Well, it wasn't pretty, but the Nashville Predators managed to close out the 09/10 regular season with a victory. No one will hazard to say that it was a preview of what we hope to see when the playoffs commence next week(outside of the outcome), but ultimately, the way the Predators played in this game isn't something that most will be thinking about, by that time. There may have been a bit of autopilot play involved. While all teams would like to play at their highest gear at all times, especially going into the playoffs, there may have been a lack of incentive, given that they came into the game locked into the playoffs and taking on a team that was already out of it. With all of that said, I would have liked to have seen the Preds a little hungrier to wipe out the sour taste left in everyone's mouth by a lackluster performance in Phoenix on Thursday. Instead, the Blues appeared to be the hungrier team, winning the majority of puck battles, causing numerous ugly turnovers via their tenacity in the offensive zone, and giving the unfortunate number of Blues fans in attendance something to cheer about. Of course, I don't think I can dwell too much on that particular fact, given that the game was about 450 shy of a sellout as it was. I was a little disappointed by that, especiallly after early reports were that cheap tickets seemed to be virtually nonexistent, yesterday morning. Nashville finished the season with 4 sellouts, which if memory serves is our lowest total since 02-03. It's not all bad news, however-- average attendance is the highest it's been in quite some time, and those interim years saw attendance padded by a sizable amount of comped tickets--rumored at times to be as many as 1500-2000 a game, so a number of "announced" sellouts may have been a bit of an illusion. Regardless, I hope to see every one of our home playoff games sold out. Any NHL player will tell you that crowd energy is a huge advantage, and we have a great reputation for giving that sort of "seventh man" advantage. I still get chills when I watch the YouTube video of David Legwand's breakaway goal vs Detroit in 03/04. The crowd makes my Dell computer speakers crackle. That's the sort of atmosphere the Preds will rely on to carry them through the first round, and hopefully beyond. Jason Arnott went as far as to personally request that we pack it out and rock the building, and who are we to deny the requests of our captain?
I won't dwell too much on the particulars of this game, since like most, my mind is already looking forward and focused on today's games(more on that later.) From my perch in 308A, it was pretty apparent that Pekka Rinne was to thank for the Preds getting A point, let alone two. He was outstanding throughout the night, notably stoning Paul Kariya(don't get me started on the disgust I would have felt had HE scored) on two separate breakaways. Another well-deserved first-star performance(officially, since we the fans were the 'announced' first stars). Coach Trotz threw a bit of a bone to Wade Belak in what was likely his last time to take the ice as a Nashville Predator. He was taking a regular shift with Dustin Boyd and Jerred Smithson, and we were rewarded with a few scary moments and scoring chances for the Blues. I'm a big fan of NHL justice, and fighting for a purpose, but I think the time of "staged" battles between heavyweights like Belak are hopefully becoming extinct. I'm all for carrying someone who can drop the gloves when the situation dictates it, but I'd like for that guy to be able to take a regular shift. I was a big fan of Darcy Hordichuk for that reason. No one would mistake him for a scoring threat, but he'd pop in the odd goal, had decent wheels, and wasn't totally inept defensively. Wade Belak seems like an awesome guy and a real character, but I can't think of a team that could use him in any role that wasn't both a defensive and offensive liability.
I liked the Sullivan Goc Ward line, tonight. I've been a bit disappointed in Sully this season. He's allayed many of our fears about his durability, but I've wondered at times if it was because he was playing not to get hurt. In the past couple of weeks, he's taken it up a notch, and I'm finally starting to see glimmers of the old Sully, which is bad news for whomever our playoff opponent is. I also liked what I saw from Dumont, who is a bit of a similar situation. We need those guys to kick it up a gear if we're to succeed. As the old adage goes, "you need your best players to be your best players." Conversely, not the best game I've seen from Suter or Weber, who both had a few bad turnovers\failed routine zone-holding attempts.
Congrats to my mom-in-law, who won the jersey off Smithson's back! Smitty is one of her favorites, so I'm glad she got to experience that!
WHO ARE WE GONNA PLAY??
At the moment, there's a Rubicks Cube of possibilities, and if you're not adept at multi-tiered Calculus, you might have a hard time keeping up. The break down is as follows:
Detroit(100 points) plays Chicago(111 points)
If Detroit wins, or loses in OT, they will finish in fifth place and play the Coyotes. We could then finish no higher than sixth. If Chicago wins, they will lock up 1st overall in the West by virtue of a tiebreaker, and we will move into fifth place, with no possibility of finishing lower than sixth(and thus avoiding the dreaded SJS first round matchup, though it's not like the Canucks are any more favorable, at the moment).
My take: Let's pull for CHICAGO. Anything to get us closer to fifth place, which I still believe is our best outcome.
LA(99 points) plays Colorado(94 points)
LA was 6 minutes from being out of our periphery, when Edmonton showed why they're the worst team in the league. Fortunately, they did defeat the Kings in a shootout and limit them to a single point. The Kings need to win this game to pass us, and keep us from finishing higher than sixth. A loss of any kind, including in OT, will keep them behind us. Unfortunately, the Kings still have that seeding to play for, and the Avalanche are unaffected by this game completely, so the motivation may be higher on the part of the Kings.
My take: Let's pull for COLORADO. Duh.
So here are the scenarios:
DET wins, or loses in OT, LA loses in OT or reg:
DET plays PHO
NAS plays VAN
LA plays SJS
DET LOSES in regulation, LA loses in OT or reg:
NAS plays PHO
DET plays VAN
LA plays SJS
DET wins, LA Wins
DET plays PHO
LA plays VAN
NAS plays CHI
DET loses in OT, LA wins
DET plays PHO
LA plays VAN
NAS plays SJS
So clearly, the last scenario would be the least favorable. Over in the eastern conference, I'll also have my eyes on a HUGE game involving the Flyers and Rangers...winner is in, loser goes home! Gotta love those games!
I'm off to tackle the yardmonster and then hopefully hit the pool. Have a great one, Pred Nation!