Of all the things this season’s Nashville Predators have done — or might do — that last season’s team did not, this seemed unthinkable.
Five straight regulation losses.
That is the current state of affairs following Thursday’s 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders at Bridgestone Arena. And it’s worse than any stretch that the 2013-14 Predators, who were nowhere near the top of the league standings and ultimately missed the playoffs, did.
“Hard to believe,” center Mike Ribeiro said. “I think it’s a good test now that we are in it and in this situation to battle out of this. No one said that it was going to be an easy season, and now it’s time to grind it out.
“A lot of times you just need that first win to get back on track.”
Last season’s team, which finished 38-32-12, had two five-game losing streaks but each included one overtime loss. There also were two stretches of four straight regulation defeats.
Nashville has had the lead just once in the last five games (for 7:48 last Saturday against Detroit) and has been outscored 19-10 during the current slide.
“I think you are always disappointed by a loss, but I really think we are fine,” right wing Craig Smith said. “We will continue to work to make the right plays and simplify. You can get in trouble when you start searching for answers and you kind of tie yourself up in a knot.
“As long as we stay patient and stay the course and work hard and be simple, it will work itself out.”
The last time the franchise went so long without earning at least a point was April 2013, when it dropped seven straight in regulation near the end of a truly forgettable, lockout-shortened campaign.
“I really think we have to look at the team, and we will get out of this together,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our guys have done an excellent job of staying tight as a group. And there are a lot of things that could have been better (Thursday) night too. … But I think it is important to stay together right now.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey was named the Ivy League Player of the Year and given a spot on the All-Ivy first team, the conference office announced Thursday.
Vesey, a 2012 third-round selection and one of the organization’s top prospects, led the Ivy League in scoring with 44 points and finished third in the country with an average of 1.52 points per game. He had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in Harvard’s 10 Ivy League contests.
He is the first Harvard player in 15 years named Player of the Year in the Ivy League and the first in three years to earn first-team all-league honors.
League honors are nothing new for him, though. He was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and a second-team all-league selection in 2014.
Harvard (15-11-3), currently ranked 21st in the NCAA, opens its best-of-three, first-round ECAC Championship series with Brown on Friday.
(Photo: Harvard athletics)
The Nashville Predators’ game against the New York Islanders will go on as scheduled Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.
Franchise officials understand, though, that not all ticket holders will want to attend the game because of winter weather that hit Middle Tennessee beginning Wednesday night.
Those who choose not to attend will not miss out, though. Those who do will enjoy a couple perks.
The team announced Thursday morning that a ticket for Thursday’s game could be exchanged for two seats to a 2015-16 game (Monday through Thursday only). With only eight remaining home games – and a limited number of available tickets to those contests – the team is unable to offer an exchange for any other 2014-15 contests.
Those who attend tonight’s contest will get free popcorn at Bridgestone Arena concession stands. Also, drink specials will be available through the end of the first period.
Nashville (41-17-7) has lost a season-high four straight games and dropped from the top spot in the Western Conference standings. The Predators trail Anaheim by two points but are still four ahead of St. Louis for first place in the Central Division.
The Islanders (41-21-3) are one of two teams with more than 200 goals scored this season. They are tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division and two behind Montreal for first place overall in the Eastern Conference.
Faceoff is 7 p.m. Fox Sports-Tennessee will televise the contest.
A former nanny filed suit against Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro and his wife seeking more than $1 million for what she alleges was a 2012 assault.
TMZ Sports reported the legal action and spoke to the Ribeiro’s lawyer, who proclaimed the couple’s innocence.
"My clients strongly deny these allegations,” the unnamed attorney said, according to TMZ. "We will defend the lawsuit fully. We anticipate the true facts will come out in due course."
According to TMZ, the lawsuit claims unspecified injuries and offers no details of the alleged attack by Mike Ribeiro. It does allege that Ribeiro’s wife verbally attacked the woman.
Ribeiro was with the Dallas Stars for the 2011-12 season and with the Washington Capitals in 2012-13.
Because of his play with Nashville this season (he currently ranks ninth in the NHL in assists) there has been a lot of talk about the contract he signed with Phoenix prior to 2013-14 (four years, $22 million), which was bought out last year, and the fact that he stands to make much more next season than the $1.05 million he is getting from Nashville.
That type of money can lead to false claims from those who seek a piece of it.
However, violence against women by professional athletes is a hot button issue at the moment, and if an assault did occur the Predators will have to take the issue seriously.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Vanderbilt’s College World Series championship was the top Middle Tennessee’s last sports moment of the last year.
That was the determination of a Nashville Sports Council panel, which annually names the top 10 as part of the annual Pepsi Celebration of Champions.
