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Year in Review: Preds Top 8 of '08

Tuesday, 12.30.2008 / 12:43 PM / Features
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Year in Review: Preds Top 8 of \'08
With the new year approaching, NashvillePredators.com is recapping the top-eight moments of the 2008 calendar year. (Items are listed roughly in chorological order starting with events from January 2008 and finishing with events in December 2008)

Vote below for the Top Preds Moment of 2008.

1) Arny’s an All-Star
The 2008 calendar year opened with team captain Jason Arnott earning a spot on the Western Conference All-Star Team.

In his 14th season, Arnott earned his second career All-Star appearance. The Collingwood, Ontario native made the most of his All-Star Weekend. In his first event at the skills competition, Accuracy Shooting, Arnott hit all four targets in seven attempts to post the best mark from the Western Conference. He represented the West in the one-on-one final against Tomas Kaberle of the East. The two tied, knocking three targets in four shots during the nine second time limit, but Kaberle prevailed in a one shot playoff. Arnott then competed in the very next event, the Hardest Shot and became the first player of the night to break 100 miles per hour, registering 100.3 mph on his second attempt. Arnott's total was the best among the shooters from the Western Conference, but was bested by Zdeno Chara's 103.1 and Vincent Lecavalier's 101.9.

The next day at the game, Arnott centered the Anaheim Ducks duo of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Arnott assisted on Dion Phaneuf's third period goal and finished the game with a +1 plus/minus rating and one shot on goal.

2) Streaking Preds
The Predators set several team marks during the 2008 calendar year, but two lengthy streaks set the tone for the year. J.P. Dumont started ’08 with a team-record point scoring streak during the month of January. Dan Ellis countered with a franchise-long shutout streak during March.

Starting with a goal on December 29 against San Jose, Dumont rattled off a 16-game point scoring streak that ran through the entire month of January. During the 16 games, Dumont had five multi-point outings, finishing with eight goals and 14 assists. Dumont closed out the month by signing a new long-term contract to remain in Nashville through the 2011-12 season.

Ellis’s streak ran later in the season, starting the back half of the March 22 shootout win over Chicago and extending late into the overtime period against Detroit on March 30. All totaled, Ellis’s shutout streak ran 233:39, the fifth longest shutout streak in the NHL’s modern era (starting in 1943-44 season). During the streak, Ellis made 147 consecutive saves, including shutouts in both ends of the home-and-home set against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 25 and 28.

3) No Blues Against St. Louis
The Predators played two of their most exciting games of the season in a home-and-home set against the St. Louis Blues on April 1 and 3. With the Preds in the thick of the battle for the last playoff spots, Nashville fell behind 3-0 just seven minutes into the game at St. Louis on April 1. Brandon Bochenski scored late in the second period to put the Preds on the board, followed by a Jordin Tootoo goal early in the third period and an overtime forcing goal by Vernon Fiddler. With the team’s skating four-on-four in the OT period, Jan Hlavac set up Rich Peverley for the game-winner, not only giving the Preds the 4-3 come-from-behind win, but also allowing Nashville to control its own playoff destiny with just two games remaining in the regular season.

Two night later, the Preds jumped out to a lead on Jerred Smithson’s first period shorthanded goal. J.P. Dumont scored in the second period, but the game entered the final frame tied 2-2, when Greg de Vries netted his fourth goal of the season – and first on home ice – to lift the Predators to a 3-2 win. Nashville would clinch a playoff spot later that evening when the Edmonton Oilers knocked off the Vancouver Canucks, allowing the Predators to rest several of their top stars in the season finale at Chicago.

4) The Playoffs!
The Predators clinched a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season, drawing a match-up against the Detroit Red Wings in the Conference Quarterfinals. The Preds and Wings battled to one of the most entertaining series in the 2008 playoff tournament and the Nashville fans once again got an opportunity to show the hockey world why the Sommet Center is one of the toughest buildings on opposing teams with a raucous crowd creating a scene to rival any in the playoffs.

