Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sullivan to Miss Game 4

Predators coach Barry Trotz said veteran wing Steve Sullivan will sit out Game 4 of Nashville's Western Conference Semifinals series with Vancouver with a lower-body injury.

Sullivan got tangled up with a Vancouver player and hobbled off the ice to the locker room with 3:10 left in regulation on Tuesday in Game 3 and did not return.

The 36-year-old only played 44 games this season because of injury and only one regular season game after Feb. 24. He has 2 goals in the playoffs while playing in all nine postseason games for Nashville thus far, but his ice time has been limited and he has mostly played a fourth-line role.

Trotz said he has two options to replace Sullivan: veteran J-P Dumont and 21-year-old Colin Wilson. Wilson played in all 82 regular-season games but has been a healthy scratch in the playoffs.

Wilson participated in warm-ups on Tuesday and Trotz said he was close to putting him in the lineup.

"Yeah, Willie's ready," Trotz said. "I was really thinking about putting him in last night. I told him to get ready. It would be a warm-up decision. I feel he's ready for the postseason. He's a young guy, talented. He's a big body. His play at the end of the year wasn't where I wanted it to be. And no one allowed him to get into that first series because everyone played well.

"He had a tough time dealing with that. He's over that, but he realizes that, 'Hey, I can now contribute and I get it and have to be a pro about it.' It's part of his process of being a really good pro."

Dumont, 33, was often a healthy scratch at the end of the regular season but played in Games 5 and 6 of the first round after Martin Erat went out with an upper-body injury. Dumont made a big play to earn an assist in Nashville's decisive Game 6 victory but also took a penalty and was benched, finishing with only 5:37 of time on ice. He has 17 goals in 50 career playoff games.

Showing a Great Offense is a Great Defense

On Monday, Predators coach Barry Trotz said he thinks that at some point during their careers two of his team's defensemen, Shea Weber, who is a finalist this year, and Ryan Suter, will win the Norris Trophy.

That remains to be seen but one thing that is for sure is that during the playoffs, the Predators are getting plenty of offense out of that pair and out of their defense in general.

Weber (three goals, two assists) and Suter (one goal, four assists) each have five points in eight games. So while those two are producing at about the same rate as they did in the regular season others like Cody Franson, who has four assists, are helping Nashville to produce at a higher rate than the Preds'defense did in the regular season.

In all, Nashville has 19 points in 48 games from its defense in the playoffs and that includes none from stay-at-home-type Shane O'Brien.

"I think it's been like that all year," Suter said of the production from Nashville's back end. "Our (defense) has been a big part of our offense. Everyone's contributed, offensively. When you don't have the superstars to contribute and help out and this year's been a good example of that."

Trotz echoed Suter's comments.

"If you look at it all year, our (defense) are involved," he said. "They have to be. The way teams track and get their numbers back, you need to have the defense involved. Unless you have exceptionally talented forwards, you're probably not
going to get as many opportunities. Most odd-man chances, there's a defenseman involved. That's the way the game is."

Suter scored the tying goal with 67 seconds left in regulation in Game 2 from behind the goal line -- the second time in the playoffs he has started a play that has led to a goal from that deep in the offensive zone. Nashville went on to win in double overtime with a goal that was assisted by Suter.

Nashville's system emphasizes defensive responsibility, so it's been surprising to find Suter, an excellent skater, so deep in the offensive end at times. In the first round, he stripped a defender of the puck against the wall behind the net and two passes later the Predators scored in the final minute of a period.

Suter laughed after that game that he would not have taken such a chance if he knew that more time remained than he thought. But he said both situations were similar.

"It was the last-minute of the game," said Suter, who had 39 points in 70 regular season games. "It was desperation. It's the last 20 seconds of the period in the Anaheim series. And I knew in the Anaheim series, I knew they were changing (lines). I didn't know there was that much time left on the clock. When there's (little) time like that, you can take the risk."

Trotz said he is comfortable with Suter's risk-taking. The player finished a plus-20 in the regular season -- best on the team.