This year’s list of memorable sports moments was released at a press conference Wednesday morning as were individual award winners, which included Commodores coach Tim Corbin (Sports Person of the Year) and infielder Dansby Swanson (Ed Temple Amateur Male Athlete of the Year).
The countdown of top Middle Tennessee sports moments of the last year:
10. MTSU Women’s Basketball team finished the regular season with a 26-4 record and won the C-USA conference championship in their first year in the conference.
9. On October 17, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the Bridgestone Arena will host the 2016 NHL All-Star Game for the first time, which brought excitement to all of Nashville’s hockey fans.
8. Golden Tate, former Pope John Paul II High School star athlete, played as a member of the Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks.
7. At a press conference on May 6, The Nashville Predators announced Peter Laviolette as their new head coach for the 2014-15 season.
6. From August 20-27, The Nashville Sounds promoted their final home games as “The Last Cheer at Greer”. Their final game had a sold out crowd of 11,067 fans, and the Sounds finished the season with the best home record in the Pacific Coast League with 45 wins.
5. Blackman High School Boys and Girls Basketball both won the 2014 Class AAA State Basketball Championships. The Boys Basketball team finished the regular season with an impressive 25-6 record and the Girls Basketball team finished the regular season with an outstanding 31-1 record.
4. On December 30, Louisiana State University played Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl at LP Field. The crowd of 60, 419 college football fans witnessed Notre Dame defeat LSU in a thrilling game by a score of 31-28.
3. Cumberland University won the 2014 NAIA College World Series by defeating Lewis-Clark State University 3-0 in the championship game. Cumberland University finished the season with a 49-20 record and won their third all-time NAIA Baseball National Championship.
2. From April 6-8, the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four took place at the Bridgestone Arena with the participating teams of Connecticut, Stanford, Notre Dame and Maryland battling for the national championship. A crowd of 17,570 fans witnessed Connecticut defeat Notre Dame by a score of 79-58 in the championship game. Connecticut finished the season with a perfect 40-0 record and claimed their ninth NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball national championship.
1. On June 25, the Vanderbilt University Baseball team defeated Virginia by a score of 3-2 in the third game of the NCAA College World Series finals. With this win, head coach Tim Corbin guided Vanderbilt to their first ever NCAA Division I Baseball national championship.
All of a sudden it’s the proverbial death by a thousand paper cuts for the Nashville Predators.
Their worst stretch of the season (three straight defeats qualifies as a crisis for this team) is not the product of an occasional breakdown or significant meltdown. It is a steady stream of nicks that continue to land them in the loss column.
Following Monday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Nashville has allowed at least one goal in 10 straight periods – easily its longest stretch of the season.
“There’s been some goals that get tipped in by your own guy, stuff like that,” left wing Eric Nystrom said Saturday. “Those are just tough breaks, but at the same time we can definitely be better defensively and pay attention to details in that regard.
“But that’s very minor.”
There were two stretches in the first half of the season of seven straight periods with a goal allowed but neither produced back-to-back defeats. There also were two five-period runs of goals allowed, most recently Feb. 3 and 5 against Toronto and Anaheim, respectively. Again, neither resulted in consecutive losses.
In fairness, the current stretch includes one period, the third last Thursday against Minnesota, includes a goal scored into an empty net. But they all count.
A period-by-period look at the Nashville Predators’ goals allowed over the last four games:
• Feb. 24 vs. Colorado (W 5-2) 1-0-1 – 2
• Feb. 26 vs. Minnesota (L 4-2) 1-2-1 – 4
• Feb. 28 vs. Detroit (L 4-3) 1-1-2 – 4
• March 2 at N.Y. Rangers (L 4-1) 1-1-2 – 4
Until now, Nashville had not lost back-to-back games in regulation. And until now, it had not allowed more than three in consecutive contests.Just like that, though, the goals and the defeats have added up little by little.
(Photo: Getty Images)
It is no secret that Shea Weber is – and has been – an important part of the Nashville Predators’ power play.
That fact was reaffirmed Saturday when Nashville, behind by one, got the man advantage with 2:43 to play. In the next 85 seconds Weber let loose with five shots, four of which were on net and one of which was blocked. None went in but no one had any better ideas at that moment when the game with the Detroit Red Wings was on the line.
“They made some saves when they had to,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “One of them we got two or three chances on. Other ones there were shots but we couldn’t get second opportunities the way we wanted to. It seemed like we had traffic. It seemed like we had a push to the net. We just couldn’t get it to drop.”
Not that time, at least.
Weber’s blast from just inside the blue line 54 seconds into a second-period 4-on-3 advantage put the Predators ahead for the first – and only – time, 3-2. Ultimately, Detroit rallied and handed Nashville its second consecutive home defeat, 4-3.
