Posted on: May 10, 2011 3:39 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 4:03 am

Predators done in by lack of scoring punch

The Nashville Predators scored more than two goals just once in the second round, which makes the fact they made it to six games all the more remarkable. 

Goalie Pekka Rinne showed why he’s a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and Shea Weber anchored the Predators blue line, although --- as predicted -- defense wasn’t the problem as the Vancouver Canucks dispatched the Preds with a 2-1 victory on Monday night. 

Nashville just couldn’t score. 

"Yeah, I mean we were one of the best teams in the league defensively again this year," Weber told The Tennesean’s John Glennon. "Sometimes, that can only get you so far. We had a lot of different guys step up this year and I think that helped get us to where we are. But obviously that little extra boost might help."

Only three Predators forwards had goals in the series, led by David Legwand and Joel Ward with four each. Matt Halischuk, who scored in Game 2, was the other. 

Here’s some more form The Tennessean’s Glennon: 
"We can't just leave it all on Leggy and Wardo to score," forward Patric Hornqvist said. "It's not going to work in the long run. It was close every game, but myself and some of the other guys didn't play as well as we know we can."

Some of the Predators who came up short on the offensive production front against Vancouver included Martin Erat (0 goals, 3 assists), Mike Fisher (0 goals, 1 assist), Hornqvist (0 goals, 0 assists) and Sergei Kostitsyn (0 goals, 1 assist).

The Predators had expected more offensive pop from the playoff-tested Fisher, whom they picked up in exchange for a first-round draft pick before the trade deadline. He had six points in the first-round series win over Anaheim, but fell silent against a stronger Vancouver defensive team.

"Yeah, we had some chances," Fisher said. "We just didn't bury them. That's the way it goes sometimes. It would have been nice to get a few, but it wasn't going."

Maybe the uptick in excitement around Nashville -- not to mention the revenue generated from six home playoff games -- will allow the Predators to be a little more generous this postseason. It’s probably doubtful the Preds will be in the running for Brad Richards, but other forwards like Erik Cole could possibly be within reach. Marcel Goc, who not available for the playoffs after he underwent shoulder surgery in February, and Steve Sullivan, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 3 and missed the rest of the series, will be unrestricted free agents. 

Nashville coach Barry Trotz hinted after the series may have gone differently if those two -- along with Cal O’Reilly, who suffered a broken leg earlier this season -- healthy.

“We’ll never know,” Trotz said. “That’s for another day. The guys that were there were Nashville Predators and they grew a little.”

That they did. The Preds advanced to the second round for the first time in franchise history and they also won their first game while facing elimination, a 4-3 victory over the Canucks in Game 5. 

“This is very special group,” Trotz said. “I’ve been coaching a long time (and) this group had great intangibles. If this group would have beaten the Vancouver Canucks, it wouldn’t have surprised me a bit.”

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 10, 2011 12:17 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 2:34 am

Canucks have Kesler to thank for series win

The Vancouver Canucks’ playoff push would have stalled (again) in the second round minus the efforts of Ryan Kesler

The gritty forward had assists on both Canucks’ goals in Monday’s series-clinching 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Monday night. He finished the series with 11 points (five goals, six assists), making him a factor in all but five goals scored by the Canucks in the series.

“He obviously decided to drive the bus,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “He obviously was our dominant force on the ice. He played real strong on both sides of the rink. We needed that performance. We needed some other guys to come on board here. It’s not going to get easier.”

Kesler (pictured above, center)  instigated the first goal Monday after he stripped Preds defenseman Ryan Suter and fed the puck to Mason Raymond. His second assist came after banging the puck off Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne on a power play later in the opening period, allowing Daniel Sedin score to score first goal of the series. 

Twin brother Henrik also had only one goal during the series and the combined the Sedins were a minus-9. 

“They didn’t get a lot of production out of the Seinds,” Trotz said. “They concentrated on shutting down our guys. We concentrated on shutting down their guys. We just had (trouble) shutting down one extra guy. . . . (Kesler) had one of the most in incredible six games you are ever going to see.”

