Archive for the ‘Nashville Predators’ Category

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Boll on IR, Filatov to make his NHL debut

October 16, 2008

As reported in the Dispatch this morning, Jared Boll has been placed on the IR with head/neck issues and 18-year old Nikita Filatov will make his NHL debut in the Jackets’ home opener.  Mrs. EOB and I will be in attendance for the home opener (one of two games we get to almost every year), and look forward to seeing the kid on the ice.

The Predators are a rough and tumble bunch, especially when it comes to #22, Mr. Tootoo.  The Dispatch writers are speculating how the Jackets will counter the nastiness in terms of personnel packaging.  With Boll out, there isn’t a time-tested fighter/enforcer.  Perhaps OKT will get the nod tonight, as he’s already with the club.  Derek Dorsett has a reckless streak to him, Alex Picard hits anything that moves, and Mike Commodore has dished out a bit of physical punishment in his limited time with the club.  With management saying no other moves are likely, I’d think that Filatov skates for Boll, and all the defensive pairings remain as is.  I like OKT’s spirit, but I’m not sure he brings more to the table than any of the current six d-men.

What I’ll be watching for:

  • What happens after the “hockey is back in Columbus” glow in the arena wears off, and how long does it take?  If the Preds score early, I see the crowd being out of this game.  If the Jackets are sound defensively, are hitting all the right people in the right places (read: don’t take themselves out of position in attempts at retribution), and can put together some offense, the high could last all game (remember last year when Anaheim came to town?)
  • How do the defensemen and goaltender work the puck out on dump-ins and manage the Predator forecheck?  This was a glaring problem in San Jose, and with enough new faces on the blueline, it could be a bit more time before they make me feel comfortable.
  • How does Leclaire, assuming he gets the start, rebound from the Tuesday night debacle?  He allowed five goals in less than sixty minutes of action, including two shorties.  One of which prompted Pascal to break his stick across the goal post.  A strong goalie can put sub-par outings behind him and move on.  The Predators are not a super-skilled team like some the team will face, and a buckled down netminder should be able to handle the load.  If…
  • The team can handle the physicality of the Predators in their own zone.  The Jackets have showed a slight inability to manage big, puck-possession lines in the d-zone, and need to be strong positionally and ready to break out and clear the puck when necessary.  Shifts of 2:00 or more for the blueliners are unacceptable, even on the PK.  Find the puck, fire it down the ice, and change up.  And to the crowd, when they do this properly: show your appreciation.  It may seem like such a small thing, but you saw in the last few games what happens when those small plays don’t happen.  Bad things.  Goals against.  Hockey is a simple game.  Put the puck in their net and stop it from going across your own end line.  If the other five are fresher than yours, you’re running uphill.

Okay, that’s enough for now.  How does two posts in two days strike you?  Look for more tomorrow with my game preview, and maybe I’ll have a few pictures up after the game from our trip to see the team on home ice.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.

– Drew

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OK, I’ve calmed down.

July 4, 2008

I’ve caught my breath and had time to think about the Jacket roster moves over the past few days.  It’s not easy to take them in single servings, not knowing what else is going on or negotiated without all the servings on the dinner plate.  And as I write this, the team is working on other trades, so things could change even more.

First off, the team replaced David Vyborny’s numbers with Raffi Torres.  Torres is a tougher player who will certainly hit harder than Vyborny and will play adequate defense.

With the signing of Kristian Huselius, the team has picked up the numbers that Zherdev had and a little more.  Huselius won’t make me forget Nick and I admit that I think Z will get better, but he won’t have the mental lapses like Zherdev did, and will pass the puck a bit sooner and shoot quicker.

RJ Umberger will get his 20 goals and maybe (negative comment coming) get Jason Chimera to improve his game.  If Fredrik Modin can play a full season and get his 25 goals, things look bright.

On defense, the team certainly improved.  The team is now bigger, even if Kris Russell stays on the roster.  Ron Hainsey is gone, but it would have been interesting to see what kind of numbers he would have put up on this new 2008 team.  Tyutin is now the guy, unless Klesla can find more goals or someone like Clay Wilson can fill that role.  The team definitely is stronger at the blue line.  Can they score a few more goals?

Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek have replaced Gilbert Brule and Dan Fritsche, even if they don’t make the team in October.   I liked Brule, but he needed a change of address and he too, will probably have better numbers in Edmonton.

Pascal Leclaire has to put up the same numbers and Fredrik Norrena has to improve his game.  Two or three more wins from Freddy would be great.

The team looks better now, but what about the other factors?  If the team can play as well as or better than last season, it needs to also play even against Nashville and win half those games.  It needs to continue to play well against Detroit.  It needs to win against Chicago and St. Louis and stay even with them in the standings.  Five more wins will go a long way, in the standings and at the bank.

