Blogs
POSTED ON Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 3:22 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog
Hockey's back! After the summer break the guys are back on the ice and we can focus solely on the 2011-12 season, so I'm starting a new blog to keep up on all of the action. Have a question for me? Send it through twitter with hashtag #PredsRadio.

If you're more of a twitter fan, join me on Twitter at twitter.com/predsradio. And if you're interested in checking out my past blogs, you can find them here: 2011 Summer Blog2011 Playoff Blog | 2010-11 Season Blog | Summer 2010 Blog  

Tom Callahan
Predators Radio Voice
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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.31.2012 / 12:29 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2011-12 Season Blog
After 20 seasons with one franchise, Nicklas Lidstrom has called it a career. Four Stanley Cups, seven Norris trophies, 2002 Conn Smythe trophy, a gold medal with his native Sweden… yes, you could say it’s been an amazing journey. A Hall-Of-Fame-caliber career for certain. And one guy everyone in the world of hockey will miss.

While I only called games over the last four years of his career, Lidstrom represents a lot of things for me. I felt like he was the consummate professional both on and off the ice. He played hard, at a high level, and was respected around the league for the way he represented himself and his team. He even respected the media (trust me, that’s a major deal… and pretty rare. I sometimes think we’re seen more as flies than anything else.) and went out of his way to thank us in his speech today. He respected you and your profession by considering every question and responding thoughtfully. If nothing else I’ll miss his insights and professionalism filtering into my microphone every single game against the Wings. He was always a great quote.

On top of it all, Lidstrom was an amazing player. I’ve heard and read people saying he didn’t do anything great but did everything well. I disagree. Lidstrom did everything great. But his game was subtle when it was at its best. How do you measure proper gap control over a 20-year career? How many times did you see him get outworked or out-thought in any situation? How many times did it feel like the roof would cave in on the Red Wings during a scramble and suddenly #5 moved them to safety? That to me is where hisexcellence lay: moving the puck, making the smart play or pass, getting shots through, seeing the ice, playing the high-speed chess match two moves ahead of almost everyone else. He was a truly great player that we had the privilege to watch more often than most thanks to the Wings being in our division and a few playoff matchups.

An era has definitely ended, and practically it can’t help but affect the rest of the NHL. The Wings now have another $6M+ in the coffers for this year, and will be seeking a prime free agent defenseman. Will Ryan Suter test the waters this year? If he does you can be sure the Wings will be at the forefront of teams trying to woo him. Plus there could now be a very real shift of power in the Central Division if the Wings don’t adequately replace his presence on the blue line… and with few exceptions, how could you?

Other matters of course: his jersey in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena, a Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and a career writ large as one of the greatest defensive players of all time.

Yes, we were indeed privileged to watch this great person and player do so well for so long under an intense spotlight. His legacy will be one of leadership and solid example. And his void will be massive all over the league. Congratulations on a wonderful career Nick.


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POSTED ON Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 1:24 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog

Watching the Phoenix/LA game last night, I was struck by a few things. First of all, yes the pace of play and physical nature of the game is reaching a zenith at this time of year. Despite these teams having played nearly 100 contests already, the fire is not only burning bright but may have actually increased its intensity. Both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals are being played out at fever pitch, and hockey fans are benefitting from some of the most entertaining hockey in recent memory.

What I do find disturbing were the hits from behind and general lack of regard for player safety in the game last night. While Shane Doan’s hit actually injured Trevor Lewis worse than Martin Hanzal’s hit on Dustin Brown, I think Doan’s might have been the more “hockey play” of the two. Certainly Doan is not a dirty player and indeed if anyone has respect for his competitors, it’s him. That said he did hit Lewis hard and right in the numbers, driving him into the boards and possibly giving him a broken nose and a raccoon mask for the next couple of weeks. I can’t expect Lewis to brace himself because the puck was there and he was making a play. He does turn his back to Doan but again, with the puck there and a play in progress I’m not expecting him to be as able or attuned to a hit like that coming. Finally, the hit occurs in the second period when the game was definitely not decided and each side was playing physical trying to win the game. I think the five and a game misconduct was definitely the right call.

