Call it the Curse of James Neal.
In their most recent home game, last Tuesday against Anaheim, Neal scored a goal he probably should not have. His shot from the neutral zone (68 feet away) handcuffed goalie Frederik Anderson and ended up in the back of the net.
The Predators got one more goal that night, the game-winner from rookie Miikka Salomaki 13 minutes later, but nothing since.
A 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday made it three straight games (all on the road) that Nashville has been held scoreless. It has been 213:47 — a franchise record — since the Predators scored their last goal. That stretch includes 10 full periods plus part of the second in the victory over Anaheim.
"You try to work through it, but when it happens three times in a row, you're getting pretty frustrated," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said, according to NHL.com.
A look at the longest scoreless streaks in Nashville Predators history:
213:47 – Nov. 20-23, 2015
176:18 – Feb. 9-12, 2013
174:48 – Nov. 6-12, 2013
166:44 – Dec. 4-10, 2000
Nashville has outshot its last three opponents by a combined 93-64 yet has nothing to show for it.
The Predators are tied for fourth in the league in average shots per game (31.1) and third in average shot differential with 4.1 more per game than the opposition. They have fallen to 18th in goals per game (2.55) and 22nd in shooting percentage (8.21 percent).
"I don't think that they're not trying to put it in the net when you end up with 30 quality chances out of 75, 80 attempts at the net," Laviolette said. "The guys are trying to score, and it's not dropping right now. They worked their tails of tonight and again it didn't go our way."
(Photo: Getty Images)
Nashville Predators officials have vowed to make the 2016 NHL All-Star Game memorable.
National Hockey League officials have assured it will be different.
The league changed the format of the showcase event to a four-team, three-on-three tournament that pits the top players of from each division against one another. A prize pool of $1 million will be paid entirely to the winning team.
Each team will consist of 11 players (six forwards, three defensemen and two goalies). A fan vote will determine one player from each division. The NHL’s hockey operations department will select the remaining 40 players.
Coaches will come from each of the four first-place teams as of Jan. 9, 2016.
"We are excited to see the new All-Star Tournament this year," Mathieu Schneider, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Executive Director, said in a release from the league. "It has been a collaborative effort, and we hope the fans will be looking forward to the NHL All-Star Weekend in Nashville as much as the Players."
So the league’s fascination with three-on-three play grows. It was implemented this season as the basis for overtime and widely has been called a positive step in terms of excitement and as a means to determine a winner without a shootout.
Now it becomes an opportunity for some of the game’s best players to show what they can do.
Don’t be mistaken.
Shea Weber has not returned to form as the Nashville Predators’ number-one power play threat. The truth is that the defenseman with the booming shot never has been so good.
The Predators’ captain started the scoring in his team’s 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday with his fifth power play goal of the season. That equaled the number he scored in all of 2014-15 when he appeared in 78 contests. This was Nashville’s 17th game of the current campaign.
Even at his best – Weber has twice led all NHL defensemen in power play goals – he never has had so many so early in a season. Previously, it took him at least 21 games to get his fifth power play tally and often it took him half a season or more.
A season-by-season look at how many games it took Shea Weber to score five power play goals (with final power play goal total in parentheses):
2015-16: 17 games (TBD)
2014-15: 63 games (5)
2013-14: 21 games (12-x)
2012-13: -- (3)
2011-12: 31 games (10-x)
2010-11: 67 games (6)
2009-10: 44 games (7)
2008-09: 41 games (10)
2007-08: 42 games (5)
2006-07: 66 games (6)
2005-06: -- (2)
(x-led all NHL defensemen)
Weber’s five power play goals currently rank second among NHL defensemen. Carolina’s Justin Faulk has six. No one else has more than three.
As a team that Predators have 13 power play goals from seven different players (four forwards, three defensemen). That suggests there are threats all over the ice, which might explain Weber’s resurgence with the man-advantage. No longer can opposing penalty killers take away his time and space and feel confident about their chances to successfully defend while shorthanded.
“Early on [James Neal] scored two [power play] goals in one game and we have had other guys contributing,” Weber said recently. “So I think that makes teams – maybe – more aware of other things and opens up things … that weren’t there in the past.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
For the second time in the last three games, the Nashville Predators scored seven goals. In this case, one would have sufficed.
The Predators did not just shut out the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena. They also pulled away. Early.
The 7-0 victory tied the second-largest goal margin in franchise history in a game they did not allow a goal. Nashville led 4-0 after the first period, added one in the second and tacked on two more in the third.
