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Playoff Preds Bounce Blues | Smashville

Hello, Fellow Predators Fans!

Welcome to the zone and Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs! This series, the Preds took on the tough and physical St. Louis Blues, who finished 3rd in the Western Conference and defeated the Minnesota Wild in the 1st Round of play, 4-1 in 5 games. Nashville shocked the league with their sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks in 4 games to advance. This one should be good, Folks!

Round 2 Begins

Game #1 was at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Wednesday night. Colin Wilson returned to the lineup for the Preds for the first time since the post-season began. It was Pekka Rinne for Nashville and Jake Allen for the Blues between the pipes. Early in the 1st period, it was clear that St. Louis came to play as they controlled the puck and kept Nashville in their defensive zone. But about midway through the period, the Preds went on a power play and made it count with a goal tipped in by Wilson to get Nashville on the board 1-0. Only a couple of minutes into the 2nd period, Kevin Fiala was taken from the ice by stretcher after a brutal crash into the boards which turned out to be an injury to his left leg…(prayers for Kevin.) Shortly after the injury delay, P. K. Subban sailed one past Allen to add to the Preds’ lead. Then with 11:56 left in Period #2, the Blues sneaked one in behind Pekka for a goal…2-1, Preds. Then the Predators made it 3-1 on a power play goal rebound put back in by Filip Forsberg. In the 3rd, St. Louis made it 3-2 with 13:11 left and were right back in it. Then they were REALLY back in it when they tied up the game at 10:32 left, with their second goal in 2 ½ minutes…Yikes! Suddenly it was a 3-3 game and gut-check time for the Preds! With 5:05 left in regulation, Vernon Fiddler put Nashville back on top in his very first game of the post-season..4-3, Preds. As time clicked down, St. Louis emptied their net, but to no avail—the Predators held on to take game #1.

Fallen Fiala

Game #2, also in St. Louis, was Friday night with the Preds up 1-0 in the best-of-seven series. Rinne and Allen were back between the pipes for this one. Kevin Fiala, injured in Game 1, was out with a season-ending fractured femur, and will be missed by the Preds. Nashville struck first at around 8 minutes in when Ryan Ellis fired a rocket that bounced off Jake Allen’s shoulder pad and was tipped in by James Neal…1-0 Preds! With 1:32 left in the 1st, Fiddler was accessed a 5-minute major for an illegal hit, giving the Blues a power play which they made count with only a few seconds remaining in the period, when Vladimir Tarasenko blasted one home to tie the score. The period ended, but with a major penalty, the Blues would remain on the power play for 3:30 when the next period resumed. Nashville was fortunately able to kill off the remaining time in the penalty box and found themselves there one other time during the 2nd, but the penalty kill unit held strong then as well. The period was scoreless, and we went to intermission with that 1-1 tie still showing on the scoreboard. With 16:50 left in the 3rd, the Preds re-took the lead on an interception and a blast by Ellis from the blue line over Allen’s shoulder and into the net…2-1, Preds! The Blues went back on the power play at 14:30, and just as time was elapsing, bounced one in to tie the game again at 2 each. With 3:51 left in regulation, St. Louis took their first lead of the game when Tarasenko sank his second goal of the night….3-2, Blues. Nashville emptied their net, but were not able to score. The Preds could not overcome playing such a large portion of the game with penalty box minutes against a team with lots of scoring power and talent. The Blues’ win brings the series to a 1-1 tie which the Predators will take to their home ice for the next two games in Smashville.

Predators Perfection

The all-important Game #3 took place on Sunday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville before a national TV audience. With the #1 goalies in both nets, it was serious business for all, each team trying desperately to gain the series lead from the current 1-1 tie. Nashville was still smarting from being handed their first loss of the post-season in Game #2. The Preds got their feet underneath them right away, showing that they intended to control the pace of the game now that they were back on their home ice.  After both teams killed off power plays, Nashville struck pay dirt first on a slap shot by Ryan Ellis, who has played his best hockey of the year in these playoffs. It was 1-0, Preds a little under halfway into the 1st period. Early in the 2nd, Cody McLeod added a second goal for the Predators with an assist from Colton Sissons. Nashville kept the momentum on their side until about 7 minutes were left in the 2nd, when Alex Pietrangelo closed the lead to 1 and put the pressure on the guys in gold. In the 3rd, the Preds dug in their heels and played their type of game (with the help of the Predators’ “7th Man”—the home crowd.)  With 5:49 left in regulation, Roman Josi let go a wrist shot that got by Blues’ goalie Jake Allen, and BAM, the Preds took a 3-1 lead. St. Louis emptied their net with 4:09 remaining in a desperate attempt to net 2 goals for a tie, but Nashville held strong in the stretch. Pekka Rinne was once again at the top of his game, making 22 saves on 23 shots. It was likely the most well-executed game overall that the Predators have displayed since the playoffs began…..awesome!

