Mike Fisher

Predators think they can beat anyone right now. Can you blame them?

19 Comments

The Nashville Predators didn’t just beat the Chicago Blackhawks. It wasn’t even that “close” of a sweep, with Chicago only scoring goals in two periods and a 13-3 goal disparity overall.

Despite it being the first time an eighth seed swept a top seed (according to Fox Sports Tennessee … what a stat, right?), the Predators seemed to have at least some dark horse potential.

There were some rumblings about their potential, with Andrew Berkshire making some salient points for a Sportsnet preview:

They were horrible in the shootout and at three-on-three overtime, neither of which exist in the playoffs, and they struggled with their net empty when trailing. When it came to actually playing hockey, they were one of the best teams in the West, and their even strength play down the stretch was extremely strong. The West is wide open, all they need is Pekka Rinne to be league average.

Interesting. Still, after this sweep, the Predators aren’t denying their confidence. They’re taking the tone of a favorite rather than a scrappy underdog, and can you truly blame them for such swagger?

Amusingly, Ryan Ellis used basically the same exact phrasing, saying “we feel like we could beat anybody now.”

“We surprised a lot of people, but not ourselves,” Mike Fisher said, capturing a lot of the spirit.

Now, don’t take this as too much bulletin board material. They’re not puffing out their chests that much. Peter Laviolette, for example, supplied the more comfortable cliches.

Still, the winner of the Minnesota Wild – St. Louis Blues series has to expect a dialed-in opponent in the Predators.

Preds counting on Subban to be ‘big-time player’ in playoffs

8 Comments

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The adjustment period is over for P.K. Subban along with the regular season, and now expectations for the All-Star defenseman could not be higher.

The Nashville Predators swapped their captain and own All-Star defenseman Shea Weber to Montreal last June , believing that Subban could provide both a boost to the offense and help a franchise that has never gotten out of the second round finally win its first Stanley Cup.

Well, the playoffs start Thursday night with the eighth-seeded Predators in Chicago against the Blackhawks.

Watch Predators vs. Blackhawks on NBC Sports

The former Norris Trophy winner, who had to get used to living in the United States for the first time in his life, understands that for all the fun of learning about Music City and his new teammates that the postseason is the biggest reason why he is here.

“Me coming into this team was about helping us win a Stanley Cup and being a part of that,” Subban said. “And now we have our opportunity, so I’m really excited about everything.”

So are the Predators and their fans. This franchise has reached the postseason 10 of the past 13 years, advancing to the second round three times.

They came closest to the Western Conference Final a year ago by pushing San Jose to seven games . The Predators start this postseason Thursday night in Game 1 against the West’s No. 1 seed, the Chicago Blackhawks.

With Subban, the Predators are scoring more goals (238) than a year ago (224), a two-spot jump to 11th in the league. Subban ranked 22nd among defensemen with 40 points in 66 games. Weber finished with 42 points over 78 games.

The Predators’ biggest improvement came after Subban returned from an upper-body injury that kept him out 16 games . After the All-Star break, the Predators were the NHL’s seventh-best scoring team with 102 goals.

Subban wasn’t the only injury Nashville dealt with in its defensive group. Roman Josi missed 10, while Ryan Ellis was out 11. Playing with new defensive partners also slowed the process.

“He’s been a great addition,” Josi said of Subban. “I mean we know he’s a big-time player, so we’re looking forward to him to be a big player for us in the playoffs.”

That’s where Subban is expected to make the biggest impact. He has 38 points in 55 playoff games – 10 more than Weber in 59 postseason games – and was nearly a point a game player for Montreal in 2014, scoring 14 points in 17 playoff games.

Nashville captain Mike Fisher said the Predators are excited to see that part of Subban.

“He brings a lot of enthusiasm and offensive ability to our team, and he’s had a great year,” Fisher said Monday. “I think he’s poised for an even better playoff.”

Nashville doesn’t see Subban only as an offensive threat. Coach Peter Laviolette has been impressed by Subban’s defensive skills too so much that the Predators regularly pit Subban and Mattias Ekholm against an opponent’s heaviest players.

“He’s delivered for us from an offensive standpoint, and our defensemen scoring is still in a good place and he’s a big part of it,” Laviolette said. “I think he and Eky have done a great job defensively handling the other team’s biggest customers.”

Now that the postseason is here, general manager David Poile and Laviolette want to make clear that this isn’t a one-man show.

“It’s not just hinging on him,” Laviolette said. “I’ve said Chicago has got a good team. We’re going to have to play good hockey. P.K.’s going to have to play well. All of our guys are going to have to play well.”

 

Pushing for the playoffs: Andersen backstops Leafs in victory over Predators

Getty

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) James van Riemsdyk and Auston Matthews each scored a power-play goal, and Frederik Andersen made 29 saves to help the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Thursday night.

Connor Brown added an empty-net goal with 58.4 seconds left as the Maple Leafs started a three-game road trip by sweeping the season series with Nashville. They also won their second straight and fifth in six games to remain in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Filip Forsberg scored his 30th of the season for Nashville. The Predators have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak.

Related: Goalie nods: Andersen back for the Leafs

Toronto is trying to hold off Boston, while the Predators needed a win to leapfrog St. Louis into third place in the Central Division. Nashville came in three points shy of its third straight playoff berth under coach Peter Laviolette.

It was the 1,000th game behind the bench for Laviolette, making him the 28th coach overall and just the second born in the United States to reach that mark in the NHL.

