The Predators’ plan to thwart Blackhawks fans includes fans singing the anthem

Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Seth Jones, Gabriel Bourque, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Ellis celebrate. (John Russel/Getty Images)

Chicago Blackhawks fans have been noted as strong travellers, so on top of a list of other things, the Nashville Predators are attempting to hinder their opposition with singing. That’s right – singing.

According to The Tennessean’s John Glennon, the Predators will be attempting to get fans in on the act for the national anthem prior to Wednesday’s opening game of the first-round series between Nashville and Chicago. By having the anthem singer request the fans in attendance to sing along, the Predators feel they will drown out Blackhawks fans who are clapping and cheering along, as has become tradition at Chicago’s home arena, the United Center. Read more

Why the Maple Leafs should try to get Mike Futa or Paul Fenton

Mike Futa  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It has been exactly 25 years and one day since notorious tyrant, skinflint and former Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard died. And you could argue that 9,131 days later, the franchise is in even more disastrous shape on the ice than it was a quarter century ago.

Ballard died 11 days after the Leafs posted a record of 38-38-4 and a goal differential of minus-21 and one day before they were knocked out of the playoffs by the St. Louis Blues in five games. This season’s edition of the Leafs just put a bow on a miserable 30-44-8 season with no hope of the post-season and a goal differential of minus-51. Read more

NHL’s SnapChamp Era begins: Flames, Jets make playoffs; defending-champ Kings – & maybe, Bruins or Pens – are out

Flames players celebrate a 3-1 home win over L.A. – and making the playoffs this year – in front of a raucous home crowd in Calgary. (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

Watching the NHL’s action play out Thursday night was kind of like covering a political election and seeing the polls come in and herald a new leader for a new era. In one polling station, you had the Boston Bruins – the league’s top regular-season team last year – falling to the Florida Panthers and putting their playoff fate in the hands of the surging Ottawa Senators and wobbly Pittsburgh Penguins (who, like the Bruins, won a Stanley Cup not too long ago); In another station, you saw the Calgary Flames hold off the desperate Los Angeles Kings and register a 3-1 win, eliminating the defending Cup champions from the post-season and securing a playoff berth for the Winnipeg Jets.

Change was everywhere, and more change could be coming. Depending on what happens Friday and Saturday, the Eastern Conference playoff picture could have three teams (the Sens, Capitals and Islanders) who weren’t in the 2014 post-season, and the Western Conference will have four teams (Vancouver, Nashville, Calgary and Winnipeg) in this year’s playoffs who weren’t there last year. A 43.75 percent playoff turnover rate is one thing, but it’s not just the fact there are potentially seven new post-season teams this year that’s so intriguing; it’s the great distance teams are falling that has NHL executives clenching their teeth and always worrying about what’s ahead. Read more

AHL All-Rookie team shows players to watch for next season

Viktor Arvidsson (John Russell/Getty Images)

If you don’t think AHL All-Rookie team honors mean much, consider that New York Islanders rookie Ryan Strome, who has scored 17 goals and 50 points this season, was named to the team just last season.

Strome isn’t the only rookie from the 2014 squad who has shown his skill in the NHL, either. Teemu Pulkkinen, the Detroit Red Wings prospect with a cannon for a slapshot, was named to last year’s list and has 34 goals in 46 games in the AHL this season to go along with five in 29 big league contests.

Wednesday afternoon, the AHL announced this season’s team and the list is full of promising stars. Maybe one day they will add to the list of present day standouts that once appeared on the team, including Zdeno Chara, Jason Spezza, Thomas Vanek, Mike Green, John Carlson, P.K. Subban, Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Toffoli. Read more

Jimmy Fallon takes aim at NHL’s funniest mug shots with hilarious NHL Superlatives

Matt Cullen (via Tonight Show/YouTube)

Well, good luck to Vladislav Namestnikov for the rest of his career, because from now on there will be a group of fans who call him nothing but Russian Bieber. The Tampa Bay Lightning rookie has Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon to thank for that one.