“It obviously was good,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “I mean, four to nothing after the first doesn’t happen too often. We had a pretty good start, and we kept going. I thought we played well the whole game, and sometimes you are up 4-0 and you shut it down a little bit, but I thought we kept pushing and got the next goal.”
DOING IT AT BOTH ENDS
A look at the Nashville Predators’ largest margin of victories in shutouts:
8-0 vs. Detroit (2/28/09)
7-0 at Los Angeles (1/8/08)
7-0 vs. Los Angeles (12/23/06)
6-0 vs. Edmonton (3/8/13)
6-0 vs. Ottawa (12/14/06)
6-0 vs. Vancouver (11/23/06)
6-0 vs. Chicago (2/4/06)
6-0 vs. Pittsburgh (2/27/03)
6-0 vs. Atlanta (12/30/99)
It was Nashville’s second shutout of the season. Only two teams have more.
Six different players scored — including Craig Smith, who snapped his 10-game goal drought with his tally in the first period. Calle Jarnkrok was the only one who scored twice. He got the first and the sixth goals.
“Our team has been playing great,” Smith said. “Every line has been chipping in, and it’s great. On top of that, we have a great goaltender that is playing well. Someone is going to step up and make a play to get a goal on any given night. Not every game is going to be like this, but we have guys that have the confidence to put goals in the net.”
The first period lead was the largest Nashville has had and the most goals it has scored in the first 20 minutes since Feb. 2009, when it had five against Detroit.
The Predators defeated Ottawa 7-5 on Tuesday, but in that one they trailed 3-1 after one period and 5-4 after two.
“We didn’t plan (Saturday) morning for the score to get out of hand,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s a different game. It’s not something you really prepare for. We’ve always had good games with Winnipeg. They’ve been hard-fought and very competitive with low chances. That is what we were preparing for and you have to react to it.”
(Photo: John Russell/Getty Images)
One of the underlooked parts of the 2013 collective bargaining agreement that ended the season-shortening NHL lockout was the development of an Industry Growth Fund, managed by a committee of NHL owners and players and paid into by the 30 member clubs of the NHL.
This week, the Predators were awarded a $4 million grant from the IGF, to be paid over the next three years, to help grow the game in Middle Tennessee.
From a release:
The Predators, who began their IGF grant application process early in 2015, centered their proposal on the growth of youth hockey. In 1998, there were two sheets of ice and approximately 400 USA Hockey registered youth participants. Today, there are six sheets of ice with approximately 1,400 USA Hockey registered youth participants and nearly 9,000 additional grassroots hockey participants. Many programs that support the growth of hockey in Middle Tennessee, which continues to expand at an exponential rate, will be funded in part by the IGF Fund grant.
“The Nashville Predators are grateful to the NHL and NHLPA for the significant level of investment they’ve made through the Industry Growth Fund to help bolster hockey involvement in our city,” Nashville Predators President and COO Sean Henry said. “The opening of Ford Ice Center one year ago laid a strong foundation in broadening hockey’s reach in Nashville to a more expansive population. This new grant gives us the opportunity to build on that foundation by creating new programs and expanding existing ones to reduce or diminish barriers for our sport.”
The Preds will split the grant money between ball and street hockey programs ($135,000 per year), rink development ($1 million per year) and diversity ($200,000 per year).
Some more details:
Utilizing the IGF money marked towards ball and street hockey, the Predators will create a new five to 10-week fitness curriculum with student incentives called The Preds Fitness Challenge to reach 50 elementary schools per year. Students will receive a welcome video, manuals, collectible bracelet with charms and a wall chart. Upon completion of the program fifth grade students will be invited to an advanced programing session at Ford Ice Center that includes instruction on the Ford Ice Center street rink, open ice skating, Hockey 101 presentation, and on-ice hockey instruction from staff.
The Nashville Predators goal is to put sticks into the hands of 25,000 kids each year. By providing the necessary materials and training to physical education teachers, this program is designed to have a longer lifespan than just one or two years in area schools; after creating the infrastructure, teachers will become a conduit for spreading hockey throughout Nashville. This will create a compounding affect that is intended to triple the number of participants, reaching up to 75,000 in the first three years.
