I have some rest and I am now ready to tell all about the game last night. I'm breaking this blog down into sections today that way if people just want to read quotes, they can do that. If you just want a recap, you'll get that. So here are the subcategories:
1. Game Recap
2. Quotes from the Preds locker room
3. Ron Wilson
4. The rivalry and its' bad blood
5. Game 3 preview, and some predicitions
So here it goes, and I apologize if this is a little long.....
1. GAME RECAP
High expectations went into Game 2. With everyone buzzing about the Hartnell hit on Cheechoo the fans and everyone else expected things to be a bit chippy. Before the game I told one of my fellow media members that I expected San Jose to take some more penalties than usual. In my opinion, this was a game where San Jose wanted to push back, and since they won Game 1 they were going to do it. My prediction before the game started was 4-2 Preds, and thankfully, the boys did me one better. But I'm jumping ahead....
It didn't even take 1 minute for the fireworks to show up. 38 seconds in, and we had Guerin and Fiddler in their boxes for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. It almost seemed like the Predators were anticipating more when Craig Rivet went down shot the puck, got his own rebound, and silenced the crowd by beating Tomas Vokoun top shelf. Rivet made a good play on the goal and Vokoun didn't stand a chance really. It did not take the Preds long to respond however. I already mentioned in a previous blog how I felt that coming back from 2 goals really gave the team alot of confidence. Well it showed in Game 2 because the guys did not panic and once again, the rookie Alexander Radulov beat Nabokov upstairs, thus tying the game at 1.
At the 10:53 point, Ryane Clowe got called for a well deserved boarding call. The reason I mention this is because I personally thought that his hit was just as bad as Radulov's later in the game. In fact, Steve Sullivan (who happened to be sitting next to me these past 2 games) even wanted an intent to injure call. While the intent can be debated, I truly think that the referees in the game should have called a double minor on this one. I'll discuss it a little more here in a minute.
Almost 10 minutes after the Radulov goal Peter Forsberg showed once again why when it comes to playoff hockey, he is king. A missed shot by Marek Zidlicky came off the boards behind Nabokov and went to Foppa. Making it look easy, Forsberg buried his shot from a very tough angle just to the right of Nabokov. So the first period ended with a Nashville 2-1 lead.
It was the second period that really stole the show last night. At 4:44 we saw Nashville's rookie, Radulov, check Steve Bernier from behind. The 5 minute major was the appropriate call, however, I still have questions in my mind as to whether or not this play was that different from the Clowe boarding call. In reality, the only difference is that we had an injured player on the ice who, fortunatley, was able to get up without the assistance of a strectcher. Now I'm not trying to justify the actions of Alexander Radulov. That was a hit from behind, and it was unfortunate that Bernier was injured on the play. What I am asking though is that if you saw the entire game, let me know if you think that Clowe's boarding call was less severe. Radulov got a 1 game suspension, which he deserved if you take into account his style of play and past, and I think it will be a lesson learned for Radu.
The San Jose Sharks have to be frustrated at this point though. They had a 5 minute powerplay and did not convert. Give credit to the Nashville Predators penalty killers because they have been very good this series. For a team that relies on powerplay goals, San Jose is just not getting them. In Game 1 they scored on a 5 on 3, but they have yet to tally on a 5 vs 4. 12 powerplay opportunities thus far in the series and the Sharks have got one goal! I know if I am a Sharks fan, I am concerned at the sudden lack of powerplay production. Especially when they don't get a goal in a 5 minute powerplay situation.
Then it was J.P. Dumont's time to shine once again. I can't say enough about the year this guy is having. His first shift as a Predator and he scores on a magnificent play against Chicago. Then as the regular season winded down, he stepped up. If you look at his history, J.P. produces when it counts. Last year with Buffalo is just one example, and now this year is another. 2 games, 2 goals per game, and currently leads the NHL in playoff goals. At the 10:26 mark, J.P. sealed the game shorthanded when he streaked in, faked the pass to Nichol, and buried his chance high stick side. I have never heard The Nashville Arena so loud. The place was going nuts! You could just see the energy drop on San Jose's bench. Then after Clowe got called for roughing, and Marcel Goc for cross checking at the same time, the Preds had themselves a 5 on 3. With 4 seconds left on the penalties, J.P. buried another goal over a sprawling Nabokov. Nabby didn't really stand a chance on this goal, so no discredit to him. But Nabokov was not having a good night at this point. 4 goals on only 9 shots! The Preds have this goaltender figured out and you can consistently see them trying to put the puck up where mom hid the cookies. (Thats up high in case your mom was really nice, spoiled you as a child, and let you have all the cookies you wanted.....)