It was just Weber’s fifth power play goal of the season, which pales in comparison to previous campaigns. He had 12 last season and 10 two other times. Similarly, his 13 power-play points currently rank second on the team but are well behind the carer-high 26 he had last season.
When it comes to all-time Predators’ power play goals, however, there is no comparison. It’s Weber and then everybody else.
Saturday’s was the 66th of his career in his 670th NHL contest. That’s an average of one every 10.2 games. The total is 20 more than Kimmo Timonen, who averaged one every 12.4 games and recorded 46 in his time with Nashville.
Of the 14 players with more than 20 all-time power play goals for the Predators, Weber is the only one currently on the team.
“Shea is definitely our best option on the (power play),” defenseman Roman Josi said. “You saw it on the goal he scored. They gave him a lot of room. He got a couple of shots [on the last one] and the goalie made some great saves.”
A look at the Nashville Predators’ career leaders in power play goals:
Shea Weber (2005-present) – 66
Kimmo Timonen (1998-2007) – 46
Martin Erat (2001-13) – 42
Jason Arnott (2006-10) – 40
Steve Sullivan (2003-11) – 37
David Legwand (1998-2014) – 35
Patric Hornqvist (2008-14) – 35
Scott Hartnell (2000-07) – 30
Scott Walker (1998-06) – 27
Cliff Ronning (1998-02) – 25
Marek Zidlicky (2003-08) – 25
Andy Delmore (2001-03) – 25
Adam Hall (2001-06) – 24
J-P Dumont (2006-11) – 21
It was not the toughest pass Mike Ribeiro made all season.
With the Nashville Predators on a 4-on-3 advantage Saturday in the second period against the Detroit Red Wings, he had plenty of time and space to figure where he wanted to go with the puck. He chose the most obvious option and eased it toward defenseman Shea Weber, who blasted a shot into the net.
With that, Ribeiro became the eighth player in franchise history – the first in six seasons – to register 40 assists. The last to do so was J-P Dumont, who had 49 in 2008-09.
“(Ribeiro) being a passer, you've always got to be ready to shoot the puck, and I think we've done a good job of that," forward James Neal recently told The Associated Press. "The more you play together, the more chemistry you build, and we feel comfortable with each other.”
A HEAP OF HELPERS
A look at the Nashville Predators players who have registered at least 40 assists in a season:
J-P Dumont (three times) – 49 in 2008-09; 45 in 2006-07; 43 in 2007-08
Paul Kariya (two times) – 54 in 2005-06; 52 in 2006-07
Jason Arnott (one time) – 44 in 2007-08
Cliff Ronning (one time) – 43 in 2000-01
Scott Walker (one time) – 42 in 2003-04
Kimmo Timonen (one time) – 42 in 2006-07
Martin Erat (one time) – 41 in 2006-07
Mike Ribeiro (one time) – 40 in 2014-15-x
(x-through 63 games)
Forty assists is nothing new for the 35-year-old Ribeiro, who signed with Nashville as a free agent last summer and has been one of the NHL’s best bargains in 2014-15. He did so in six previous seasons, five times with Dallas and once with Montreal.
Plus, he had 36 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, which was just 48 games. At that pace, he would have had a career-high 61 in an 82-game season.
If he maintains his current pace this season he will join Paul Kariya as the only Predators ever to register 50.
“I think everybody knew what type of player he was,” coach Peter Laviolette said, according to the AP. “Always been an offensively gifted player. The ability to create and make plays and make other players better, so that was always there. We just wanted him to come in and contribute that way.”
For Tomas Vokoun, respect has limits. Or it should.
So he was troubled in April 2004 when he thought that appreciation for, and deference to the Detroit Red Wings had exceeded all reasonable boundaries throughout the hockey world, including the Nashville Predators dressing room. At the time, of course, the Predators were about to play in the NHL playoffs for the first time – against the Red Wings.
“I think we gave them a little too much respect at the time,” Vokoun said. “You know how it is. It is hockey and coming from referees and media and the whole thing was perceived as we didn’t have any chance. … I believed we did.
“At the end of the day we didn’t win but I think we gave them a pretty good run for their money. “
The Predators lost that series in six games but throughout Vokoun played and spoke with an intensity that bordered on … well, disrespectful. He held Detroit to two goals or fewer in four of the six games with one shutout, had a .939 save percentage and a 2.02 goals-against average.
Chances are things won’t be nearly as heated Saturday when Vokoun leads a team of former Predators players and select others against a squad with Detroit connections in an alumni game (5 p.m., Bridgestone Arena). That one follows the 85 all-time regular season meeting between the Predators and Red Wings (2 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
It will be the first contest of its kind for the 38-year-old Vokoun, who retired in December after having missed virtually all of last season due to a reoccurrence of blood clots that first was diagnosed during his time in Nashville. He played 15 seasons and 700 games for five different franchises. More than half of those games (383, to be exact) were with the Predators.