The team is now different, but they are not out of the MacLean hole yet. They are on their way to fixing that with a few more roster subtractions and scouting changes. It will finally be Scott Howson’s team at that point, resembling a modern NHL franchise instead of a PEI social club.  That will be a nice way to show John McConnell our thanks and that we won’t forget him.

-Truth Serum

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Your 2008-2009 Columbus Blue Jackets

April 3, 2008

With the Blue Jacket season about to end, I start to think about next year. I did this a lot growing up a Red Wing fan. The Detroit team that I cheered on 25 years ago was pathetic, finding all sorts of ways to lose games, hiring bad coaches, playing to half-empty arenas, and working desperately to hold the fan base. Even after Mike Ilitch bought the team and hired Jim Devellano, there were some false starts that kept the team from becoming the juggernaut that it is today. But things worked out and you know the rest.

So when I think about next year, I examine this year’s roster and wonder who will be back. I hear all kinds of grumbling from disenchanted fans, but I haven’t heard much from the organization itself. I never heard Ken Hitchcock complain about the loss of Adam Foote or Sergei Fedorov. That tells me that Hitch is a coach who will work with what he has and not bug his GM to go out and get somebody else. Not everyone liked Hitch in Dallas, but he never played mind games with his players in the media. I can’t speak for what went on in private, but unlike Doug MacLean, he does not publicly ream his players.

It has been said frequently that we need a good center. Really? Who doesn’t need a good center? A Hitchcock team plays defense first, preferring to frustrate the opposition into turning over the puck. Detroit plays puck possession, believing that if you own the puck, the other team can’t score. It is easy do this when you have Nick Lidstrom playing defense for you. If a Detroit opponent gets the puck, they have to get by Lidstrom and the other capable defensemen before they can even get an offensive chance.

So with Columbus needing a certain type of center, can they either grow their own or obtain one? The first option is certainly the most cost-efficient, but who fits that description? A case can be made for Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek to become that type of center, but I don’t see a member of the current roster fitting that description. Michael Peca and David Vyborny were that style of player, but they are finishing their careers. So signing a free agent or trading for one will have to be considered. So which fast, strong, free agent defensive centerman will want to play in Columbus? Before you give me an answer, think about this: All NHLer’s want to win and play for the Cup, so what will attract them to Columbus? If they can get the same money from Vancouver, Chicago, the Islanders, Toronto, or one of the other second tier clubs, why would they come here? For the streetcar system? There is only one thing to offer them, a bigger paycheck. I don’t question Mr. McConnell’s willingness to pay a premium, but I do wonder how much of a premium he is willing to pay, even with Howson and Hitchcock running things. Fedorov will look like a bargain compared to what the available talent will command.

There are other things that I am thinking about for next year and I will get into them in the near future. Obviously, the team needs to re-evaluate and take action with the defense. Who will be in goal next year, the same pair or do we roll the dice? Will there be any turnover in the coaching department? The team only offers one-year coaching contracts that all expire on July 1. Meanwhile, all of the other teams in the Western Conference are going to make some changes that directly affect Columbus. You know Chicago will be better next season and there is always Detroit. Nashville is stabilized and St. Louis is right behind us.

-Truth Serum

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Previewing the Predators

October 9, 2007

This is late… sorry.  In a continuation of the Central Division Preview Series headed up by Dave at Gorilla Crouch, this (last) week it’s the Predators blogger with his take on the upcoming season.

The ForecheckerAn in depth look at things in Nashville from the master stat man. 

Many moves were made in Nashvegas this summer, the biggest of which was long time Preds netminder Tomas Vokoun being shipped to Sunrise, Florida on the day of the draft.  Most seem to think the Predators will be in the playoffs again, what do you think? 

Thanks for stopping by.

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Central Division Preview

September 4, 2007

National Hockey League: Central Division Preview

Eleven bloggers who cover each team in the Central Division have gotten together to present our readers and NHL fans in general with a preview of the division.  The preview kicks off today with an overview of how the preview will work.  So today we are presenting you with an overview of each blog that will participate in the preview and the dates you can expect to read our coverage on each team in the division.

Without further ado here is the overview of each blogger:

Chicago Blackhawks

Chris – The Third Man In [thethirdmanin.com]

Chris will preview the Hawks in their second year under head coach Denis Savard.  The Third Man In has covered the Hawks since March 2007.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Bethany – Bethany’s Hockey Rants [bethanym85.blogspot.com]

Bethany will preview the Jackets as second year coach Ken Hitchcock will attempt to lead Columbus to their first playoff berth in team history.  Bethany will also provide a preview for the St. Louis Blues.  Her hockey rants has been up and running since January 2007.

