Smashed-ville

After 95 games the season is over. Nashville’s Game 7 loss to the Winnipeg Jets ended a season of high expectations for the Predators who came within two games last year of winning the National Hockey League’s ultimate prize.

Yes, I know they won the President’s Trophy for having the best regular season in the NHL this season but you aren’t going to see anyone skating around with that one in the air or chanting that “We’re Regular Season Champs”. Do we at least get a plate or a saucer since we didn’t win the Cup?

Bottom line. This really stinks. I won’t lie about it.

Anyone that knows me knows I am not a bandwagon fan. Heck, I have been an Atlanta Falcons’ fan forever. That alone should tell you something about my allegiance to my teams and my familiarity with being disappointed.

To me, the season means nothing without the championship. It really sticks me that the Predators got the home ice advantage and blew it. It was nothing special playing at home. That just boggles my mind. I don’t care what celebrity you ushered in their to sing the National Anthem or how many of those stupid catfish fans throw on the ice to redneck things up.

There is a lot of blame to go around for this colossal collapse to the expectations for this team.

Pekka Rinne said that he let the whole team down. I’m not going to sugar coat it – he’s right. But he’s not the only one. The defense had breakdowns at the most crucial times throughout the season. P.K. Subban was another source of frustration. Mike Fisher came out of retirement for what? Kyle Turris never turned into the offensive giant he had been in Ottawa. A total bust for getting pucks in the net. And what happened with Kevin Fiala? Sure, he got the overtime game winner in the only home win in the series but we needed him to be a goal scorer which he really didn’t become.

Yes, I have stewed on this for the past two days.

Something needs to be done about the goalkeeping. I know everyone loves Rinne and I want him to do well too but it’s time to change. Mike Fisher should go back to retirement. Kyle Turris and Kevin Fiala should be traded. Eelin Tolvanen needs to be in the lineup. I really don’t know what to do with P.K. Subban.

The Predators won’t win the Cup with this team. I watched every game and I’m telling you that they never made it easy. It is bad when your team has a 3-0 lead and you know it won’t be enough.

Maybe at some point I will appreciate this past season. It is going to take me a while. I can tell you that I’m nowhere close yet.

Yes I’m mad and pissed off about it.

I know those fans who like to live in La-La Land and refuse to listen to anything negative about their team. I’m sorry to to bring them back into reality but there is a lot of negative here to deal with but that doesn’t mean I won’t “Stand with Us” or any of that other rah rah stuff.

I don’t care who wins the Cup now. I’m not one of those fans who roots for the team that eliminated us because of some twisted allegiance in thinking that because the Winnipeg Jets beat us that if they win the Cup it will mean they had to beat us to do it. That’s stupid. I want Winnipeg to get blown away. I want them to feel the pain of getting so close and not win it.

My wife made some very sharp observations about the Predators in this years’ playoffs. She didn’t think they were trying and that something was just off with them. I think she was right. The Predators weren’t having fun like they were last year when no one expected them to do what they did. They were not able to handle the weight of the expectations.

This one hurt. It’s going to take me a while to recover. Yeah, I know it’s just sports but I can’t convince the bitter feeling in the pit of my stomach right now.

I am all too familiar with my teams losing. I’m used to it. Remember I said I have been a Falcons fan? The pain of disappointment is nothing new but you never get good at dealing with it.

I am smashed.

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Friday Flashback: 1993-1994 Florida Panthers

John-Vanbiesbrouck-panthersBefore the Vegas Golden Knights hit the ice for their first season in the National Hockey League (NHL), the 1993-1994 Florida Panthers had the best start in the NHL.   The Panthers entered the NHL when Blockbuster Video giant Wayne Huizenga was awarded a franchise for Miami in 1992.   In the 1993 expansion draft, Florida took former Vezina winning goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck with the top pick. He went on to post a solid 2.53 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in the Panthers’ first season.

Their first-year success has been largely thought by hockey experts to the trap defense that Panthers’ coach Roger Neilson used which is a defensive strategy to prevent an opposing team from proceeding through the neutral zone to force turnovers.