In Game 1 the teams traded goals in the first two periods with the Red Wings scoring in the opening frame and the Preds answering the second. Detroit scored a controversial goal late in the third period to take a 2-1 lead and then added an empty netter to squeak out the 3-1 win. Two nights later, Nashville had an early goal wiped out when the net was ruled to be off the pegs before the puck crossed the line. Again the Red Wings charged out to the early lead, but like Game 1 the Preds answered back in the second period. The game was tied 2-2 when Kris Draper scored late in the second period to give Detroit the one-goal lead, en route to a 4-2 win.

When the series switched to Nashville, the Preds evened the series with a pair of home wins. In Game 3, the Predators again fell behind early, and again rallied in the second period to tie the score. Nashville scored back-to-back goals nine seconds apart by Ryan Suter and Jason Arnott late in regulation to erase a one goal deficit and added an empty netter by Martin Erat to pull out the 5-3 win. In Game 4 the Preds stormed out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals by Dan Hamhuis and Shea Weber in the first 5:50 of play. Greg de Vries extended the Nashville lead to 3-1 at the 6:35 mark of the second period. Dan Ellis 39 saves to ensure the lead held up as the Preds took the game 3-2 to knot the series a two games a piece. In the process the Predators chased future Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek, forcing the Wings to turn to Chris Osgood.

Game 5 was a classic with the Red Wings firing 54 shots on the Nashville net. Ellis was spectacular, especially early in the game as Detroit out-shot Nashville 37-11 through the first two periods of play, but could only muster a 1-0 lead. With Ellis pulled for an extra attacker, Radek Bonk converted a feed from Rich Peverely with 44 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Johan Franzen converted a neutral zone turnover, barely being able to sneak a breakaway move past Ellis to give the Wings the win.

Game 6 was shaping up as a similar classic as the teams were scoreless through the first half of the game when Nicklas Lidstrom’s long-range blast took a ridiculous hop just under the crossbar for the game’s opening goal. With the Preds pressing to try to generate offensive chances, the Wings were able to counter-attack and net a pair of third period goals to close out the series.

5) Entry Draft
The Predators were one of the most active teams at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa. Nashville made seven trades involving two players and 17 draft picks switching sides. The Preds made their biggest splashes early in the draft trading a first and second round pick to the NY Islanders to move up to the No. 7 overall slot in the first round and select Boston University forward Colin Wilson. Later in the first round the Preds traded back with the Ottawa Senators to recoup an additional draft pick, using Ottawa’s slot to nab Chet Pickard, the first goaltender selected in the draft. Nashville opened Day 2 by sliding a pair of picks to move up to the 38th overall slot and grab defenseman Roman Josi. Later in the draft the Preds picked a pair of college kids, forward Taylor Stefishen from Ohio State and defenseman Jeff Foss from RPI, and a pair of European prospects, forward Jani Lajunen from Finland and goaltender Anders Lindback from Sweden.

6) Weber Makes a Statement
Coming off an injury riddled ’07-08 season, defenseman Shea Weber was flying under the radar entering the ’08-09 campaign. That didn’t last long as the young blueliner had a fantastic training camp and followed that momentum into an All-Star worthy start to the season. Weber scored 11 points in 10 games to go along with a +5 plus/minus rating to earn NHL Third Star of the Month honors in October. Through the month of December, Weber ranked at or near the top of the league in goals, assists, and points by a defenseman. He also proved he’s more than “just” an offensive weapon posting a team-best +12 plus/minus rating through the team’s first 35 games. Weber has done so while showing an increasing propensity for bone-crushing hits, racking up a team-best 76 hits on the season, including several physical jolts during the team’s December 26 win over the Detroit Red Wings.

7) Giving Back to Middle Tennessee
This past October, the Predators hosted their third annual Community Day, where every member of the team made a community appearance in Middle Tennessee. While the players always make a number of appearances throughout the season, this event marked the Predators’ third year in a row in which more than 20 players were simultaneously involved in separate community-relations endeavors.

Appearances were made at local hospitals, local elementary schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and several corporate sponsors. Players visited patients, read to and interacted with students, taught hockey clinics, assisted sponsors, greeted fans and so much more.

