The 2011-12 NHL hockey season was officially over Monday night as the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, the Nashville Predators' season ended well before Monday night. The Predators were eliminated by the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Semi-Finals May 7.
Now that the season is over and we look forward to the off-season. But before we look forward, let's take a look back at the season that was for the Nashville Predators. A month-by-month look back.
Read more after the jump...
2011 - October
The start of the season. Many fans and management were unsure about this team going into the season. David Poile is quoted by saying, "We will be much better in the second half of the season, than the first half." Poile was absolutely right!
Nashville started out the season strong by winning their first three games. Two of them were on the road against Central Division rivals, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues. Those two games were during the "Cellblock 303 Road Trip" where a few Predators fans went on the road to cheer on our team.
Unfortunately, their last stop at the Scottrade Center didn't go so well. Fans were throwing things at the Preds fans and, from what I've heard, a Blues fan even poured beer on a fan.
Stay classy St. Louis!
The Predators made their Northwestern road trip early in the season, which is very good scheduling. The road trip gets the team focused and in gear for the season. Also, the sooner you get it done, the less you have to worry about it.
They took on the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames in the third week of October. Nashville lost to Edmonton and Vancouver, but got the win in Calgary.
Later in that month, upcoming defenseman, Mattias Ekholm was assigned back to play in Sweden so he could get more playing time and experience. Also, the long-time Milwaukee Admiral, CalO'Reilly was traded to the Phoenix Coyotes for a fourth round draft pick in this year's draft.
The Predators ended the month going 6-4-2.
Pekka Rinne re-signed with the Nashville Predators November 3 on his birthday. Rinne signed a seven year deal worth $49 million. Later that night, the Predators played the Phoenix Coyotes where Rinne got the shutout win, 3-0. Wow, what a birthday!
The Nashville Predators played their 1,000th franchise game against the Montreal Canadiens onCBC's Hockey Night in Canada. David Legwand, who was the first ever draft pick made by the Predators, dropped the ceremonial puck. By the way, Legwand was a scratch that game due to an injury.
Here is the ceremonial video.
Unfortunately, the Canadiens spoiled the party by winning the game 2-1 in overtime.
Also during this month, Niclas Begfors was not happy about being sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals so he asked Poile to terminate his contract. Poile did so and let Bergfors go to the KHL where he plays now.
On November 17, Craig Smith's awesome rookie run ended on one play. Nashville was playing host to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Smith was right in front of the net and shot over the goal. The sirens went off and the fans were going crazy because they thought Craig ended the game. No, instead he will be on every blooper highlight.
Here is the video.
The Predators finished the month of November with a 6-5-2 record.
The first day of December was pretty awesome for Preds fans, if you stayed up late enough to watch the game. Nashville played the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena for the last time there.
The Canucks took a 5-3 lead with 29:31 minutes remaining in regulation. Pekka Rinne gave up thefifth goal scored by Jannik Hansen. After that, Rinne was pulled and Anders Lindback came into the game. The Predators found a new life.
Nashville ended the second period by tying the game up with goals by Jordin Tootoo and Colin Wilson.
With under 2 minutes remaining in the game, Mike Fisher's backhand shot squeezed past Cory Schneider to score the game winner. The Predators won the game, 6-5.
Here is the highlights.
The second game of December, on the 3rd was quite interesting as well. Nashville played the Buffalo Sabres out of the Eastern Conference at Bridgestone Arena.
Looking back, the only play a fan would remember was the Jordin Tootoo "hit" on goalie, Ryan Miller.
Here is the video of the hit.
This hit was very controversial because this game was Ryan Miller's first game back from a concussion. It was suffered from when Boston Bruins forward, Milan Lucic hit Miller while he was coming out of his net going for the puck.
Jordin Tootoo received a two game suspension, which is fair. You can't touch the goalie period. Especially right after he comes back from a head injury. Although, I don't think Tootoo tried to hit Miller. It looked like Tootoo tried to jump over him.
When I see that video, I start to laugh because Paul Gaustad tried to fight Tootoo. Who would've known that these two would eventually become teammates.
Just a week later, the Predators made another come-from-behind win. This time, they played the awful, Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
The Predators were down 3-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation. The net was empty and Nashville had six attackers on the ice. Patric Hornqvist scored off the rebound from Shea Weber to cut the lead to 3-2 in favor of Columbus.
Barry Trotz pulled Rinne once again to get the extra attacker on the ice. With thirteen seconds remaining, Sergei Kostitsyn tipped the puck past Sanford to force the game to overtime.
Just when one would thought the Preds were done, they weren't. Colin Wilson scored the game winner in overtime on a one-timer from Martin Erat to win the game, 4-3.
This game was Ryan Suter's favorite moment before the NHL All-Star break. Here is the video.
Let's skip two weeks later to when Columbus and Nashville met each other again at BridgestoneArena. We can add this to the list of comeback wins. This one was very dramatic.
With the game tied at one, Brian McGrattan was called for interference late in the first period andwas given a major and a game misconduct. The major allowed the Blue Jackets to score as many goals as possible in five minutes.