Drew – End of the Bench [endofbench.wordpress.com]

Drew is part of the triumverate of Blue Jacket bloggers who will preview Columbus.  He’s covered the Blue Jackets as well as the larger sports scene at End of the Bench since February 2006.

Sarah – Neutral Zone Trap [neutralzonetrap.wordpress.com]

Sarah’s coverage of the Blue Jackets, soccer, and…library book sales has been up and running since February 2007.

Detroit Red Wings

Bill – Abel to Yzerman [kuklaskorner.com/index.php/a2y]

Bill has provided his unique sarcastic takes Mike Babcock’s squad over at the emperor’s website since November 2006.

Christy – Behind the Jersey [behindthejersey.com]

A Red Wings intern and #1 Steve Yzerman fan, Christy has covered the Red Wings since November 2003.

John & Steve – Gloveside [gloveside.net]

The crazy band of northern Michigan bloggers provide coverage on – and write haikus about – Detroit’s hockey team.  They will also provide coverage of the Red Wings’ training camp in Traverse City.

Dave – Gorilla Crouch [gorillacrouch.com]

Dave provides coverage of the Red Wings as well as the general Detroit Sports scene.  He’s been blogging since September 2006.

George – Kuklas Korner [kuklaskorner.com]

George, who blogs for MLIVE.com, also provides hockey coverage and commentary for Kuklas Korner.

Matt – On the Wings [onthewingsblog.com]

Canonical blogger Matt Saler has covered the Red Wings over at On the Wings since March 2003. 

Nashville Predators

Dirk (aka The Forechecker) – On the Forecheck [forechecker.blogspot.com]

Dirk provides in-depth statistical analysis as well as wall to wall coverage of the Predators.  He’s been blogging since July 2005, but back in the 1990’s he wrote for the online hockey magazine “In the Crease,” mostly covering the Detroit Red Wings.

St. Louis Blues

Bethany – Bethany’s Hockey Rants [bethanym85.blogspot.com]

Bethany takes a break from her Hockey Ranting just long enough to preview the Blues.

So be sure to check out each preview to get the latest information, statistics, and completely biased opinions on each team in the Central Division.  One team will be featured on each of the following Mondays.  Here is the schedule for each team preview:

Sept 10 – Chicago
Sept 17 – Columbus
Sept 24 – Detroit
Oct 1 – Nashville
Oct 8 – St. Louis

We hope you enjoy the preview as we get closer to the drop of the puck and the start of the 2007-08 season!

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NHL 2007 Playoff Predictions

April 11, 2007

For the second year in a row, I will be putting my playoff picks on the site for all to ridicule.  This season, I’ve got Truth Serum joining me and putting his two cents in.

The action starts tonight with four games on the docket, so without further ado, here are the results of the End of the Bench first round pick ’em:

Eastern Conference

Buffalo Sabres (#1) vs. New York Islanders (#8)

Drew’s take: With Dipietro, the Islanders are a long-shot.  Without him (as they will be to start the series), they’re cooked.

Drew’s pick:  Logo BUF

Truth’s pick: Logo BUF

New Jersey Devils (#2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (#7)

Drew’s take:  If Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis can solve Marty Brodeur and the Devils offense can’t take advantage of the netminding problems in Tampa, this series could be an upset.  But when you’re not even dressing your highest paid healthy goaltender (former Jacket Marc Denis will be watching from the stands at least in Game 1), I’m not inclined to give you much of a chance.

Drew’s pick: Logo NJD

Truth’s pick: Logo NJD

Atlanta Thrashers (#3) vs. New York Rangers (#6)

Drew’s take: The Thrashers make their first post-season appearance, while winning the Southeast no less, and have the good fortune of facing the hottest goaltender in 2007 in Henrik Lundqvist.  Last season, King Henry and Prince Jaromir were embarassed by the Devils in the first round.  This year, a Rangers squad including Brendan Shanahan gets to pick on the new kid on the block.  Expect a big game or two from Atlanta, but probably not enough to take the series.

Drew’s pick: Logo NYR

Truth’s pick: Logo NYR

Ottawa Senators (#4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (#5)

Drew’s take: In my opinion, this is the series in the East that poses the most questions.  Will Sid, Evgeni, and the young Penguin team choke in the playoffs?  Will Ottawa play up to it’s potential?  Which goaltender (Emery, Fleury, or Gerber) will come up big?  I think this will be the best first round matchup to watch in this conference.