Namestnikov is just one of several players Fallon targeted in a new round of NHL Superlatives, which is a gag that plays on the high school tradition of handing out pseudo-awards to the students who have things like the best smile or funniest laugh or those who are the most likely to succeed.

Come for the dig at Namestnikov, stay for Tonight Show band leader Questlove’s inability to control himself when Fallon makes fun of Lightning rookie goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy: Read more

Desperate Bruins shut out by Holtby; is goalie coach Mitch Korn Caps’ best off-season addition?

Capitals goalie coach, Mitch Korn works with goalie Braden Holtby. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

The Capitals handed the desperate Bruins a 3-0 defeat Wednesday, solidifying their hold on second place in the Metropolitan Division and pushing Boston a little bit closer to the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The visiting Bruins once again were unable to solve Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who shut them out for the third time this season, and Washington is now 7-2-1 in their past 10 games.

Certainly, Holtby deserves the lion’s share of the credit for his play this season. And certainly, Alex Ovechkin is the straw that stirs the drink for that franchise and has raised his game. But if we’re talking about the biggest difference in Washington this season – the biggest acquisition/change the organization made last summer – we’re not talking about either of Brooks Orpik or Matt Niskanen, their two high-priced free agent signings. We’re also not talking about the first full season from rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov, although he’s a nifty little player himself.

No, the person who has made the biggest difference this year for the Capitals only gets on the ice during practice, and has a salary that isn’t governed by the league’s salary cap. His name is Mitch Korn, and since joining the Caps after leaving Nashville, where he spent the previous 16 years in the same role for the Predators, Korn has had a significant calming influence on Holtby in a year when a poor showing from the 25-year-old could have spelled the end for him as a starter In Washington. Read more

Would Pittsburgh be better off with Jordan Staal and James Neal right now?

Jordan Staal. (Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff chances look grimmer by the day. They took a massive hit over the weekend with deflating losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers.

A thought that has crossed my mind, watching Pittsburgh’s top-heavy squad take bad penalties and struggle to convert chances in recent weeks: these guys miss Jordan Staal. They were a different team with him as their third-line center. He was a big, strong, two-way presence who could break open a game with a shorthanded rush. Few teams in the league had that caliber of player that far down the depth chart.

The Pens had to move Staal in 2012 after he rejected Ray Shero’s 10-year offer, and they did well to land Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the pick that yielded Derrick Pouliot. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use Staal’s skill set right about now.

Interestingly, though, the Hurricanes would be far better off with Sutter, Dumoulin and Pouliot, wouldn’t they? Staal has been a disaster. He has 30 goals in 173 games as a Cane. He had 29 in his rookie season with the Pens alone. He only has, oh, eight years left on a 10-year deal carrying a $6-million cap hit. Woof. Is this a rare trade both GMs involved would admit they want reversed, if we gave them truth serum injections? Oddly enough, that would involve Jim Rutherford trading Staal again. He acquired Staal as Hurricanes GM and now serves as Penguins GM.

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How Roman Josi has made Nashville fans forget about Ryan Suter

Jared Clinton

Much has been said this season about the Nashville Predators’ outstanding play, especially that of rookie Filip Forsberg and goaltender Pekka Rinne. And while the familiar faces in Nashville like Shea Weber and Mike Fisher continue to contribute, there’s a standout on defense, 24-year-old Roman Josi, who for the second straight season is making people take notice.

In 2013-14, Josi had a breakout performance alongside Weber. Taking the spot of the recently departed Ryan Suter, Josi didn’t just find his game, he excelled. He upped his average ice time from 23:31 in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign – Nashville’s first without Suter – to nearly 26:30. He scored 13 goals, a career high, and 40 points. He suited up for 72 games, the most of his career.

Through it all, however, there was the thought that maybe Josi was simply being helped along by Weber. Maybe, in 2014-15, Josi would regress and we could get a better grasp on what exactly he was capable of.

Well, if he was supposed to slow down, Josi, a second-round pick, 38th overall in 2008, didn’t get the memo. This campaign has been yet another where the young Swiss defenseman looks like he’s going to be a mainstay atop the NHL’s premier blueliners and have Predators fans asking, “Ryan Suter, who?” Read more