A quiet first period ended when Austin Watson took exception to a clean hit on teammate Mattias Ekholm and roughed Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin. That put the NHL’s second-best power play on the man advantage, and Toronto needed only 13 seconds to convert as van Riemsdyk redirected a shot by Nikita Zaitsev past goalie Pekka Rinne at 18:42 for a 1-0 lead.

The Predators had three power plays in the second – a period in which they have outscored opponents by the biggest margin in the NHL (95-63). Yet they couldn’t beat Andersen, who had a nice stop on a backhander by Kevin Fiala just before the third penalty on the Maple Leafs nearly midway through the period.

The Maple Leafs got their second man advantage when Nashville captain Mike Fisher slashed Tyler Bozak, and Toronto scored again. This time, Matthews added to his Toronto rookie record with his 36th goal of the season off a wrister as he skated up the slot just inside the left circle with 1:17 left in the second.

Andersen preserved the shutout with several nice saves in the third, including one in front from Fisher. The goaltender also killed off one last penalty when Roman Polak went in the box for holding – Andersen needed Morgan Rielly‘s help after the puck went off his arm and trickled near the goal line.

Kings praise Iginla after huge OT winner against Preds

Getty
3 Comments

LOS ANGELES (AP) Jarome Iginla has spent the better part of two decades scoring clutch goals against the Western Conference’s best teams, including the Los Angeles Kings.

The 39-year-old scorer is finally on the Kings’ side, and they’ve discovered his shot is still as dangerous as ever.

Iginla scored with 1:26 left in overtime, and the Kings rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

In his third game with his new club, Iginla got his first two goals for the Kings, both on Los Angeles’ frequently struggling power play.

“It feels good, especially with a new team,” Iginla said. “To be with the guys and find some way to contribute, it’s exciting to be out there at the end in a key situation.”

The Kings acquired Iginla at the trade deadline for the playoff push, and the 20-year veteran capitalized on two big opportunities to push his low-scoring new club to another win.

“He’s a goal-scorer, and he has been for a long time,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “His first goal was a pretty easy one, but the second one was a great shot. He’s just had an unbelievable shot for so long, and he just puts pucks in the net that not many other guys can put in.”

Iginla’s first goal for the Kings was the 620th of his NHL career. He scored on a tap-in of Marian Gaborik‘s chance in the waning seconds of a power play in the second period.

After the Predators were whistled for too many men on the ice with 2:24 to play, Iginla skated in low and roofed a shot over Pekka Rinne, who made 31 saves. Just like that, Iginla had his first multi-goal game since February 2016 with Colorado.

“It’s fun, these games,” Iginla said. “There’s a lot on the line. It feels great to be back in these types of games.”

Gaborik also had the tying goal along with his assist in just his third multipoint game of the season, and Jonathan Quick made 21 saves.

Calle Jarnkrok and Kevin Fiala scored for Nashville, which has lost four straight. The Predators still took a point in each of their first two stops on a three-game California road trip despite giving up three power-play goals between Anaheim and Los Angeles.

“We are giving points away right now,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “The past couple games, we’re just making bad decisions on our part and giving points away.”

The Kings went 3 for 3 on the power play, scoring three times with the man advantage for only the second time all season.

Los Angeles has won three meetings with Nashville this season, but two Western Conference teams in desperate need of points both inched up the standings in this one.

Nashville has a precarious lead over St. Louis for third place in the Central Division, while the Kings are chasing the Blues for the second wild-card postseason spot.

Nashville took a first-period lead when Josi got the puck away from Gaborik. Jarnkrok eventually scored his 14th goal, the ninth since Jan. 1 for the two-way forward.

Fiala put the Predators back ahead when he pounced on a rebound of captain Mike Fisher‘s initial chance on a loose puck in the crease. The goal was the Swiss rookie’s first since Feb. 19 and just his third since Dec. 3.

Gaborik tied it again on the power play when Alec Martinez‘s shot hit him and he flipped it home for his eighth goal of the season.

“Well, again, it’s the power play,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We just have to do a better job on the penalty kill.”

NOTES: Nashville D Ryan Ellis was a late scratch after re-aggravating a lower-body injury that kept him out for the second time in three games. … Nashville LW Vernon Fiddler was a healthy scratch for the first time since returning to the Predators in early February in a trade with New Jersey. The veteran has one point in 14 games with Nashville. Colton Sissons played for the first time since Feb. 21, and Fiala also returned after being a healthy scratch in Anaheim.

UP NEXT

Predators: At Sharks on Saturday.

Kings: Host Capitals on Saturday.

Just another big game for Filip Forsberg

Getty
1 Comment

Filip Forsberg‘s bid for a hat trick in three consecutive games didn’t quite pan out Saturday. Fear not, he still had a three-point night.

The 22-year-old Forsberg has been lighting it up of late for the Predators. He had back-to-back hat tricks already this week, the first player to do so since 2010. He then helped lead the way against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, with a goal and two assists in a 5-2 win over the best team in the NHL.

That’s nine points in the last three games and 10 points in the last four games for Forsberg. The win pushes Nashville back into third in the Central Division — two points better than St. Louis and 12 points back of second place Chicago.

Of course there was animosity late in the game when it appeared the Predators were too far out of reach of the Capitals, as Tom Wilson decided to fight Mike Fisher.

After falling behind in the second period, the Capitals thought they had closed the gap early in the third period only to have video review from a coach’s challenge determine Alex Ovechkin was just offside at the blue line, overturning the original call.