Blackhawks become prey as Predators make huge statement with sweep

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The Nashville Predators managed something they’ve never done before and something basically no one manages to do on Thursday night.

For the first time in franchise history, they managed a playoff sweep. And it’s not like they did it against the Brooklyn Brawler; the Predators knocked out the top seed in the Chicago Blackhawks, the first time the Jonathan ToewsPatrick Kane edition of that team has ever been knocked out in four straight.

MORE: Blackhawks feel empty after resounding defeat

And make no mistake about it. Shutting down those two superstars and the other dangerous Blackhawks scorers ranks as one of their many rare accomplishments. They locked the series down with a convincing 4-1 victory tonight.

Pekka Rinne unquestionably deserves a ton of the credit. He remarkably managed two straight shutouts to begin the series. He almost had a third, but Toews scored his first tally of the series to spoil that late in Game 4.

Even so, it’s resounding that the Blackhawks were only able to score in two different periods during the entire series. Nashville outscored Chicago 13-3 in a stunning series.

MORE: No doubt about it, the Predators are brimming with confidence

While Rinne rightfully grabs a ton of headlines, plenty of other Predators stood out.

  • Ryan Johansen sure looks like the first-line center that Nashville was hoping for when they made that pivotal trade involving Seth Jones.

  • The Predators really enjoyed an advantage they subtly exploited during the season: their deep, talented defense was great. P.K. Subban didn’t score a ton – at least by his standards – but apparently he titled the ice.
  • It’s fitting that Viktor Arvidsson scored the empty-netter to really seal things up. He sure seemed to make more of a difference than merely getting two goals. You could probably make a similar argument for Kevin Fiala, who caused havoc with his speed and scored that crucial Game 3 double-overtime-clincher.
  • And, hey, Peter Laviolette gets a little revenge for the Blackhawks beating his Flyers in a Stanley Cup Final many moons ago.

The Predators came into 2016-17 with a lot of hype, but considering their place as the final team in the West, they didn’t always live up to it. Some of that was bad luck, some was poor execution.

Now the Predators dropped the team of this generation, a squad that was able to optimize its strengths enough to win the Central Division and No. 1 spot in the West.

Sure … with another first-round exit, there’s the question that maybe the Blackhawks are running low on  gas (or at least might suffer from “feast or famine” runs).

Of course, the thrilled fans at Bridgestone Arena might counter that it’s merely all coming together for a team that’s much better than its season indicated.

Should Erik Johnson be suspended for ugly play on Namestnikov?

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Vladislav Namestnikov has been the Mikael Renberg equivalent on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legion of Doom with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for much of this season, complimenting those two scorers with strong work of his own.

The Lightning were lighting up the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, perhaps frustrating Erik Johnson and others. Whatever the explanation might be, it was a pretty ugly sight when Johnson slashed and then boarded Namestnikov, earning those two penalties plus a game misconduct.

Plenty of people believe that supplemental discipline would be merited for Johnson’s actions. For what it’s worth, “Names” did return to action in the third period. We’ve seen instances where players return only to be hurt anyway, so we’ll see if the nifty winger sees any delayed issues.

Johnson, 29, was suspended for two games by the NHL back in 2014, but has a generally clean history otherwise.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

via Getty

Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

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Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

 

Video: Michael Grabner totally meant to do this for Rangers

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Depending upon how things go for each team, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins may very well grapple for a wild-card spot in the East.

Thankfully, it won’t come down to Michael Grabner‘s deeply weird, memorable, and fun goal against Tuukka Rask, a “bank” goal that Grabner totally meant to do. Right?

(Watch that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

That was Grabner’s 16th goal of 2017-18, which isn’t half-bad for a guy carrying a $1.65 million cap hit this season. Prediction: the speedy winger will cost quite a bit more than that in 2018-19.

As you can see in this video, Alain Vigneault points to Grabner gathering steam in his second season with the Rangers as part of the reason this team is turning things around:

J.T. Miller added a beauty of a goal to make it 2-0, but the Bruins dug deep to tie it 2-2, so we’ll see how the rest of that game goes.

Update: The Rangers ended up edging the Bruins 3-2 in overtime thanks to Mats Zuccarello‘s patient, OTPPGWG.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.