Nashville Was Rocked

Bridgestone Arena was rockin’ for Game #4 on Tuesday night. The raucous, sold-out crowd was on its feet for much of the game, willing the Predators to take a commanding lead in the series. With both #1 goalies in net, the game began with bodies flying and crashing off the boards, and with shot after shot blasting toward the nets. Both teams survived power plays and played spectacular defense to keep the game at a scoreless tie through the 1st and 2nd periods. With 5:09 gone in the 3rd, Ryan Ellis sneaked one by Jake Allen to give the Predators that super-important first goal of the game. St. Louis ramped up the physicality of their play, and Nashville responded in kind with both teams spending time in the penalty box. The Preds managed a second score, this time an unassisted goal by James Neal, and the Nashville “loyal legion” of fans went nuts! The celebration turned to trepidation though with about 4 minutes left when the Blues’ Joel Edmundson got one past Rinne to cut the Predators’ lead in half. In the waning minutes, St. Louis pulled out their goalie to get an extra attacker in, and everyone in the building held their breath as Nashville worked to keep the puck out of their net. They survived the Blues’ push and hung on to win the game 2-1! With this, the Predators took a firm hold on the series, making it 3 games to 1. Rinne once again gave a remarkable performance in goal for the Preds, making 32 saves on 33 shots. This makes a total of 11 goals on 232 shots faced in the 8 games so far in the playoffs….a save percentage of .953! He is surely the foundation of the Preds’ success this post-season. Nashville now travels back to St. Louis for game #5, taking a 3 gamed to 1 lead with them…….sweet!

Revenge of the Fifth

On to Game #5 on Friday night back at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The Predators with their 3-1 lead, are in position to close out the series and move on to the 3rd Round, and with the Blues playing to avoid elimination, it was sure to be a hard-fought game! Neither team had any significant changes in their line-ups. There were a couple of power-plays in the opening period, but we remained scoreless at the 1st intermission. However, the Blues got on the scoreboard less than 6 minutes into the 2nd with a power play goal. Special teams were on display throughout the middle period, which was fraught with infractions, but both goaltenders held fast, and the game remained tied at 1 each after the 2nd. It was only 25 seconds into the 3rd when the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz buried a shot into the Nashville net, and suddenly, the Predators found themselves chasing the lead, a position they had not been in often during the playoffs. Even with the extra attacker on during the closing minutes, they could not get another puck past Allen, and were handed only their second defeat so far during the playoffs. Pekka Rinne gave a solid performance, making 30 saves on 32 shots on goal, but the Blues took the series to 3-2, forcing a Game #6 on Sunday in Nashville.

Preds …Bringing It Home

The crowd as loud and proud in Smashville on Sunday afternoon as their Predators were playing to make history by taking the Round #2 series, Game #6 in front of a national television audience. With Rinne and Allen tending goals, both teams knew they must bring their “A games” for this one. For the second time this series, St. Louis struck first early in the game on a put-back from a shot that bounced behind Rinne….1-0, Blues. Just 35 seconds into the 2nd period, Mattias Ekholm made a perfect pass to a wide-open Roman Josi, who buried his fourth goal of the playoffs to tie the score at 1 each. Then in the 3rd period, the Preds took control of the game with a magnificent pass from Viktor Arvidsson to Ryan Johansen, who landed it perfectly in the back of the net, giving Nashville the lead. The fans in Bridgestone Arena went wild and never calmed down again. St. Louis removed Allen for the extra man in the final minutes, only to have Callie Jarnkrok streak down the ice for an empty-netter to seal the victory, 3-1! Rinne was again stellar for the Preds in goal with 23 big saves! With this huge win, Nashville took the series and move on to Round #3!

The celebration spilled out into the streets of Smashville with history having been made inside Bridgestone Arena. The team has achieved the milestone of being the first team in franchise history (since the team’s inception in 1998) to advance to the Western Conference finals. They await their Round #3 opponent (either the Anaheim Ducks or the Edmonton Oilers) which is yet to be determined. The all-important schedule of those games will be announced later this week. Excitement around the city of Nashville is phenomenal—(and my personal level is over-the-top)!

If any fans may be interested in tickets, suite rentals, or season tickets, feel free to get in touch with my personal favorite contact person with the Predators—Mickey Hock, at (615) 770-2352 or at mhock@nashvillepredators.com! Let’s keep the excitement going for our Predators as they head into the conference finals! See you all back here in the zone—-woohoo!!!

Go, Preds!

 

SmashvilleDebra Murray is a weekly contributing writer for MVP Sports Channel (and die-hard fan of the Nashville Predators).

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