It also will be the first time since last May he has put on his goalie equipment for any reason.
“I was actually contemplating going on the ice the last two weeks … and it ended up never happening,” he said. “I don’t think I can go for the full splits any more, right? I don’t want to be back in the hospital. I had my share of time there last year and I’d definitely like to stay away from there for a little while at least.”
The franchise recognized Vokoun during Thursday’s game against Minnesota for his contributions, which included 161 wins, 21 shutouts.
Then there’s this: Prior to that 2004 playoff series the Predators had just nine regular-season victories over the Red Wings in six years. Over the next six, Nashville’s record against Detroit was 19-17-6.
“I have all the respect in the world for that team,” Vokoun said. “… There’s nothing not to respect, but you still have to play the games against them and you still have to be confident in your ability to win or it doesn’t make sense to be on the ice.”
OK, so maybe things might get a little competitive on Saturday.
More from Vokoun:
• On which NHL team he most identifies with: “Obviously, most as a Predator. I (was) here nine years so that was more than half of my career. I was a long time in Florida too but my best memories came from here, by far. … Just being able to get into the NHL and then to grow from a backup into a starter. There’s lots of things I learned here and I went through here – disappointments and obviously success stories – so I think (being) a Predator is definitely the strongest of what I will remember the most.”
• On retirement: “I do not miss playing. I think I miss a lot of parts of being a hockey player and being with the guys every day, that camaraderie and traveling and all that, but I do not miss dressing up every day and getting hit with a puck 700 times. … Everybody I talked so said the first year you retire you want to take it easy, enjoy your family and take some time to figure out what you want to do.”
• On his last NHL action, when he helped the Pittsburgh Penguins reach the 2013 Eastern Conference finals: “I didn’t have a lot of chances to play in the playoffs. … I did get to experience it and play in conference finals. It was fun. So I know how it feels and what it’s like. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been there once or five times. Once you know the experience you know it. So it was great.”
• On the current Nashville team: “You have a team like this you want to win the Cup. Right? You don’t know what’s going to happen next year. Believe me, one thing I learned over the years is that no matter how successful or unsuccessful the season is it’s never the same next year. There’s different players. The team never stays the same. So you don’t know what’s going to be next year. They have a really, really good chance this year, I think.”
It was not enough to carry the Nashville Predators to victory.
Craig Smith’s 20th goal of the season Thursday did, however, put him in select company along with some of the franchise’s most notable draft picks.
Combined with his 24 goals last season, the 2009 fourth round selection (98th overall) is just the sixth player drafted by Nashville to score 20 or more goals for the team twice. The list includes the Predators’ all-time leading scorer David Legwand and current captain Shea Weber. In all, eight different homegrown players have scored 20 at least once.
Smith, Patric Hornqvist and Scott Hartnell are the only ones to do so in consecutive seasons.
“I’m just kind of staying hungry,” Smith said. “To be able to contribute to a really good team has been awesome. I really loved the guys that I’ve been playing with. ... So kudos to them too.”
A look at the Nashville Predators draft picks who have scored at least 20 goals for the team, based the number of times they did it:
4 – Patric Hornqvist (2009-10, 10-11, 11-12 and 13-14)
3 – Martin Erat (2005-06, 07-08 and 09-10)
2 – Craig Smith (2013-14 and 14-15)
2 – Shea Weber (2008-09 and 13-14)
2 – David Legwand (2006-07 and 0809)
2 – Scott Hartnell (2005-06 and 06-07)
1 – Alexander Radulov (2007-08)
1 – Denis Arkhipov (2001-02)
Smith tied Thursday’s game with the Minnesota Wild at 2-2 with 11:29 to play in the second period when he converted a partial breakaway with a diabolically quick shot up and under the crossbar. It was the second time in the period the Predators came back from a one-goal deficit.
Minnesota went ahead for good 1:17 later, though, and added an empty-net goal late in the contest. The 4-2 defeat was just Nashville’s fourth regulation defeat in 31 home games.
For Smith it was his sixth goal in the last seven games.
“He was really strong (Thursday) night,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “His skating was sharp and he seemed like he had lots of energy, lots of pop out there. He seems to be finding his way offensively with regard to scoring goals right now. He’s a hot player for us.”
He is the third Nashville player with at least 20 goals this season. James Neal was the first to hit that mark, Feb. 17 against San Jose. Filip Forsberg followed two nights later against the New York Islanders.
With 20 games remaining, Smith, who currently trails Neal and Forsberg by one for the team lead, has plenty of time to surpass last season’s total.
“I didn’t set a number on it,” he said, regarding any goals goal. “I just want to try to be consistent and make plays and get chances every night.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
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