Hanzal’s hit is a little different, first of all from the timing of it all. Phoenix was definitely at the “message-sending” point of the game when the play occurs. Hanzal appeared to have time to let up on Brown and the flow of the play would show that Brown would turn the way he did to follow the puck. Oddly enough I think Brown being a little further from the boards allowed him to brace himself better (but he still went in pretty darn hard and face-first). Hanzal blew right through his numbers, and never showed a sign of letting off the gas. He was going to finish that check regardless of player positioning, which I think makes it even a little more dangerous.

Brian Engblom made a great point about Hanzal “hunting” Brown, both in the way the play was moving and the timing of where things stood in the game. Hanzal never lets up and is indeed tracking Brown after his chip-in from the blueline. He motors into him at full speed and literally drives Brown from his nameplate into the glass with a push.

Both are examples of hits you don’t want to see – ever. Word has come down today that only Hanzal will have a league meeting, so don’t expect a suspension for Doan (which I agree likely isn’t warranted). One would hope that over time these types of hits are eradicated from the game, but in the meantime expect there to be more heated play as the series progresses.

A few thoughts:
  - Jonathan Quick is still playing outrageously well. His waterbug-style of goaltending, jetting along the ice by pushing back and forth and daring shooters to beat him high while staying aggressive isn’t easy to play and requires a lot of ability and confidence. But as he proves how playing this way can mean wins, look for yet another new trend in goaltending to come along. Kids, start working even harder on your push-off now.
  - Speaking of amazing goaltending, how about the showdown between King Henrik and Marty Brodeur in the ECF? Watching those two battle is amazing.
  - Just give Dustin Brown the Conn Smythe now. Thanks.
  - The Kings still have two other guys who can score named Carter and Richards. Just in case you forgot they served notice in Game Two.
  - The New York Rangers really seem to have the complete team mentality needed for success this time of year. I hear people knock this team for an occasional lack of timely scoring, but when they block shots and play gritty hockey as they have thus far in the playoffs, I don’t think I’m worried about them scoring enough. Two goals might really be all it takes most nights to win in that series.
  - Uh oh, Phoenix. Mike Smith appears rattled. That’s not good (if you're a fan of the Coyotes).
  - Also one more memo to the Coyotes: stay disciplined! Giving up a million five-on-threes does not equal winning hockey. Neither does two five-minute majors against.
  - New York/LA Final anyone?

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 3:54 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
Even though it didn’t really come up in today’s press conferences or media scrums, I feel as if the issue of goaltender puckhandling in this series has played a bit of a role. And by puckhandling, I don’t only mean shooting it with the stick, but also actual control of the puck and choicesmade as far as where, when, and how to move said biscuit.

In the first two games, I watched Pekka Rinne move a few pucks that made me cringe. There were times it seemed like he and the D were not on the same page as far as where he might scoot a puck he at firstthought to cover, and it resulted in some turnovers and scoring chances… not to mention prolonging some shifts for the Preds. In Game Three I felt Rinne did a much better job not only at playing the puck and communicating, but deciding to hold on and let his centers do the work. This also plays back into the importance of faceoffs, but more on that later.

Mike Smith had a solid first two games but at times during the year had been accused of either over-playing the puck instead of letting his D come back and get it, or just making bad decisions. Today Dave Tippett refused to throw his goaltender under the bus, saying that the defense should have gotten back faster to help Smith when he gave the puck away resulting in David Legwand’s goal Wednesday night.

I hearken back to Tippett’s comments earlier in the series that he felt the reward was much greater than the risk associated with his goalie’s proclivity for playing the puck. However, once Nashville really cranked up its forecheck in Game Three, Smith appeared to crack just a tiny bit. It will be extremely important for the Preds to continue to pressure Smith in Game Four Friday night. Perhaps the ratio of risk to reward might even itself out a little bit.