The final portion of the Predators’ IGF Grant money will be headed toward the organization’s diversity programming for the following initiatives:
Go Skate!, is an entry-level ice skating initiative that is designed to reach 300 kids, (900 over three years) ages 10 and under. Eligible participants can register for Go Skate! during select Nashville Predators home games. Through this program, each participant will receive a free learn to skate eight-week session at the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy (valued at $130), and upon graduation participants will receive their first of pair of skates for free (valued at $60). In total, $178,500 will go towards this program, with $59,500 being earmarked each year for the program.
The Preds Rookie Program is a try hockey for free grant program for Get Out And Learn (G.O.A.L.). Up to 125 graduates yearly (375 total) (ages 12-and-under) will be eligible to apply for a grant to fund necessary hockey equipment, one (1) six-week PREDecessor “Learn to Play” session and one (1) nine-week NPAHA youth house league season (valued at $685). This grant will be distributed with the intent to “grow the game” across various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds while providing new participants with 19 instructional ice touches along with their initial equipment for free. A total investment of $264,375, or $88,125 per year for the next three years, will be made in The Preds Rookie Program.
Fifty need-based grants (valued at $500) will be distributed on an annual basis to assist hockey players ages 18-and-under with their NPAHA youth house league fees. These need-based grants will lay the basis for youth with diverse backgrounds to continue playing hockey, providing a fun, safe and active outlet as they mature and grow into young adults. $25,000 is being appropriated for the next three years for this initiative, totaling $75,000 for the duration.
High School Hockey Fundamentals is a free entry-level program designed for rising ninth and 10th graders that want to learn how to play hockey in a non-intimidating setting. This new initiative offers two free programs: The first is a three-day clinic during winter break and then a three-week clinic during summer break. This program offers kids that would like to play high school hockey, without any prior experience, the opportunity to learn and funnel into the local high school programs.$66,000 over the next three years has been earmarked for this program, or $22,000 per year.
The coaches/officials grant program will cover 100 interested individuals first year of USA Hockey coaching and/or officiating certification fees. A total of $12,750, or $4,250 for each of the next three years, has been appropriated for this initiative. The grant program is intended to help educate aspiring coaches and officials and help provide them with the requisite tools and knowledge to create a foundation for success.
In total, it’s projected that over 75,000 new people will receive exposure to the game of hockey because of the IGF.
It certainly was not an encore performance.
It actually was more like something from an alternate universe.
Two days after the Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators combined for 12 goals (Nashville won 7-5) the Predators locked horns with the Toronto Maple Leafs. This time each side managed just a single goal and a shootout was required to determine a winner (the Maple Leafs won it in the fifth round).
And while we’re talking about Bizarro-Predators, consider this: The last time Nashville had such a precipitous drop in goals scored from one game to the next was last November (the 18th and 20th) when it beat Toronto 9-2 and then lost to – you guessed it – Ottawa 3-2.
“I don’t think we played poorly (Thursday) night,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “It just doesn’t come off the same way with the amount of attacks at the net and pucks that can get to the net.
“… Some teams just play a heavier game. The pucks are contested a little bit more.”
Actually, the Predators attempted just about as many shots Thursday as they did Tuesday but far fewer got through to the target, let alone to the back of the net. The Leafs blocked 24 shots, two more than Nashville got on goal.
“They’re hard on the puck,” center Mike Fisher said. “They clog up the neutral zone. They battle. So I think we kind of expected that kind of game.”
Shots on goal-Nashville
Shots on goal-opponent
The most unexpected aspect of the contest was that the Predators did not win it. This was the sixth time this season an opponent held them to 25 shots or fewer but the first time they failed to collect two points.
“This is definitely the style we needed to play,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “If we have to play wide open because we are down, we can do that. But we work hard, and are strong defensively. I think that was indicative in (Thursday’s) game.
“Both teams played hard defense. There weren’t a lot of chances in front of the goal, and when there were, both goalies played really well.”
(Photo: John Russell/Getty Images)
Scottie Upshall seemingly could not pass up an opportunity to stick it to the Nashville Predators.
So he did not pass.
Early in the third period Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, he raced down the right wing supported by two of his St. Louis Blues teammates in a three-on-one. Rather than give it up he gave it his best shot, which beat goalie Pekka Rinne for the third goal in the Predators’ 4-0 loss at Bridgestone Arena.
It was not the first time the 32-year-old forward scored against the team that drafted him 11th overall in 2002. It was, however, the first time he did so at Bridgestone Arena – and he – based on his goal celebration (pictured) – seemed to relish the moment.