"Sutes has great awareness of when to go, great awareness of when to get back," Trotz said. "He really has free reign to do that. I have good trust in his game. He's a guy that can get around the ice pretty well.

"With a guy like him or (San Jose's) Dan Boyle, it would be a crime for him not to have free reign. I think we try to develop defensemen like that in our organization."

One difference in the current series as opposed to the first round for Nashville is its ability to score power-play goals -- a phase in which the defense helped out considerably. Nashville had six power-play goals in six games in the first round but has yet to break through the Canucks' unit, which tied for the second-best percentage in the League during the regular season.

"Yeah, our power play was clicking pretty good in the first series," said Franson, who has a hard shot from the point. "We're able to get a few plays we were working on for a while and the Canucks have done a real good job on the penalty kill against us. Obviously, we have chances we're looking for, but that's part of the adversity of playing in the playoffs .... You've got to be able to adapt to those kinds of situations, those problems and be able to solve them."

Continued production from the defense would seem to be one answer.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Luongo, Rinne showing why they're Vezina finalists

Two games, two goals for each team, two goaltenders who are finalists for the Vezina Trophy.

That's pretty much been the story of the Western Conference semifinal-round series between the Predators and Canucks as it moves to Game 3 here on Tuesday. The series stands at one game apiece with Nashville's Pekka Rinne and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo reverting to form in Round 2 after statistics, if not performances, that were uncharacteristic in the first round.

Luongo, who was pulled from his first-round series against Chicago in both Games 4 and 5 and had to take a backup role in Game 6 until Cory Schneider was injured, has stopped 64 of 66 shots in this series (a .970 save percentage) and has an 0.77 goals-against average. His opposite number in Rinne, whose save percentage was in the .870s after allowing 19 goals to Anaheim in the quarterfinals, has an 0.78 GAA (by virtue of playing 90 seconds less than Luongo, as the Preds have pulled him in both games for an extra attacker). Rinne has stopped 61 of 63 shots for a .968 save percentage.

In the first round, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle claimed that his staff had found a weakness in Rinne. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was asked how his team would solve the 6-foot-5 Finn.

"Well, he's a real good goaltender," Vigneault said. "We've got a real good goaltender. I think you're looking at two teams here -- I know we were the best as far as goals against; I think they were second or third. (Nashville was second.)

"(There) weren't a lot of goals scored by both teams in the regular season (series) because both teams have great goaltending and because both teams can pretty much play very well when they don't have the puck.

"There's not a lot of room. There's not a lot of time out there to make plays. And he's a good goaltender. You got to give him credit. Didn't expect coming into this that these would be high-scoring games, and they haven't been so far."

No, they haven't. Luongo blanked Nashville 1-0 in Game 1 for his third career playoff shutout. He only faced 20 shots in that game and 11 through the first two periods.

Game 2 was a different story. Nashville peppered Luongo with 36 shots through regulation and did not break the ice until 67 seconds remained in regulation.

"There wasn't enough effort there (in Game 1) and we know that to a man," Predators forward Steve Sullivan said. "We understood that and came out in Game 2 until overtime -- I thought until overtime we had 30-plus shots -- so we were creating our chances. I thought Luongo played extremely well. We didn't score on our opportunities, but we were getting the scoring chances so we were happy with that."

Even though they proved victorious in the first round without stellar statistics, both goalies say they don't pay much attention to numbers.

"You know what? I had maybe two games that were not up-to-par in the first round series, but I think in all the other games I played well," Luongo said. "I don't really look at that stuff. I just look at the way I feel and I'm playing on the ice and not as much of the numbers.

"Right now, I feel the same way I've felt the last five months."

In the first round, Trotz said that despite the number of goals Rinne allowed, he thought his goalie, for the most part, made the big saves at the big times.

"Yeah, a lot of them (goals), though, it's just stats," Rinne said. "Games are always different. You just focus one game at a time. Sometimes you give up a few more goals than you would like, but it's hockey. There's great players and good power plays and they're going to get their chances and score some goals."