The Panthers played their first game on October 6, 1993 which was a 4-4 tie to the Chicago Blackhawks.  Scott Mellanby scored the first goal for the Panthers and went on to tally 30 goals to lead the team in their maiden season.  The Panthers got their first win on October 9th as Vanbiesbrouck made 36 saves in a 2-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Panthers had a chance to make the playoffs in their first season; however, they faded into an 8-game winless streak at the end of the season and was eliminated from the playoffs when the New York Islanders grabbed the last slot.  The Panthers finished with a record of 33-34-17 for 83 points which, at the time, was an NHL record for points by an expansion team.  They missed the playoffs by one point.  Oddly enough, one single point in the standing kept them out of the playoffs again the next season.

After narrowly missing the playoffs in their first two seasons of existence, the Panthers finally broke threw in a big way as they made it to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche.  They were swept by the Avalanche in four games.  They have not won a playoff series since that season.

The Florida Panthers had the best start of any NHL expansion team until this season when the Vegas Golden Knights took the ice for the first time.  The Golden Knights have exceeded what the Panthers had accomplished and currently preparing to play in the Western Conference final in their first season.

Best NHL Expansion teams:

  1. Vegas Golden Knights (2017-2018)
  2. Florida Panthers (1993-1994)
  3. Philadelphia Flyers (1967-68)
  4. Anaheim Ducks (1993-1994)
  5. Columbus Bluejackets (2000-2001)
  6. Nashville Predators (1998-1999)
  7. Hartford Whalers (1979-1980)
  8. Minnesota Wild (2000-2001)

Have The Predators Lost Their Mojo?

Predators_JetsIt did not surprise me when the Winnipeg Jets rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to the Nashville Predators last night in Game #3 of the Western Conference Semifinals.  I sat there without any reaction when the Jets had a 3-goal barrage in a short span in the second period.  It was the most goals the Predators have ever allowed so quickly in a postseason game.

The Predators have lost their mojo.

The scary thing is that if they don’t do something to fix it, they could be done by the end of the week.  The team that has that mojo seems to be Winnipeg.  Even their fans seem louder and a lot like the city of Nashville was a year ago when the Predators stunned everyone in the hockey world by making it to the Stanley Cup final.

Defensive breakdowns in their own zone seem to be a common theme to the meltdowns that the Predators have during the course of the game.  I also hate to say this but I think two of the biggest problems are P.K. Subban and Pekka Rinne.  How they are both in the running for league awards are not very evident in the playoffs.  Subban is notoriously for giving up the puck in his own end and trying to do things flashy instead of smart.  He will continuously flick the  puck behind him without knowing if anyone is there or not.  It is very scary when he is handling the puck.  As for Rinne, he is simply not on his game.  When he isn’t, he is very shaky.  I like the guy and I WANT him to do well but at this stage of the playoffs he isn’t very solid.  He is not a brick wall that the Predators desperately need.

Last night was an embarrassment and it should make the team mad and come out with some fire in the next game.  The Predators also have a problem dealing with the size of Winnipeg.  They are getting knocked around.  They need to push back.  One player that could put some physical play in the Predators’ game is Scott Hartnell.  He has surprisingly been left out of the mix.  Hartnell is a veteran who can create opportunities with his physical play.  He needs to be in there.

The Predators need to make some drastic moves to change things up.  I would start Juuse Saros in goal.  How much worse could he make than having Rinne in there already?  Saros has been outstanding and I think these are moments when someone can step up and regain the mojo.  Saros could be part of the answer.

Another change I would make would be to insert Eeli Tolvanen into the lineup.  Yes, I know he hasn’t played much and he’s a young guy but he has played in the Olympics and might surprise us if given an opportunity.  I know it would be a huge gamble but at this point I think you need to see if the magic can be there.  It isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.

The Predators desperately need a win on Thursday night to avoid going down 3-1 in the series coming back home.  At this point, the Predators do not look like the best team in the National Hockey League (NHL).  They aren’t even playing like the Predators’ team from last season’s incredible run in the playoffs.  The Jets are way too explosive and the Predators need to take charge and quick.

I have watched many Stanley Cup playoffs over the years and based on what I see now, the Predators won’t win another game in the series and will play their last game on Saturday.  After winning in double-overtime in Game 2 on Sunday I had predicted the series would go seven games.  After last night, I think it’s over.  I don’t see the same Predators’ team I have watched in the regular season.  It is very frustrating to watch the Predators.  They never make it easy – even when they have a 3-0 lead.