Upshall now has four goals against Nashville, which makes him the leader in that regard among players drafted by the franchise. The first three came in a Jan. 21, 2010 contest at Phoenix, which made him the only Predators draft pick with a hat trick against them.
ONES THAT GOT AWAY
A look at the Nashville draft picks that have scored the most goals against the Predators:
Scottie Upshall – 4 (10 games)
Mike Santorelli – 2 (8 games)
Andrew Hutchinson – 1 (4 games)
Martin Erat – 1 (5 games)
Adam Hall – 1 (7 games)
Jordin Tootoo – 1 (7 games)
Karlis Skrastins – 1 (25 games)
It’s noteworthy that Upshall is the only first-round pick in team history to have scored against Nashville. David Legwand (1998) has come up empty in two tries. Scott Hartnell (2000) has come up empty in eight tries. Dan Hamhuis (2001), Ryan Suter (2003) and Jonathon Blum (2007) – all defensemen – haven’t found the back of the net in 30 combined tries, 14 each by Hamhuis and Suter.
Upshall made the Predators roster as a 19-year-old in 2002-03 but was returned to junior hockey after eight games. In parts of four seasons he played 77 games for Nashville. The Predators traded him to Philadelphia as part of the package used to rent Peter Forsberg for the final stretch of the 2006-07 season.
Since then he has been with Florida, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Columbus and now St. Louis.
The Predators play the third of five straight home games Thursday when they host Toronto (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee). The Maple Leafs’ roster includes Nick Spaling, a second-round pick by Nashville in 2007 who has no goals in two games against Nashville.
The homestand concludes Tuesday with Anahiem, the latest team for Mike Santorelli, the only draft pick other than Upshall with more than one goal against the Predators.
(Photo: Getty Images)
It’s not often that Pekka Rinne allows more than five goals in a game.
More often than not, when he does, it means a bad night for the Nashville Predators.
Tuesday was the exception on both counts. The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist allowed five goals on 26 shots (two on three in the second period) yet the Predators rallied for a 7-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators at Bridgestone Arena.
The outcome gave the Senators the dubious distinction of being the first — and only — team to lose twice in games when they got five pucks past the 6-foot-5 Finnish netminder.
In this case, the Predators trailed 3-1 after the first period and 5-4 after the second. Yet coach Peter Laviolette said he never considered making a change in an attempt to shake things up. It probably didn’t hurt that the backup was Marek Mazanec, who was recalled a day earlier because Carter Hutton is injured. Hutton was placed on injured reserve prior to the contest.
“I didn’t consider it,” Laviolette said. “There were some tough situations. I think it’s one thing if you give up bad goals. I wouldn’t classify those [first three] as bad goals. There were tough screens, redirects and breakaways. There were some things we could have done better in front of the net, but there were unfortunate bounces that went the wrong way for us.
“However, there is no question, Pekka Rinne gives us the best chance to win.”
Even in a game such as this one.
It was the first time this season and the 25th time in 393 career appearances that Rinne allowed at least five goals in a game. Nashville is 8-14-3 in those games but has won three of the last four when he’s kept it at five and not allowed it to get any worse.
A look at the games the Nashville Predators have won when goalie Pekka Rinne allowed five goals or more:
Six goals allowed
• Jan. 3, 2015 at Los Angeles (30 shots), W 7-6 OT
Five goals allowed
• Nov. 10, 2015 vs. Ottawa (26 shots), W 7-5
• Dec. 20, 2014 at Minnesota (27 shots), W 6-5 OT
• April 12, 2014 vs. Chicago (25 shots), W 7-5
• Dec. 22, 2011 vs. Columbus (31 shots), W 6-5
• Dec. 1, 2011 at Vancouver (18 shots), W 6-5-*
• Oct. 22, 2009 at Ottawa (32 shots), W 6-5 OT
• March 3, 2009 vs. Edmonton (28 shots), W 6-5 OT
(* -- Anders Lindback replaced Rinne and earned the win in relief)
Nashville outshot Ottawa 38-26 in this one and took control when Barret Jackman scored the game-winner with 9:51 to play and Gabriel Bourque added some insurance 94 seconds later.
“It was just one of those nights,” Laviolette said. “It was a weird game, and those happen sometimes. … [The] third period was terrific; the guys stuck to it and continued to press, the defense tightened up. Ottawa has some quick players on their team.
“There was a chance where the game is tied, or even the second period, where Pekka Rinne was huge. He made some terrific saves to allow the offensive attack to continue.”