The Blue Jackets scored three goals and gave themselves a 4-1 lead going into the first intermission. Jeff Carter already scored a hat-trick at the end of the first period. It didn't look good for the Predators, but as we all know, the three goal lead is the most unsafe lead in hockey.
Early in the second, Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Johansen traded goals and made the score, 5-2 in favor of Columbus. Nashville then answered the Johansen goal with two goals themselves by NickSpaling and Roman Josi to cut the lead to 5-4 going into the second intermission.
Late in the third period, it was all Nashville. David Legwand tied the game up at five with under 4 minutes remaining. Then, Martin Erat scored the game-winner with nine seconds remaining to get the 6-5 win in favor of the Predators.
That game was remarkable and only Columbus could blown a lead like that. Here is the highlights of the game.
That next day was Christmas Eve Eve. The Predators played the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. Nashville lost the game 3-6, but there was one play that damaged the team and its captain.
Here is the video of Shea Weber getting hit by Mark Fistric.
The hit was illegal and is remarkable that Fistric wasn't disciplined at all. Any contact to the head is usually disciplined by at least a penalty. Nothing was called and it still makes me mad today.
The exciting and interesting month of December ended with the Nashville Predators having a 9-5-0 record.
2012 - January
On January 5, Shea Weber returned to the lineup conveniently against the Dallas Stars. Weber would return to the ice against Mark Fistric, who game him the concussion.
Weber's return wasn't spectacular by any means and the Predators lost the game, 4-1.
On January 14, the Predators played the Philadelphia Flyers at Bridgestone Arena. There was one play that will stick out out to may fans today. That one play was small defenseman, Ryan Ellis flipping Wayne Simmonds.
Here is the video.
David Poile made a move to get a "Predators hockey" type of forward later that month. On January 19, Poile claimed Brandon Yip off waivers from the Colorado Avalanche.
Getting Yip was a great acquisition to improve the forecheck and payed off later late in the season and in the playoffs.
On the last day of January, the 31st, Nashville went to St. Paul to take on the Minnesota Wild. Once again, the Predators won the game in a come-back fashion.
In the first period and early in the second period, the Wild took a three goal lead with goals byDany Heatley (2) and Cal Clutterbuck. Then, at the half-way point in the game, Matt Halischukmade the score 3-1.
The Wild took back the three goal lead sixteen seconds into the third period. After that, it was all Predators. Nashville tied the game up with three minutes remaining with goals by Brandon Yip, Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher. Although, Fisher wasn't done yet.
With 21 seconds remaining, Fisher threw a shot from the right boards and somehow went into the net. It was a lucky goal. That is what happens when you just shoot pucks on net!
Here is the highlights of the game.
January was a great month for the Nashville Predators as they only lost two games the entire month. Also, Nashville had two five-game win streaks. The record for the month of January was 11-2-0.
Nothing much happened on the ice that was "memorable" by my standards. When I look back at February, I think about the Trade Deadline and transactions. Well, that is what February was about to me.
Don't get me wrong, February is a critical time of the NHL season that will determine if you make the playoffs or not, but there just wasn't any memorable moments on the ice.
With that being said, on January 16, the Milwaukee Admirals' and Nashville Predators' organization agreed to extend the affiliation through the 2013-14 season. It is great for the players as Milwaukee has produced some great NHL ready talent for the Predators.
A day later, news broke out that Hal Gill was traded to Nashville from the Montreal Canadiens for Blake Geoffrion, Robert Slaney and a 2012 2nd round pick. Although the Predators received a great veteran defenseman in Hal Gill, they lost a pioneer for the game in Nashville named BlakeGeoffrion. Gill added defensive depth that was lacking in the lineup before.
Three days later on February 20, the Nashville Predators organization re-signed original General Manager, David Poile and Assistant GM, Paul Fenton until the 2014-15 season. It's a great move by the organization to keep these two great managers. They have made the Predators where they are today on the ice.
February 24, it was a sad day to many Smashvillians when Poile decided to trade Jerred Smithson to the Florida Panthers for a 2012 sixth round draft pick. It had to be done because of the offensivedepth that was on the team during that time. The move not only benefited Jerred, but benefited the team.
Trade Deadline day came February 27. Nashville acquired Andrei Kostitsyn from the MontrealCanadiens and Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres. Montreal acquired a 2013 second round pick and the conditional 5th round pick that was dealt in the Hal Gill trade.
Not only did the Predators get Gaustad, but also acquired a 2013 fourth round pick. Buffalo acquired the 21st pick in the NHL draft, which was originally a 2012 first round pick.
The month of February ended with the Nashville Predators having a record of 6-4-3. It was a pretty lousy month for the Preds, on the ice. Now off the ice, they made a pretty big splash. In the final two weeks of the month, they won four of the last five games.
If a team doesn't show up in March, that team won't make the playoffs. March is toughest month of them all. There are more games, which means less rest and tougher opponents. In March, the Predators were very inconsistent. That inconsistency scared a lot of fans as the ChicagoBlackhawks were creeping up on them. Also, there was risk of not winning the division or getting home-ice advantage.