Even after running his goalie, Pekka Rinne, in the opening period, Kesler drew the respect of Nashville coach Barry Tortz (above right) and he conveyed the sentiment during the traditional handshake. 

“He had one of those series that is absolutely remarkable for one player,” Trotz said. “I said when I was going past him (in the handshake line) that if he doesn’t play that way, we are probably going to a Game 7 and we might win the series. He played to a level that few people can reach.”

Kesler made a name for himself at the 2010 Winter Olympics for Team USA’s drive to the gold medal game, and the fact he basically carried the Canucks to the conference finals for the first time in 17 years certainly raised the hardnosed forward’s stock some. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: May 9, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 4:04 pm

Preds or Wings? Who has best shot at a Game 7?

The Nashville Predators get the first crack tonight. The Detroit Red Wings follow on Tuesday.

But which team is more likely to extend their second-round series to seven games?

My vote would be for the Predators, although I believe it’s possible both could go the distance. The Vancouver Canucks have already allowed the Chicago Blackhawks back from a 0-3 deficit to force a Game 7 in the first round and the Preds are the a little healthier than the Red Wings, who face the San Jose Sharks in their Game 6 on Tuesday. 

"We want to make them think as much as we can," ,” Predators defenseman Shane O’Brien, who spent two seasons with the Canucks, told The Vancouver Sun. "They obviously have had a little bit of trouble closing series out for whatever reason.

"We are kind of taking the attitude we have nothing to lose. No one probably thinks we're going to come back other than the guys in this room. We believe. We have come back all year. You hear Trotzie use the word resilient, we have been resilient all year. There are a lot of good guys in here and we want to keep playing. We have nothing to lose and will have our fans behind us tonight. We'll give it our best shot and hopefully we can force a Game 7."

The Preds and Wings are each on home ice, although that hasn’t always been advantage for Nashville. The Predators enter tonight’s contest 2-3 at home in the playoffs, including losses in Games 3-4 in this series. Nashville has allowed an average of 3.6 goals per game at Bridgestone Arena. 

“We haven’t played great hockey at home so far this series,” Preds forward Jerred Smithson said. “Tonight would be a good night to get things started.” 

The Canucks will have the services of forward Chris Higgins, who took a shot off his foot in the first period of Game 5. He left Monday’s skate early, but told reporters afterward he expected to play. 

That’s good news for the Canucks since Higgins has one more goal (two) than both the Sedin twins in this series. Daniel Sedin is looking for his first marker and Henrik has scored just once through the first five games. Each has two assists. 

Meanwhile, the Red Wings have bigger injury issues to deal with as they look to become the fourth team in NHL history to battle back from an 0-3 deficit. Johan Franzen (ankle) appears to be question mark. But, as it often does this time of year, will Detroit's goalending backstop another victory? Jimmy Howard made 39 saves in Game 5, including several key stops late as the Wings rallied to win 4-3. 

It could take another effort like that if the Wings want to force the series back to the Shark Tank. 

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 9, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 3:21 pm
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Posted on: May 7, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 11:41 pm

Legwand scores equalizer from behind net

The Nashville Predators found success again by tossing pucks from behind the Vancouver Canucks’ net.

Preds center David Legwand flipped the puck from behind net in the opening minute of the second period and the puck bounded off the arm of Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler then past goalie Roberto Luongo. Legwand, who also scored the game’s first goal, tied the game with the trick tally and the Preds went on to win, 4-3, on Saturday to force a sixth game in the second-round series. 

“That second goal is the type of goal you don’t see too often,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.

Here’s a look at it:

Nashville forced overtime in Game 2 when defenseman Ryan Suter’s centering pass from end boards banked off Loungo’s stick and in with just over a minute left in regulation. 
-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 7, 2011 9:30 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 11:46 pm

Canucks' Samuelsson injured, will miss Game 6

The Vancouver Canucks lost the services of forward Mikael Samuelsson as he limped off after an apparent left leg or groin injury in the first period of Game 5 of the second-round series on Saturday night. 

