Season in Review
The Predators were coming off a disappointing season in 2008-9 where they missed the playoffs. Without any significant upgrades, it appeared this year would be the same. The big question was who was going to score enough goals to win some games. As the season unfolded, this question was answered by an unlikely source.
Nashville started the season with a shootout win in Dallas , followed by a shutout win at home. Optimism abounded.
Then the walls came crashing down. Think walls of Jericho but worse. Six losses in a row, including a 6-0 loss to Dallas and a 6-1 home loss to lowly Edmonton. (Please note that both of these teams were out of the playoff hunt by the Olympic break). A surprising 9-4 November (including a stunning 7 game winning streak) brought the club to 15-10-1 and in the playoff picture. Christmas came early as the Predators won 4 straight in mid December by a combined score of 23-13! They ended 2009 at 24-14-3. Very respectable and on pace for a 102 point season. An uneven 9-11 stretch followed leaving doubt in preds fans minds as they headed into the Olympic break. The turning point of the season came on March 11. The preds were up 4-2 on the road against the best team in the league, the Sharks. What followed was a collapse of epic proportions. The Preds lost 8-5 and Dan Ellis lost his starting job. Barry must have read the boys the riot act, as they came out and won 6 straight games, five of them by one goal. (This is why Barry Trotz continues as the coach- he knows how to get a lot out of thin talent pool.) Rinne had consecutive shutouts during that streak, solidifying his role as the number one goalie. The Preds were now 41-26-5 and well situated for the playoffs. The season ended with a 7th seed for the Preds, but a second best in the conference 14-6-1 since the Olympics. Overall, they have 100 points for only the third time in franchise history and have the 10th best overall record in the NHL.
Did I mention how lucky we are to have the flashy and gregarious Barry Trotz behind the bench?
Best Game- 5-0 drubbing of defense minded Minnesota in March… we love Frosties!
Worst Game- The San Jose debacle.
Toughest loss – On March 27, Nashville and Detroit go 65 minutes without scoring. The inept Predator “scorers” only netted one of eleven shoot out attempts to waste an incredible effort by Rinne.
Best/worst/best game- A week later in Detroit, Nashville holds a 3-2 lead in a critical match up, but Datsyuk scored with 36 ticks remaining to tie the game. Heartbreak turns to jubilation just 16 seconds in to overtime as Suter nets the game winner.
Power Play- Powder puff is more like it. Preds end up 24th in the league, scoring just 16% of the time. Where is Ryan Ellis?
Penalty Kill- Not to be outdone, the penalty kill ends up 28th (yes, third from the worst) giving up goals 18% of the time.
Scoring- As well as Hornqvist played, the preds are the only playoff team in the conference that gave up as many goals as they scored. The Predators have only 2 players in scoring in the top 100 in the league…#91 Hornqvist and #96 Sullivan.
MVP- A lot of people would say Rinne, and he played extremely well down the stretch. The nod, however, goes to Patric Hornqvist. Last year Hornqvist played 28 games and scored 7 points. This year, in 80 games, he leads the team in goals with 30, tied for the points lead with 51 and has the highest plus/minus rating at +18.
Best defenseman – The obvious choice is Weber, and he is one of the leagues best… but night in and night out, I am going with Ryan Suter. Weber has more points (43, but down compared to 53 last year), but has appeared tired and has a 0 plus/minus rating. Suter is a solid second in points for defensemen, but improved his plus/minus from -16 last year to +4 this year.
Best surprise- In addition to Rinne’s late season goaltending prowess and Hornqvist’s prolific scoring, the fact that Steve Sullivan was able to play the full year and score 51 points was a treat. Let’s hope he finds some of the magic again for the playoffs.
New to the team- I really like what I saw in a few games by Grebeshkov (admit it, you winced out loud when you heard about his injury), and Boyd. Cody Franson was also excellent with a plus 15 rating. But my player to watch is Colin Wilson. Coming back from his own lower body injury, Wilson looked solid and should help the Preds for years to come.
Unsung workhorses- Two new veterans played significant roles in getting us to the playoffs. Marcel Goc had 30 points and a plus 10 rating. Francis Boullion played solid minutes stabilizing his young defensive partner and had a plus 5 rating.
Disappointment- Where to start… Dumont and Arnott led the team with a combined 122 points last year. Production dropped 25% this year to 91 points combined. However, David Legwand wins easily with massive a scoring drought to end the season. If these three don’t score against Chicago, it may go quickly.
Front office whoops- I understand it is difficult to predict the future, and what you see in practice may not look like what you see in the game… but the decision to sign Klein to an expensive contract and essentially get nothing for Hamhuis is a bonehead play. Klein responded to his new contract with just 11 points and a team worst -13 rating. Hamhuis ends the year (and probably his Nashville career) scoring 24 points with a +4 rating.
Off Season Workout- I think a dodgeball camp for forwards to figure out how to get out of the way of a Weber slapshot could significantly reduce the number of players we lose to injury. Remember if you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a hockey puck.
That’s it for the regular season recap. To beat Chicago, Rinne has to play his best, Hornqvist has to be able to play effectively, and the veterans we pay the money to (Sullivan, Legwand, Arnott, Dumont) have to produce. Can it be done? Hell yes it can. Let the games begin!
About the Author
Written by Chris Rydburg
Chris currently attends my Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He hopes to one day be a high school teacher.