On March 10, Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn were spectacular against the Detroit Red Wings. Andrei scored two goals that lifted the Predators past Detroit 3-2. On those two goals scored by Andrei, brother Sergei made the assists.
The first goal scored by Andrei Kostitsyn was sweet. Here is the video of the goal.
On March 18, Alexander Radulov and Salavat reached an agreement to allow him to play in the NHL for the Nashville Predators. All of Smashville was waiting for this moment for the past four seasons and it finally came.
Alex Radulov's first game back in a Predators' uniform was March 22 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins dominated Nashville by beating them 5-1. The one goal scored by Nashville was scored by guess who? Alex Radulov.
Here is the video of the goal.
One game that will be remembered during this season was the dominant victory over the ChicagoBlackhawks on March 25. The Predators routed the 'Hawks by winning the game 6-1 at the United Center.
Here is the highlight reel.
On March 30, Barry Trotz, David Poile and the Nashville Predators' franchise got their 500th win together. The Predators beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at the Joe Louis Arena. In that win, Nashville jumped Detroit in the standings to sit at 4th place in the West.
Getting the 500th win is a huge milestone for the organization to get over, as this team has been very successful. Barry Trotz has been the only head coach for the team and David Poile has been the only General Manager for the team. The organization has a lot of patience unlike many other NHL teams.
In March, the Nashville Predators' went 8-6-1. It isn't a bad record but it could've improved.
The month of April was officially playoff time. Teams usually have to play 2-4 games before the end of the regular season and the Predators played three games against the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche to close out the season. They won all three games andentered the first round hot!
The Nashville Predators finished the season in fourth place with 104 points. They were lined up to face the hated, Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. As most Preds fans know, the Predators haven't won a series against the Red Wings ever in the two prior playoff meetings. This one would be different.
In Game 1, Nashville pulled a win out at home through lucky bounces and solid goaltending by ascore of 3-2. As the clock was ticking down to the end of the game, Shea Weber smashed HenrikZetterberg's head into the glass. Luckily, Weber didn't get a suspension and Zetterberg wasn't injured. Weber ended up getting a $2,500 fine.
With the Predators up 1-0 in the series, Game 2 went the other way. To start the game, ToddBertuzzi and Shea Weber dropped the gloves and fought to make up for the head smash onZetterberg in Game 1. The Red Wings finished the game off strong and won 3-2 to tie the series at one heading north to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
In Games 3 and 4, the Predators were dominated on the shots on goal, but thanks to Pekka Rinne, they were able to come up with both wins on the road. Also, you can't forget about the timely goals scored by the Predators and Kevin Klein, the star of the series surprisingly.
The series went back to Smashville for a Game 5 elimination game. Nashville was up in the series, 3-1. The Red Wings had no sense of urgency and allowed the Predators to play solid and safe defense. David Legwand's goal thirteen seconds into the third period, allowed the Predators to advance to the next round winning the series against the hated Detroit Red Wings, in 5 games.
After the victory, Nashville had to play the waiting game. Who are we going to face? A week later, we found out that the Predators would be taking on the Pacific Division winner, Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes won a six game series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Game 1 was played at Jobbing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The Nashville Predators were never able to get a lead in the game and were trading off goals. The game went to overtime and Ray Whitney was able to get a stick on the puck and knock it into the net to get the Game 1 win.
The Predators were dominated in Game 2 where they lost 5-3. Nashville was trying to find some hope after they would score and cut the lead, but Phoenix would just come back with a goal themselves. All hope was lost. The series went to Nashville down 2-0.
The next day after the loss, we found out that Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were out late at a bar getting some drinks before the game. As we knew before hand, they didn't look good, but we now know the reason why. David Poile suspended them for Game 3.
Nashville played a solid defensive game at home and got the 2-0 win. Pekka Rinne was playing some of his best hockey. The quick two goals in the first period ignited a fire inside the team. Andhey, they did it without Radulov and A. Kostitsyn, so why can't we do it again?
In Game 4, they were both scratched again. Although this time, the game didn't go so well. The scoring wasn't there for the Predators and ended up getting shutout, 1-0 at home. The series went back to Glendale down 3-1. Smashville was only hoping to get at least one more win so we (the fans) could see them one last time.
Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn returned to the lineup to provide some scoring that wasn't there in Game 4. Both of them were ineffective in Game 5 and Pekka Rinne didn't play his best game by far. The shots were being put on, but Mike Smith stood tall in his crease.
The Nashville Predators played their last game of the season in Game 5, in which they lost 2-1. It was a great run, but ended too short.
Fans and players were, and still are, disappointed that the season ended so short. We all had high expectations with the moves Poile made and with the players we already had. This was supposed to be a team of Stanley Cup champions. It didn't happen and it is very disappointing.
One day, it will be our captain hoisting that cup in front of thousands of fans. One day, it will be us parading on Broadway. One day, it will be us hanging a Stanley Cup banner. One day, it will be us.
It is well worth the wait people. Just hold your head up and keeping cheering on your Nashville Predators because one day, it will be us.
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