Anything can happen and the Predators’ have bounced back from these meltdown losses in the past but I think this time will be different.  This loss may be a fatal blow to their hopes to win the cup.

 

 

 

It’s Okay To Breathe Now

Bored-sports-fanSome time after 9 p.m. last night I was able to breathe again.   When Kevin Fiala scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime period to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets, I was able to breathe again.  The Predators were able to even their best-of-seven series in the Western Conference semifinals.

Again, I ask myself why I put myself through this.

I have done this for as long as I have followed sports.  I remember the early 1990s when I went through something similar like this with the Atlanta Braves.  Late nights.  Close games.  Dramatic finishes.  They never made it easy.

It’s a lot of work watching these games.  It seems that the teams I pull for never make it easy.

It’s fun when you win.   When you lose, not so much.  And all this for what?   I don’t know really.  It’s just a hobby.  I don’t play hockey.  I’m not on the team.  It changes nothing in my life.  I still had to get up and go to work today.

It’s just entertainment.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  A game played by a team of players who aren’t even from here.  They are from Finland, Sweden, Russia and even the U.S. players on the team aren’t from Nashville.  It’s kinda strange when you think about it that way.

I can tell you that for almost 3 hours last night I had to remind myself when it was okay to breathe.  Every shot attempt and every save had me on edge.

On Friday the Nashville Mayor proclaimed it “Predators Pride Day” and for the first time I wore my Predators’ jersey to work.  To my surprise I did not see another person in the building or around the block wearing any Predators’ gear.  You can see Bridgestone Arena from my office building.  I was a bit surprised about that.

Then the team lost 4-1 that night.  The Predators had a huge shot attempt number but only got one in for a score.  Winnipeg didn’t have many chances and they just seemed to flip it in with ease.  The agony of defeat.

Yeah, Winnipeg.  That’s not really a well-known North American city yet this Winnipeg is making my life miserable.  For hockey folks, Winnipeg originated as the Atlanta Thrashers.  When the Thrashers failed to establish hockey in Atlanta for the second time, they moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada.

When I first started watching hockey, it was the Atlanta Flames and later I followed the New York Islanders during their glory years.  Since moving to Nashville, I can say that I am a fully converted Nashville Predators’ fan.  Even my wife – who had never been to a hockey game – is a fan now.  You should hear her coaching the team during the game.  She’s right on it too.

Another annoyance with watching the games now is that we are stuck with the NBC announcers.  I really wish we could just mute their voices and listen to the game without them.  Their color commentary person is stating the obvious and really has nothing to add to the game.  She has repeatedly referred to how big the Winnipeg Jets are.  Okay, we get it.  Move on.  No need to state that observation in every game.  They aren’t going to change in height or size so let’s move on.  Better yet, say nothing.  I’m good with that.  No, it’s not our homey broadcasters and I get that but they could say a lot less in my opinion.

So I come back to why do I put myself through this?  I don’t know.  Life has enough drama right?

Even if the Nashville Predators win the title what, in my life, will it change?   Georgia lost to Alabama in College Football National Championship Game in January.  Did that change anything?  No.   The Falcons suffered the most humiliating loss in Super Bowl history to New England two years ago which changed nothing.  It’s like a TV series.  It’s entertainment.  That’s it.

I tell myself this but on Tuesday night I will be reminding myself when to breathe yet again.

 

Nashville Predators Hit 100 Point Mark

preds02The Nashville Predators stormed out to a 3-0 lead in their Central Division showdown with the Winnipeg Jets and held on for a 3-1 lead.  They also reached the 100 point total in the standings and with Tampa Bay losing, they find themselves tied for the best record in the National Hockey League (NHL) at this point.  This is the sixth time in team history the Predators have notched 100 points in a season.

To quote the grouchy Sergeant from Stripes:  “Lighten up Francis”.

The Predators haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet.  There is still a month left in the regular season and then the grueling Stanley Cup playoffs where anything can happen. The Nashville Scene recently said that the Predators are making it look easy.  Have they even watched a Predators’ game this season?  The Predators have definitely NOT made it easy.  They have had a string of two-goal comebacks as well has taking big leads only to hold on at the end.  I wouldn’t call that easy.