Samuelsson appeared to get tangled up briefly with Nashville Predators forward Nick Spaling with 7:32 left in the opening period as the two battled for the puck. He lay on the ice for about a minute after the play was blown dead before he was helped off by teammates Sami Salo and Aaron Rome.  Samuelsson unable to put any weight on his left leg as he left the ice.

“He’s got a lower-body injury and he’s day-to-day,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said after the Preds won, 4-3. “He’s not going to travel with us tomorrow."

Samuelson has battled several injuries since he left the Detroit Red Wings to sign a free-agent deal with the Canucks before the 2009-10 season. Most recently, Samuelson missed a couple weeks late in the regular season due to a lower-body injury, a game in the first round due to the flu and Rogers Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reports Samuelsson has battled some sort of an abdominal injury.

Samuelson has a goal, two assists and is a minus-3 in 11 playoff games. He’s averaged 17:47 of ice time, sixth-most among Canucks forwards. 

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 6, 2011 1:22 am
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:58 am

Kesler draws admiration, even from opposition

Ryan Kesler is the kind of player you like when he’s on your team, but not when you’re opposing him.

But even Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz expressed some admiration for the Vancouver Canucks’ gritty forward.

“He’s getting some room,” Trotz said after the Preds lost Game 4, 4-2, on Thursday. “He’s winning some battles and he’s finding the net for them. I think in the first series, he didn’t have anything going and now he’s their best player. Bar none.”

The Canucks exited Nashville with a 3-1 lead of the best-of-7 second-round series. Kesler netted both the game-winning goals at Bridgestone Arena --- an overtime deflection in Game 3 and a power play marker in the third period on Thursday. 

“It was a great breakout on the power play, a really amazing goal by a player whose will to win right now is very strong and he’s competing really hard,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.

Kesler has three goals and eight assists in the playoffs, seven of those points (three goals, four assist) coming this round against the Preds.

He also drew two penalties in Game 4: a cross check by Kevin Klein and a hold by Ryan Suter. Suter’s penalty set up Kesler’s game-winner. 

That call also gave Vigneault a chance to snipe back at Nashville’s players and coaches, who have questioned some of the penalties drawn by the Canucks this series. 

“I hope they are not going to complain about embellishment tonight,” Vigneault said. “I mean, with the number of things that happened out there on the ice, Suter had the audacity to complain after he takes that penalty and just hauled Ryan Kesler down. It’s utterly amazing how our guys battled.”

Kesler, a finalist for the Selke Trophy that goes to the league’s best defensive forward, is the Canucks' leading scorer in the playoffs. His play is the primary reason the Canucks are a game from advancing to the conference final. 

It certainly hasn’t been because of the Sedin twins. 

Henrik Sedin scored an empty-net goal with 21 seconds left on Thursday, the first goal either twin has in against the Preds this series.(Henrik also had two assists in Game 4.) Daniel Sedin, a finalist for the Hart Trophy, has two points in the series, both assists. 

-- A.J .Perez

Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:16 pm

Sullivan out, Wilson in for Predators

Nashville Predators winger Steve Sullivan will miss tonight’s Game 4 and he appears doubtful for the rest of the second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, Preds coach Barry Trotz told reporters Thursday. 

Sullivan suffered a knee injury late in Game 3, an injury that prevented him from taking the ice in overtime. Colin Wilson, who played in all 82 regular season games for the Preds but has been a healthy scratch each contest this postseason, will replace Sullivan. 

“I’ve been kind of sitting around the whole time just hoping to get in,” Wilson told The Tennessean on Wednesday. “All I’ve been thinking about is playing. My mind-set hasn’t changed, I’m a little bit more excited because it’s more possible for me to play.”

Wilson, a first-round draft pick in 2008, had 16 goals and 18 assists this season. 

--A.J. Perez
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com