Rinne made the save of the game -- possibly even the playoffs -- in overtime when he stopped Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa's one-timer by leaping across the crease and getting it with his arm, as his back was turned to the play.

Vancouver's Henrik Sedin was asked if any of Rinne's saves surprised him.

"The one on Bieksa was surprising," he said. "But that's what happens. He throws his stick and glove over there and ‘Juice' hits it. That happens. It's not the first time, it won't be the last time."

Said Luongo: "Obviously, we haven't scored many goals, but we're getting some chances. We've had a few chances where we've had Pekka down and out so we got to bury the chances. He might make the first saves, but if we get him out of position we got to make sure we bear down on those chances and make sure he doesn't get an arm, a leg or a stick on it. Things like that."

With the series having turned into something of a goalies' duel, Luongo said that's fine with him.

"I just play my game and stay focused," he said. "It was a great game. It's a great goalie battle. I'm having fun out there. It's hockey. Stuff's going to happen out there and you try to enjoy it and do the best you can."

Game 3 Preview

TV: SportSouth
(DirecTV 650 SD, 650-1 HD; Dish 445 SD, 9515 HD;
Comcast Nashville 284; Comcast Memphis 831; Comcast Knoxville 450; Comcast Chattanooga 402; Comcast Huntsville 401)


The Nashville Predators evened their series against the No. 1 seeded Vancouver Canucks with a dramatic overtime victory reminiscent of Game Five of the WCQ against Anaheim. Once again, the Predators were able to knot things up on a goal by a defenseman in the waning minutes of the third period with Ryan Suter scoring his first of the playoffs. With the initial 20 minutes of overtime solving nothing, the Predators played the second double-overtime game in franchise history – the previous result was a 5-4 loss against San Jose in 2007. Saturday’s contest would eventually stretch to 94 minutes and 51 seconds, ending as the longest game in Predators history. Rookie Matt Halischukprovided the heroics for Nashville and the Predators have now won their last two overtime matchups after going without a win in their first three attempts.

Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo both continued their strong play, with each now having allowed only two goals over the course of the series’ two games. For the second game in a row, Rinne was named the First Star of the Game by Hockey Night in Canada. The Nashville netminder’s save percentage now stands at .958 in the series, while his Vancouver counterpart is at .970. Luongo’s 44 saves in Game Two were the most ever by an opposition goaltender in Predators playoff history, breaking a mark set by Evgeni Nabokov in 2007.

After 984 regular season games and 34 postseason contests, the Nashville Predators advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 2011. Only three players remain from the team’s first postseason appearance in 2004 (David LegwandMartin Erat and Jordin Tootoo)… Legwand, Erat and Shea Weber are tied for first in franchise playoff scoring (17 pts), while Joel Ward has moved up to fifth place (10 pts) by virtue of scoring six points (3g-3a) in his last seven games. Ward had a five-game point streak (3g-2a) snapped in Game One of the WCS. The streak was the longest in Predators postseason history… Legwand led the team in scoring in last year’s postseason, picking up seven points (2g-5a) in six games, tying Paul Kariya for highest single-series output in franchise history… Mike Fisher leads all Predators in playoff experience with 83 games – prior to 2011, all were with the Ottawa Senators… Jonathon BlumBlake GeoffrionMatt Halischuk and Anders Lindback all made their NHL playoff debuts in the WCQ… Rinne has more than doubled up Tomas Vokoun in franchise playoff victories, moving into first in the category with seven wins… Cody Franson notched four assists against the Ducks, setting a series franchise record for defensemen; Ryan Suter had three, to tie the previous mark… Nashville and Vancouver had never faced each other in the NHL playoffs prior to 2011… Nashville has not lost consecutive games in the 2011 Playoffs.