The Predators are 9-0-1 in the last 10 games but that means nothing yet.  Anything can happen.  Injuries.  Scoring Droughts.  Goal keeping issues.  A hockey season is a very tentative thing which is prone to emotional ups and downs.  It is a game of streaks.  I’m always very worried about a team peaking too soon and I hope this isn’t the case with the Predators.  Sure, it would be nice to be the #1 seed in the playoffs and have home-ice advantage but what good did that do for the Chicago Blackhawks last year?  It’s all about the team that is hot when the playoffs start.

preds01Need scoring?  Nashville has a roster full of them.  On any given night any of them can light the lamp.  This is a team that really doesn’t have just one player to go to for scoring.  Sometimes the problem is that their aim is off.  In the recent shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Predators hit the post NINE times.  At times their shot selection isn’t very good either.  Slap shots from the point are often blocked and easily turn into an offensive rush for the other team.    The defense is pretty solid but at times they tend to turn it over.  I am especially worried when P.K. Subban has the puck in the defensive zone.  While he is a good defender, he will often make poor choices on getting the puck out of the zone.  He needs to make better decisions.  Lately, he seems to be the weak link in the defense.

Goalkeeping is pretty solid as Pekka Rinne is having the best season of his career.   Rinne is currently 38-9-4 right now.  He is in the zone.  His backup, Juuse Saros isn’t too shabby either.  Saros, who is 7-5-6 is a rising star of the future but he is very capable when he has been called on to start.

As for special teams, the Predators are fifth in the NHL in the Power Play.  They have been really streaky.  They will go long streaks without converting and then suddenly strike.  The Power Play is very unpredictable.  When they have the puck in the offensive zone they tend to make too many passes and take very poor shots.  This area could really come back to bite them.  As far as their penalty killing, it is pretty good.  In fact, the Predators are tied with Florida in leading the league with 10 shorthanded goals.   Viktor Arvidsson is especially exciting to watch when he is in there because he looks for any opportunity to make an offensive surge.

So with all that said, I’m still not comfortable with the Predators at the top of the Western Conference standings.  In spite of what the Nashville Scene thinks, it has not come easy.  No lead has been safe.  They have only had 14 games where they have won by at least three goals so in the rest of the games, it has been anything but easy.   But, maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe those close games and games when they have had to overcome adversity will get them battle tested and ready for playing in April, May and June.  All they will need is 16 wins for the Stanley Cup.

Reaching 100 points is awesome.  Being the top team in the Western Conference is great.  Tied for the top team in the NHL is amazing.  Winning the Stanley Cup will make it all worth it.

 

If We Could Change The NHL’s Overtime Rules…

NHL overtimeMy wife and I have become hockey fans over the last few years.  One of the parts of the game that we both dread are the overtime and shootout rules for National Hockey League (NHL) games when they are tied after regulation.  We hate it.

The current rules for overtime are:

1. Teams play an additional overtime period of not more than five (5) minutes with the team scoring first declared the winner and being awarded an additional point.

2. The overtime period will be played with each team at 3-on-3 manpower (plus goaltender) for the full five-minute period.

3. Manpowers during overtime will be adjusted to reflect the situation in the game, but at no time will a team have fewer than three (3) skaters on the ice during the overtime period. For example, if a team enters the overtime period on a power play, manpower would be adjusted from 5 on 4 at the end of regulation to 4 on 3 at the start of overtime. If a minor penalty is assessed during overtime, the teams will play 4 on 3. If a second minor penalty is assessed to the same team during overtime, the teams will play 5 on 3.

4. If the game remains tied at the end of the five (5) minute overtime period, the teams will proceed to a three-round shootout. After each team has taken three shots, if the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a “sudden death” format.

The main reason we don’t like it is that the 3-on-3 overtime is too gimmicky and the shootout takes away the team aspect of settling a tie game.  I have thought about different changes to the overtime and I have come up with the following proposal to change overtime in the NHL.

When teams are tied at the end of regulation time, teams will alternate being on the power play.  Here’s how it would work:

  • A coin toss would determine choice of who goes on offense or defense first.
  • The team on offense would get two minutes to score.  The overtime power play would end when (A) the defense cleared the puck out of their zone or (B) when two minutes have expired if the puck has not been cleared.
  • Teams would alternate overtime power plays until a winner was determined.