Fast forward to the 3rd period where Cheechoo made a nice play behind the net and got it to Clowe who got San Jose their 2nd goal, but it wasn't enough. Peter Forsberg scored the empty net goal at 18:55 to give just that much more insurance, and all the fans in attendance free tacos! (5 goals = free tacos at Taco Bell at The Nashville Arena)
Then the really rough stuff happened. I saw it coming when I noticed the lines at the faceoff. Hartnell, Tootoo, Smithson and for San Jose Mike Grier, Clowe, and Scott Hannan. I knew Trotz sent out his tough boys just in case, and sure enough, puck drops, Clowe immediately goes after Hartnell (dropping his gloves first, thus Trotz wanting the instigator penalty) followed by Grier and his linemate jumping in on him. Then Tootoo came to Harts defense and took on Clowe, as well as Smithson having a go with Hannan, and Harnell and Grier going at it. Talk about a three ring circus, and of course the building was rocking. Once all that was settled the penalties were announced as follows:
Hartnell - 5 min fighting major, 2 10 min game misconducts
Smithson - 5 min fighting, 10 min misconduct
Tootoo - Same as Smithson
Hannan and Grier received the same as Smithson, but somehow Ryan Clowe ended up with a 5 min. fighting major and a 2 min. roughing penalty....
It has been announced today that the NHL retracted the Hartnell game misconducts, so he will not receive a suspension. He is walking on thin ice though (no pun intended).
That was the tale of the game from my viewpoint. I do think that Nashville played the game just like they had to. They showed no panic, played great on the penalty kill, took San Jose off their game, didn't allow the Sharks to push them around, and got the win. They have alot of momentum and confidence right now and I wonder if Sharks fans are worried....
Here are some stats I want to bring up from last nights game. Nashville blocked 19 shots while San Jose only blocked 8. The Preds do need to be concerned with faceoffs still. They won a total of 31%, and ended up 4-13 in their own end. I already mentioned the 4 goals on 9 shots. Nashville did not give San Jose any power plays in the 3rd period. The hits were pretty even last night with the Sharks edging out the Preds 21 to 19. Total shots on goal were SJ-24 and NSH-22. That is actually not that big of a problem since the Preds have routinely been outshot all season.
2. QUOTES FROM THE LOCKER ROOM AND COACHES PRESS CONFERENCE
"The chemistry on this team is unbelievable and everybody is going to be there for each other. That has been like that all year long and that is what makes us a good team, we play with emotion and we know that our teammates are going to be there for us."
"It's hard to not have a smile on your face after a win like that."
"There are so many different guys on this team that I don't think they are worried about me."
"Unbelievable. Two huge acquisitions for us and it just goes to show how much experience they have out there and that they know, they know what to do in situations." His comment on Forsberg and Dumont and how nice it is to have them on the ice.
When asked about the chippiness in the game.
"It was there from the start, absolutely, and I have an article from the San Jose Mercury paper, and I'll just read this to you, where there captain, Patrick Marleau, says, "Payback will arrive. Perhaps not the way you think, Hartnell may not get creamed, but maybe other Predators will." And you could see that from the opening whistle, that was their intent, and you saw it in the end. Where is the instigation come when you watch #29 Clowe, at the end of the game, he drops his gloves and goes at Hartnell. That is where the fight started."
"We came here to play hockey tonight, we knew this was an important game, and it turned into a street brawl."
"This 7 games is going to be a rivalry. Absolutely. No one is going to take any prisoners on their side or our side."
Ron Wilson: "I HAVE NO COMMENT"
Which leads me to my next topic
3. RON WILSON
This is a good coach, but man can he grab attention. If we all face facts, he outcoached Barry Trotz last year. Wilson made the right moves and adjustments from the 2nd game on last year and thus the Sharks took it in 5. Barry Trotz is fighting back this year though. These two traded quotes on Thursday, then after being called "extremely doubtful" for Game 2 this year, Cheechoo makes an amazing recovery and takes a regular shift last night. Give credit to Ron Wilson for the mind games, but at the same time that was a VERY RISKY move. Many can debate whether or not you put Cheechoo back in the lineup, but in my opinion Ron Wilson really risked the series last night. If Cheechoo had reaggravated that right knee then you would have seen a huge backlash from Sharks fans. As far as the "No Comment" issue goes, well that was a huge dissappointment. Everyone is the room couldn't wait to hear what Mr. Wilson's thoughts were on last night's affair, but alas, he would have none. I suspect he will get fined 5 grand for that since the NHL has rules about not speaking to the media. With it being playoffs makes it even worse, so that is why you saw the 4 second clip on NBC this afternoon.
4. THE RIVALRY AND BAD BLOOD
This is a rivalry folks. It started back when Witt tried to climb the glass in San Jose during a regular season game last year. It escalated with last years playoff series, and this years has reached the boiling point. I expect that these two teams could be rivals for a little while, and if they keep meeting in the playoffs, we might have our new Detroit vs Colorado.
5. PREDICTIONS AND GAME 3
I'll admit that I picked the Preds in 6 before the series started. After watching two games I now expect to see Eklund in the media section for Game 7. The way I see it playing out is as follows:
Game 3 in SJ - NSH wins (I'm feeling a 3-2 score in this one)
Game 4 in SJ - SJ wins to tie the series at 2.
Game 5 in NSH - NSH wins
Game 6 in SJ - SJ forces game 7
Game 7 in NSH - The Pred prevail and go to the 2nd round.
For Game 3, expect a fired up San Jose crowd, a confident Preds team, a more disciplined Shark effort, another great game, and with Radulov suspended you might see Darcy Hordichuk crack the lineup. If Hordi is in, expect a fight between him and (insert SJ tough guy here). So here is to Game 3 and another great game in this growing rivalry. Feel free to leave your comments and share your thoughts!