Some of the day’s highlights included Greg de Vries and Shea Weber serving food and drinks at O’Charley’s in Brentwood; Dan Ellis and Jerred Smithson reading books and signing autographs for kids at Fannie Battle Day Home for Children; Joel Ward and Pekka Rinne playing floor hockey with children at Vine Hill Boys & Girls Club; and Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, Martin Erat and Kevin Klein visiting patients at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

8) Milestone Marks
The 2008 calendar year saw a trio of Preds reach major milestones. On November 4, Head Coach Barry Trotz became the 31st coach to record 750 games coached in the NHL, and just the 10th to coach 750 games with the same franchise.

One month later, David Legwand, the first NHL Entry Draft pick in franchise history, skated in his 574th game, breaking the franchise record for most games played for the Preds. Former captain Kimmo Timonen had played in 573 games for Nashville from 1998-2007.

Current Preds Captain Jason Arnott rounded out the awards on December 20 against the NY Islanders when played in his 1000th career NHL game, making him the 232nd player in league history reach the mark. Arnott played the first 286 games (100g-139a-239pts.) of his career with Edmonton, before moving on to New Jersey, where he would play 304 games (97g-124a-222pts.), and win the Stanley Cup in 2000. He played the next 236 games of his career with the Dallas Stars (79g-104a-183pts.), until signing with Nashville prior to the 2006-07 season.


Honorable Mention:
• The World Stage (Eight Preds players or prospects participated in the 2008 World Championships – four forwards and four defensemen – combining for 15 goals and 16 assists and taking home five Medals, including a gold, a silver, and three bronzes. Prospect Patric Hornqvist used the tournament as a coming-out party, ranking second in the tournament with six goals)
• Poile Named to US Olympic Team (In early June, Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager was named Associate General Manger for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Poile served as the GM for both the 1998 & 1999 U.S. Men’s National Teams at the World Championships and was named to USA Hockey’s National Team Advisory Group in Feb. 2007, helping select the 2007 and 2008 World Championship teams.)
• Keeping the Core (during the past calendar year the Predators re-signed core players J.P. Dumont, Dan Ellis, Martin Erat, Jordin Tootoo, Ryan Suter, and Shea Weber to multi-year contracts)
• Sommet Gets Some Cosmetic Surgery (The Nashville Predators announced several new Sommet Center features as part of the ownership’s goal to further enhance the venue and improve the overall fan experience at Predators home games. The additions included elements for all, from businesses looking to entertain clients, to the casual fan attending his first hockey game. Included in the enhancements were more concession and point-of-sale locations with more variety, new and faster credit card-processing equipment and cash-only designated lines—all with the goal of decreasing wait time throughout the arena. Other upgrades include: All-Inclusive Zone Table Tops, All-You-Can-Eat Seats, The FSN Tennessee Zone, Suite Upgrades and an In-arena partnership with Smurfit-Stone to “Go Green.”)
• Active at the Holidays (In addition to the on-ice excitement, the Preds were very active away from the rink this holiday season. Among the highlights of this year’s Preds holiday initiatives were: Thanksgiving turkey deliveries and shoots by the players; coat, food, kettle and toy drives; a holiday party for Youth Encouragement Services and Morning Star Sanctuary hosted by Vern Fiddler and Scott Nichol; & $10,000 donations each to Bethlehem Centers of Nashville, Safe Haven’s Mending Heart’s Program and St. Luke’s Community House.)
• Future Leaders (prospects Jonathon Blum, the team’s 2007 first pick, and Colin Wilson, the team’s 2008 first pick, not only were named to Team USA for the World Junior Championships, but were named team Captain and Assistant Captain for the US squad during the annual showcase of the world’s best junior players. Fellow prospects Chet Pickard, Nashville’s second 2008 first round pick, was selected as one of Team Canada’s goaltenders for the tournament and forward Jani Lajunen, a ’08 seventh round pick, played for Team Finland in the WJC. Roman Josi, Nashville’s ’08 second round pick, was named the Best Defenseman at the Division I-A World Junior Championships, helping Switzerland earn promotion into the top group for next year’s World Juniors.
• Rinne's Shutouts (Rookie goaltender Pekka Rinne posted three shutouts during the 2008 part of the '08-09 season, the most by a rookie goaltender this season. The last time a rookie goalie finished the season with more than three shutouts was in 2000-01 when San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov had 6 shutouts, Florida's Roberto Luongo had 5, and St. Louis's Brent Johnson had 4.)
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