Rinne’s reluctance to freeze the puck in Game One and subsequently Game Two might have a bit to do with a lack of trust in those aforementioned faceoff men. I spoke with Mike Fisher earlier today and he was pretty honest, saying he had a bad Game One and knew he had to bear down and improve. He went back to the drawing board, talked with teammates and coaches, and emerged with much better numbers. Nashville’s other centers appear to have really dug down and improved as well. Suddenly the defense tightened up. The goaltender looked much better and could just freeze pucks. And the Predators emerged with a win. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.30.2012 / 5:34 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
So the Preds head back home down 0-2 after opening the series in Phoenix. Certainly not a pair of games most people would have ascribed to this series after the way both teams played stifling team defense and saw excellent goaltending from their respective starters in the regular season. But hey, this is the playoffs… things happen.

Indeed things happened in odd ways to open the series: crazy bounces, odd kicks off the glass, mistakes and miscues, plus a lot of shots for and against. Yes Nashville knows to a man it has to be better than it was for thefirst two games, yet if you look at stretches like the third period and overtime of Game One you wonder how this team comes home without at least asplit. Of course OT is a crapshoot, and after the Preds were turned away countless times in the Phoenix end the Coyotes managed to poke one past Pekka Rinne to nab the opening contest.

While I know there may be some out there who are thinking dire things and expecting the team to fall off the face of the earth, consider this: I don’t think the team has played back-to-back games of that ilk all season long. And while you might be tempted to think “why now?” and I don’t blame you, I do see as encouragement the fact that the Preds haven’t put together an extended stretch of poor play in a long time. This team has been solid. It has weathered bumps in the road and responded with quality play. And they’re returning to Bridgestone Arena where they were extremely good this season for the next two games.

As much as we all would have loved a split in Phoenix, the Coyotes held serve. Now it’s up to the Predators to do the same on home ice, and they can only win one game at a time. Colin Wilson showed some good jump in Game Two and the fourth line was a welcome presence, providing zip and energy when they took the ice. I’ve liked Hal Gill and Francis Bouillon together quite a bit, although they ended up split later in Game Two when the Klein/Josi pairing struggled again. Don’t forget Josi and Gill played well earlier this year after the latter’s acquisition from Montreal, so perhaps that’s something we might see a little of back in Nashville.

Credit the Coyotes for doing a good job of keeping Nashville outside and helping its goaltender, but thePredators know they must reduce defensive zone mistakes and breakdowns. They’ve reached three goals in each of the first two games of the series and the power play is suddenly clicking – two indicators that usually add up to wins in the post-season. It really comes down to assignments and mistakes, and making sure that things are taken care of in front of Rinne. If that works itself out for Nashville I can’t see why they wouldn’t be able to climb right back into this series. This is still a very good team with a lot of talent and a game-stealing goalie. Phoenix knows that and is working as hard as it can to keep Nashville at bay. But now the Predators must take its game to another level in Game Three. Moving on means raising the bar and finding even more in the tank. It’s been a long season, but it’s not time to end it. Not yet.