Drew’s pick: Logo PIT

Truth’s pick: Logo OTT

Western Conference

Detroit Red Wings (#1) vs. Calgary Flames (#8)

Drew’s take: This game is a chance for Detroit to exorcise some recent playoff demons.  In 2004, Calgary eliminated the Wings in the Conference Semi’s… a series the Wings were expected to win.  In each of the last three playoff runs, the Wings have lost in the first or second round to a lower seeded team.  With Henrik Zetterberg expected back, I’m sure there are many Detroit fans hoping this one is short, sweet, and to the point.

Drew’s take: Logo DET

Truth’s take: Logo DET

Anaheim Ducks (#2) vs. Minnesota Wild (#7)

Drew’s take:  It’s the time of year Ducks management has dreamt about since signing Chris Pronger to join Scott Neidermeyer on the blueline.  Duck forwards Teemu Selanne and the young guys like Perry, Getzlaf, and Penner will have to find a way to break through the opposition’s strategy of lock-down defense.  Interestingly enough, even with Manny Fernandez on the mend, all five of CBS Sportsline’s hockey talking heads have picked Minnesota to win the series.  As for us…

Drew’s pick: Logo ANA (That says Ducks… dang small logos)

Truth’s pick: Logo ANA

Vancouver Canucks (#3) vs. Dallas Stars (#6)

Drew’s take:  Last year I picked the Stars and Marty Turco to shake the recent playoff busts and win the Cup.  This year, they face an even more dangerous team in Vancouver.  Though this is All-World goaltender Roberto Luongo’s first playoff action in his career, he’s shown what he can do with a capable defense.  And Dallas… “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice… well you already fooled me once, you can’t do it again.”

Drew’s pick: Logo VAN

Truth’s pick: Logo VAN

Nashville Predators (#4) vs. San Jose Sharks (#5)

Drew’s take: A team with aging skilled forwards (Forsberg, Arnott, Kariya, Sullivan) takes on a team with younger skilled forwards (Marleau, Thornton, Cheechoo).  (Yeah, it’s simple and unfair… oh well.)  Aside from goaltending, the question I want to see answered is which deadline acquisition will pay off: Forsberg, or Guerin?

Drew’s pick:Logo NSH

Truth’s pick: Logo SJS

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Lucky 13

March 14, 2007

No, this post isn’t about Nikolai Zherdev.  Luck has nothing to do with his drop in production this year.

I took a few minutes this morning and broke down the remaining games the Jackets have left to play, of which there are thirteen.  (All stats are as of 3/13/07)

It’s been mentioned in a few places that, at least lately, the Jackets have played decently against playoff (or close) teams and simply haven’t showed up on the nights against fellow bottom dwellers.  The sample size being used for these “trends” is usually eight to twelve games, which hardly makes a telling statistic in my book.  Yes, it’s nice that Columbus has beaten Anaheim, Detroit, Buffalo, and others recently.  But unless it keeps happening, it doesn’t mean much.

So I went back over the course of the season and looked at how the Jackets have done.  If a team is currently in the top 8 in their conference, or within 5 points of the 8th seed, they are a “playoff” team.  All others are non-playoff teams.  My questions were these:

  1. How did Columbus perform against each subset?
  2. What does this predict for their final thirteen games?

What did I find for #1? 

  • Games played against playoff teams: 40
  • Record in these games (straight won/loss, no OTL): (15-25), for a 37.5% win rate
  • Games played against non-playoff teams: 29
  • Record in these games: (12-17), for a 41.4% win rate

So while Columbus has won more games against playoff teams, their win rate is higher against non-playoff teams.  In the larger picture, the mini-run the Jackets had against Detroit/Buffalo/Minnesota/Vancouver is a bit of a fluke.  They would normally win 1.5 of those games, not all four.  It’s also a disappointing finding that the team only wins 41% of games against crappy teams.  I would have figured that Columbus could have picked up more than five wins in twelve games against the also crappy Blackhawks and Blues.  Not so.

How about question #2?

  • There are eight games left against playoff (or close) teams.  Using a 37.5% win rate and rounding down (let’s be honest, CBJ fans), we’d anticipate three wins.
  • There are five games left against non-playoff teams.  Using a 41.4% win rate, we’d anticipate two wins. 

There is an extra ten points to add to the current 61, for a total of 71.  Not the rosiest picture, but we could be Philly fans.

One interesting thing to think about, if you’re a Detroit player/coach/fan, is how your team has fared against Columbus compared to how Nashville has done.  The best Detroit can do at season’s end is earn 12 of 16 points from the Jackets.  Nashville earned a full 16 of 16 from the CBJ, which could be the difference between playing Calgary or San Jose in the first round of the playoffs.

So the Jackets might be playoff spoilers of a sort, but I’m sure they didn’t think of it that way on December 18th and January 19th.  I’m a Buckeye at heart, so it’s kind of nice to be able to screw over any team from Michigan, even if I did have to use 551 words to figure out how. (I kid!)

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.