I have played this overtime scenario in my head and here’s an example of how it could work:

  • Team A wins the coin toss and decides to go on defense first.
  • Team B is on offense.  Team A immediately clears the puck out of the zone.
  • Team A goes on offense.  Team B does not clear the puck out of the zone.  Time expires.
  • The next round is flipped with Team A on offense first
  • Team A goes on offense.  Team A scores a goal.
  • Team B goes on offense.  Team A clears the puck out of the zone.  Team A wins.

Penalties would be the same as it normally is in regulation.

This version of overtime would keep the game more closely to a team game instead of the 3-on-3 or shootout format as it is now.

My wife and I talk a lot of hockey these days and we both think this method would be a better team overtime.  Otherwise, we would just prefer the teams to tie and only have overtime games in the playoffs.  If we went back to allowing regular season tie games, the point system could be changed to award the winning team with three (3) points instead of two (2) points and teams getting one (1) point for a tie.

 

 

 

2016-2017 Hockey Champions

hockey champs 2

It is the middle of June and the ice has finally melted on the 2016-2017 hockey season.  Here is a recap on the champions of each league:

National Hockey League (NHL):  Pittsburgh Penguins

  • The Penguins are the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998.  The Penguins defeated Columbus (4-1), Washington (4-3), Ottawa (4-3) and Nashville (4-2) to win their 5th cup in franchise history.  Sidney Crosby was named the MVP.

American Hockey League (AHL):  Grand Rapids Griffins

  • The Griffins defeated the Syracuse Crunch in six games to win their second Calder Cup.  They defeated Milwaukee (3-0), Chicago (4-1) and San Jose (4-1) on their way to the Cup final.    Griffins’ forward Tyler Bertuzzi was named the finals MVP.  The Griffins are the top farm team for the Detroit Red Wings.

ECHL:  Colorado Eagles

  • The Eagles won their first Kelly Cup championship in team history.  Defenseman Matt Register was named the MVP to become the first defenseman in the ECHL’s 29-year history to receive the award.   The Eagles defeated Idaho (4-1), Allen (4-2), Toledo (4-1) and South Carolina (4-0) to win the Cup.  The Eagles are affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche.

Federal Hockey League (FHL):  Danville Dashers

  •  The Dashers completed the best season in Danville history by winning the Commissioner’s Cup after setting a new league record with 129 points in the regular season.  The Dashers defeated Watertown (2-1) and Berlin (3-2) to win their first championship.  Danville forward Gehrett Sargis was named the MVP of the Commissioner Cup playoffs with four goals and four assists.

Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL):  Macon Mayhem

  • The Mayhem won their first President’s Cup title in just their second season.  They defeated Columbus (2-1), Pensacola (2-0) and Peoria (2-0).  Goalie Jordan Ruby was named the MVP.

North American Hockey League (NAHL):  Lone Star Brahmas

  • The Brahmas were crowned Robertson Cup National Champions.  Drake Glover was named the tournament MVP to lead the Brahmas their first title.   Lone Star defeated Wichita Falls (3-0), Corpus Christi (3-2), Janesville (2-0) and Aston (1-0) on their way to the Robertson Cup.

United States Hockey League (USHL):  Chicago Steel

  • The Steel won the Clark Cup Championship beating the Sioux City Musketeers 3 games to 2 for their first title.  Eduards Tralmaks was the MVP with 10 goals and two assists in the playoffs.    His 10 goals are tied for the most in USHL playoff history.  Chicago defeated Youngstown (3-2) and Dubuque (3-1) in the playoffs.

Western Hockey League (WHL):  Seattle Thunderbirds

  • The Thunderbirds captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time in the team’s 40-year history.  Mathew Barzal was named the MVP.   Seattle defeated Tri-City (4-0), Everett (4-0), Kelowna (4-2) and Regina (4-2).    The Thunderbirds won a dramatic Game 6 at Regina in overtime to win the cup.

National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL):  Buffalo Beauts

  • The Beauts stunned heavily favored Boston Pride to win the Isobel Cup.  Despite a third place finish in the regular season, Buffalo defeated the Pride 3-2 to win the title.  Buffalo goalie Brianne McLaughlin was named MVP with 60 saves in the game.  The Beauts defeated New York (4-2) and Boston (3-2) in the playoffs.