Some random thoughts:
  -- I really like Radim Vrbata this series. While he’s spent a little too much time in the box for my taste, he’s still right in the mix and creating for the Coyotes every time you turn around. He’s been a handful.
  -- Nashville has popped three in past Mike Smith each game they’ve played. During the only meeting of the regular season between the two teams, the Predators scored four and got a fifth in the shootout for a 5-4 win. Offense isn’t the issue.
  -- It’s great to see Hal Gill back out there on defense. You forget exactly how many plays he’s able to break up with his active stick and shot blocking, not to mention how he helps the penalty kill. And as Barry Trotz says, he’s 6-7 every shift.
  -- The Preds have shown some (uncharacteristic) frustration at times in this series, but it means they are facing some adversity. Each test they past and respond to makes the team better. Wednesday will be the first chance to bounce back, and will really be a milepost in this series.
  -- I miss Matt Halischuk out there.
  --  I’m finally on the bandwagon too: Marty Erat deserves a lot more credit defensively and offensively.
  -- Nashville’s zone entries must be better. Thwarting your own rushes with an offside call is, as Barry Trotz put it, basically giving the other team a free backcheck.
  -- Don’t panic. This is a best-of-seven and I expect it will take every bit of that for the dust to settle.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 10:22 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
Usually in Nashville when lunch talk trends towards ‘tenders, it’s the fried chicken variety. Crunchy, tasty, chicken tenders… sorry, where was I?

This time of year, talkin’ ‘tenders means you could also be discussing the Predators/Phoenix Coyotes series that will start later this week in Arizona. The undeniable storyline here will be which goaltender moves his team past the second round: Pekka Rinne or Mike Smith.

Let’s start with our known commodity, Rinne. Pekka was a Vezina-nominated goaltender last season who in my opinion actually had a better year this year, leading the NHL in wins despite a mini-slump in the early part of the season. Down the stretch not only was he sharp but played almost every game and showed tremendous durability. And when Nashville needed him to be at his best against Detroit, he clearly was as the Preds bounced the Wings in five.

Smith doesn’t have the fanfare that Rinne has heading into the series. He put together a quiet season in Phoenix where he went 38-18-10 with 8 shutouts, a 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage. Smith was brought in by Dave Tippett to the Coyotes from Tampa Bay, but Tippett knew what he was getting as the two shared time in the Dallas Starsorganization when Smith was a young prospect. While his numbers in Tampa weren’t great, neither were the Bolts. It did generate some head-scratching when the Coyotes brought him in and anointed Smith number one, but this season silenced any doubters. Plus in the first round he posted one shutout, a 1.81 GAA and his save percentage was .950 – a shade better than Rinne’s .944 in his first five games.

Of course the x-factor on defense for the Preds that can really help the team clamp down is Hal Gill. He’s been practicing steadily with the team, hasn’t missed a drill, and coach Barry Trotz expects him to be ready when the team resumes play. That may help an already defensive-minded series get even closer.

So get ready Preds fans – this round promises to be an exciting one with tremendous goaltending and I’m predicting no shortage of excitement!

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.23.2012 / 5:26 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
Nashville skated again today, with another day of uptempo drills to keep the pace up as best as possible while awaiting the winner of the Phoenix/Chicago series. At least the Predators now know they will face whichever team survives that tussle after the LA Kings polished off the Vancouver Canucks in five games on Sunday night.

At this point the Preds are trying to strike a balance between rest and keeping up the pace while knowing they may not play for almost another week. Barry Trotz has said he feels the balance his team has between beingserious and having fun is a good one right now, and he’d like to see that continue. It certainly helps to keep things light in and around the locker room on practice days, and bear down and be serious on game days. So far, the Predators have been able to do just that.

For the most part the players know they can’t go into this year’s second round by waiting for the opponent, waiting for the dates, waiting for Game One… it didn’t work against Vancouver and memories are long. To a man this team seems determined to make sure it won’t happen that way this year. They know the series could have gone differently, especially if they were prepared to jump out of the gate right away.

So even though it may take three more days to decide a winner (should we see a Game Seven with the Coyotes and Blackhawks) look for the Predators to enjoy the off-day tomorrow and come back again on Wednesday with that same balance intact – perhaps even knowing this time who they will face and when.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 5:36 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
It's the playoffs, so, much like last season, I'm starting a new blog to keep up on all of the post-season action. Last year's playoff ride was fun, but I'm looking forward to an even longer run this year! To look back through all my 2011-12 regular season posts, click here.

If you're more of a twitter fan, join me on Twitter at twitter.com/predsradio.

