When you look at the Nashville Predators roster you probably say to yourself, how can this team be in the position that they are? Fifth in the Western Conference, ninth overall and they have the fourth best road record in the NHL. On top of it they are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. No real susperstar, just a bunch of guys that have bought into the system of head coach Barry Trotz who is the only coach Nashville has known.
Led offensively by Partric Hornqvist and his 29 goals, Hornqvist has quietly made a name for himself after being drafted 230th in 2005. Also contributing and leading the Preds in assists is Steve Sullivan who missed almost two years with a back injury and won the combeack player of the year award last year. Sullivan has 32 helpers for Nashville. The point leader is the fiesty Martin Erat who has 48 on 20 goals and 28 assists.
The real leader of late however has been goaltender Pekka Rinne who has 29 victories this year so far and has won all three road starts since the Olympic break posting a 1.33 GAA in those games. Rinne is 1-1 with a 1.94 GAA in his two starts against Florida, but is 9-2-1 overall since the break.
While most people who are casual fans, or if you don’t follow the Western Conference too much, you’re going to be treated to a couple defencemen who know how to play the game. Ryan Suter who’s uncle Gary played in the NHL, and Shea Weber ,who has one of the hardest shots in the game are the backbone of this stingy unit. Two young guys who play like vets and take no B.S. from anyone. Pay attention to them as they will make themselves known throughout the game tonight.
The Panthers meanwhile have been physically knocked around the last few games as David Booth has another concussion and is done for the year, and Rusty Olesz, he of one point in his last 22 games, was leveled by Ottawa’s Matt Carkner on Saturday. Olesz did come back to finish the game which Florida ultimately lost. While not mathematically eliminated, Florida sits in the 13th spot and is 9 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. No way the Panthers make the playoffs. Again. Unless the sky falls, and as of this typing it’s raining like you wouldn’t believe, but there’s no relation to the playoff hunt with the storm I’m watching.
Tomas Vokoun has had alot of trouble since the break and is 4-10-2 since February with a 2.84 GAA. Before that from November to January he was a rock solid 17-9-8 with a 2.05 GAA and had six of his seven shutouts during that span. His play was the only thing that kept the faint Panthers playoff hopes alive. His struggles lately could be from a number of things, but lets say this, since the trade deadline and the moving of defencemen Jordan Leopold and Dennis Siedenberg, Florida hasn’t won much. Coach Peter Deboer has decided to rotate five defencemen and give rookie Keaton Ellerby about 3 minutes of ice time, therefore putting a ton of pressure on the other five. If you ask me, the trades of Siedenberg and Leopold and the five man unit are contributing to Vokoun’s woes.
Final note, Florida has one of the worst PK units in the league at 79.2 percent. Nashville however is 0 for 16 in their last five games on the power play. Something’s gonna break.
No local TV for this one as Versus has a game at the same time. Unless you’re going to the “Bank”, you’re only chance to see it is online.
Tough week this week for the Panthers with four games on the schedule between tonight and Saturday. If nothing else, let’s play with some pride, and Pete, give the kids a chance. We aren’t gong anywhere.
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