April 30, 2011: Nashville Predators 2, Vancouver Canucks 1 (2 OT) at Rogers Arena
At more than 94 minutes, the game was the longest in Predators postseason history, surpassing a double-overtime loss to San Jose in the 2007 WCQ… Before Suter’s goal at 18:53 of the third period, the Predators’ scoreless streak had extended to 119:03 – the longest in franchise playoff history… Nashville’s 46 shots and the 79 shots by both teams combined were each franchise highs for a playoff game. The 13 shot-advantage held by the Predators also set a new mark for a road game… Neither team has scored a power-play goal in the series, with Vancouver at 0-for-6 and Nashville at 0-for-9… Nashville held the advantage in shots (46-33), hits (41-34), blocked shots (23-19) and face-off wins (57-43). Shane O’Brien and Steve Sullivan were the only Predators not to record a shot. Kevin Klein recorded a game-high five blocked shots. David Legwand was 18-of-23 (78 percent) in the face-off circle… Suter and Shea Weber each played greater than 42 minutes, while Legwand was the only other skater on the Nashville roster to eclipse the 29-minute mark (32:52).

Defenseman Shane O’Brien was acquired along with forward Dan Gendur from Vancouver on Oct. 5 in exchange for Ryan Parent and Jonas Andersson… The teams played all four of their games in the 2011 portion of the schedule, splitting the season series at two games apiece and alternating wins. The Predators are 18-25-6 against the Canucks all time, but 5-5-0 in the last 10 meetings… Nashville outscored Vancouver 8-6 in the four games. Special teams goals were hard to come by, with Nashville going 0-for-14 on the power-play, and Vancouver, the League’s top-ranked power-play (24.3 percent in the regular season), scoring only once against the Predators penalty kill… Martin Erat led Nashville skaters with four points (1g-3a)… Pekka Rinne was 2-2-0 against the Canucks this season with a 1.26 goals-against average, .962 save percentage and a 29-save shutout… Nick Spaling and Blake Geoffrion scored the game-winners in the Preds’ victories. For Geoffrion, it was his first career game-winning goal… Ryan Suter played at least 26 minutes in three of the four games… The Canucks’ win on March 29 snapped a five-game winning streak for Nashville and was one of only two regulation losses in the Predators’ final 12 games of the regular season.

Steve Sullivan (15g-15a-30pts in 37 gp) and Martin Erat (8g-16a-24pts in 32 gp) lead the Predators in production against the Canucks in their careers… Pekka Rinne has an all-time record of 4-4-0 with a 1.89 goals-against average and a shutout against Vancouver. Anders Lindback has never faced the Canucks… Shane O’Brien played two seasons with the Canucks, picking up 18 points (2g-16a) and a +21 rating in 141 games. He also had five points (2g-3a) in 22 playoff games for Vancouver… Jerred Smithson is a native of Vernon, B.C., while Shea Weber and Cody Franson both call Sicamous, B.C., home. Franson and Jonathon Blum both played their junior careers with the Vancouver Giants (WHL), capturing the Memorial Cup in 2007. Blum finished his career as the Giants’ all-time leader in points by a defenseman… Shea Weber (Canada), Ryan Suter (United States), Patric Hornqvist (Sweden), Marcel Goc (Germany), Martin Erat (Czech Republic), and Sergei Kostitsyn (Belarus) all participated in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

(5) Nashville Predators def. (4) Anaheim Ducks, 4-2
The series was the first postseason matchup between Nashville and Anaheim… Nashville achieved a number of notable franchise firsts, including the team’s first overtime victory and first series victory… Eighteen of the Predators’ 19 skaters earned at least one point, with 16 earning at least two points. Defensemen factored into 14 of Nashville’s 22 goals… Fisher led the team with six points (3g-3a), one shy of the franchise high for points in a single series. Weber’s three goals and five points were the most by a defenseman in Predators postseason history… A goal was scored in every period of the series… The Nashville power play went 6-of-27 (22 percent), scoring in five of the six games.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Pekka Rinne -- History Will Be Made

Rinne's Overtime Saves

I thought Rinne's saves were beautiful and awesome because they lead to Nashville winning the game thanks to Matt Halischuk's goal. I hope you enjoy this video courtesy of