Ultimately, that attack did enough that it didn’t matter how many he allowed.
(Photo: John Russell/Getty Images)
Phil Housley’s first experience with hockey at the highest level resulted in a last-place finish.
That did nothing to discourage the then-high school senior, who not long after started an NHL career that lasted 21 seasons during which he put up numbers few before or since could match.
Monday, Housley was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame and reunited with some of the players he first faced as an 18-year-old playing at the IIHF World Championship in Finland. The Nashville Predators assistant coach recalled his participation for the Americans, who went winless in that eight-team event, during his acceptance speech.
“I wanted to make that team and I'll never forget playing against the Red Army and Wayne Gretzky,” Housley said, according to NHL.com. “It was this experience that was a great measuring stick heading into the draft.”
Not long after, the Buffalo Sabres drafted him sixth overall and he was on his way. He became the first player ever to jump directly from American high school hockey to the NHL and became one of the highest scoring Americans in NHL history.
Housley shared his entire professional journey with his “high school sweetheart,” his wife Karin.
“She's been the backbone of our family and has had to put up with me for 30 years,” Housley said. “I know that's hard and I don't know why she does it. She's been there for me in good and bad and has as much to do about this day as anyone.”
He also thanked – among others – his parents, who have passed, his brother and sister and his kids. He recognized Brian Sutter, his coach with two different franchises, and Scotty Bowman, who as coach of the Buffalo Sabres, drafted him when he was a "165-pound, soaking wet" defenseman.
Now he’s a Hall of Fame defenseman.
Naturally it was the St. Louis Blues that allowed 45 shots on goal yet held the Nashville Predators scoreless Saturday.
After all, no other NHL team has shut out the Predators more. And the only time Nashville got more shots on net without getting at least one in the net was a game against – that’s right – St. Louis.
In that regard, therefore, as amazing as Blues goalie Jake Allen’s performance was in the first of a five-game Predators homestand, it was nothing anyone hasn’t already seen.
“It wasn’t from a lack of trying,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Attempts, opportunities and quality scoring chances were all heavily stacked. (Allen) played a good game in net. We hit the post six times and couldn’t get it to bounce.”
The shutout was the 102nd in franchise history for the Predators and the 15th by St. Louis, nearly twice as many as any other opponent.
COMING UP EMPTY
A look at the teams that have the most shutouts against the Nashville Predators:
St. Louis – 15
Dallas – 8
Los Angeles – 8
Detroit – 8
Chicago – 7
Calgary – 6
What makes the Blues’ ability to consistently blank Nashville is that it is not one goalie who routinely has foiled them.
Allen became the 10th different netminder to do it with St. Louis. Jaroslav Halak did it four times and Brian Elliott and Roman Turek each did it twice. Six others, beside Allen, did it once, including current Nashville broadcaster Chris Mason, who holds the record for most shots faced in a shutout of the Predators.
A look at the Nashville Predators’ most shots on goal in games they were shut out:
47 – vs. St. Louis, Nov. 25, 2008 (Chris Mason)
45 – vs. St. Louis, Nov. 7, 2015 (Jake Allen)
41 – at Winnipeg, Nov. 8, 2013 (Ondrej Pavalec)
40 – at Anaheim, Jan. 5, 2009 (Jonas Hiller)
37 – vs. Edmonton, Feb. 7, 2011 (Devan Dubnyk)
37 – at Atlanta, Nov. 15, 2000 (Milan Hnilicka)
Nashville has had more shots on goal just once this season. Craig Smith led all players on both teams with seven. Linemates Filip Forsberg and James Neal each had six and 10 Predators in all had multiple shots on goal.
The Predators put 19 pucks on net in the second period, 12 in the first and 14 in the third. St. Louis did not have more than 10 in any of the three.
“I thought (Allen) actually played a really good game,” Nashville defenseman Roman Josi said. “We had a lot of chances in the first and in the second [periods]. He played really well. We just couldn’t capitalize. Even in the third, we had a lot of chances – we just couldn't score.”
In addition to all the shots Allen stopped, there were another 16 that his Blues teammates blocked and 17 more that missed the target.
“For almost 50 shots and 80 attempts, and scoring chances everywhere, it just didn’t go,” Laviolette said. “I don’t know how to explain it. You try to play a certain style, a certain way and sometimes it doesn’t happen. (Saturday) it didn’t happen.”
Much the same way it didn’t happen a lot of other times.
(Photo: Getty Images)
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