Tom Callahan
Predators Radio Voice
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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 4:48 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
Yes, it's 3-1 Nashville heading into Game Five tomorrow night. You are allowed to feel good, dear Preds fan, but let's not get too cocky.

This is still Detroit, despite some injuries and issues, the Wings have played well in this series. But I also think the odds are in Nashville's favor that the Preds may indeed close it out soon.

First of all, I believe that Nicklas Lidstrom simply isn't 100%. I know we won't know the truth until after the season. Even at 70 or 80% he's still awesome and very effective. But I do know that any time you have an ankle injury it limits your mobility in several ways and Lidstrom is playing through it. Plus, missing Darren Helm doesn't help the Wings at all right now; his absence forces Detroit to play Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg a lot more on the PK, which forces them to use a lot of energy away from the offensive end.

For Nashville, Pekka Rinne is obviously the biggest factor in the series. Don't overlook Nashville's defensive efforts to block shots and get in the lanes too. Pekka can't do it all by himself and the Predators have certainly helped him out at key times. The upside is that Hal Gill hasn't played a single game in this series and the Preds have managed to get it to 3-1. I like to think of how much better the Preds will be when he returns! (And Gill has been skating hard the last two Preds practices, Tuesday's morning skate in Detroit and today's session at Centennial)

Also, look for new linemates Alexander Radulov and Gabriel Bourque to flourish together. I think the games they play will compliment each other very well… Bourque is turning into another Patric Hornqvist, a guy Barry Trotz can put on a line to make better and more energetic. Keep an eye on these two if they're paired up for Game Five!

And with that, let's be loud Friday night!

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.09.2012 / 11:37 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's 2012 Playoffs Blog
Get ready hockey fans! It’s time for the second season, the second wind, and the second chance. It’s time for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs to begin.

This year I really do believe that every single one of the Western Conference teams can win the Cup. Up and down the eight clubs there is a reason to pick each team, a ray of hope that shines for one reason or another. I don’t think I can say that about the East.

For the Predators and Red Wings, it truly is a shame that a 100-plus point team will go out in the first round. Each team has played some impressive hockey, has a good collection of stars, and can in a single moment turn the momentum in a game. Nashville did well to earn a 4-1 win in Detroit in its last regular season appearance at JLA, and also showed it can come back on the Red Wings thanks to Shea Weber’s third-period heroics in Nashville on December 15th at Bridgestone Arena.

Don’t mistake those signs to point to an easy series however. Detroit still has Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Bertuzzi, Franzen… you get the idea. A healthy Jimmy Howard is a good thing in net for the Wings. While perhaps they’ve aged a little bit again this year, the quick-strike ability is still there (witness the games against St. Louis and Chicago towards the end of the season) and they can be extremely dangerous. For Nashville to neutralize the Wings they really have to control the middle of the ice and limit turnovers. Detroit simply feasts on transition goals and has the skill to make anyone pay who does not safely escort the puck out of the zone.

For the most part, you know what to expect from the Red Wings if you’re a Predators fan. What you might wonder is what the Predators themselves bring to the ice. Yes, on paper this team is far and away the best edition in quite some time. How will that translate to the ice? Will Nashville be able to really put things together for a deep run?

For me signs point to yes for reasons like Hal Gill and Pekka Rinne on defense, plus three (and most daysfour) lines that are legitimate threats to put the puck in the net every game. The third line has the team’s leading goal scorer in Patric Hornqvist, and if Andrei Kostitsyn appears onthat unit the potential for goals doubles. The Predators have weapons this time around, and as long as they continue to play a team game an operate within the system while showcasing creativity, they will flourish.

That said, if this team gets in any way selfish and loses the buy-in to the team concept, that’s where the wheels can come off in a hurry. It takes all 20 guys going in the same direction to win a hockey game, and if that’s the game the Predators play – look out Lord Stanley.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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