribeiro played in his 1,000th career game, becoming the 22nd active NHL player and 300th ever to reach the milestone. He was Montreal’s second-round pick in the 1998 draft. … Nine of the Sharks’ first 11 games after the All-Star break are on the road. … San Jose RW Joel Ward, 35, played three seasons for Nashville from 2008-11 early in his career. … Sharks right wing Joe Pavelski entered with eight game-winning goals, tied with Chicago’s Jonathan Toews for the most in the NHL.

Hockey tough: Mark Stone shakes off skate to face, scores

Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone celebrates his game winning goal during overtime against the Boston Bruins during an NHL hockey game in Ottawa, Ontario, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016.  The Senators defeated the Bruins 2-1. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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You’d think the reaction to taking a skate to the face would be something like “Not coming back to that game, getting some ice and maybe do some soul-searching.”

Nope, not in the NHL, at least.

In this league, the real reaction is almost always to come back to the same game … and barely miss a beat.

Ottawa Senators Mark Stone provides the latest example of hockey toughness, as he bounced back almost immediately from this.

What did he do? He scored a nice goal in the Senators’ 6-1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.