Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Predators kickstarted their own evolution

Categories: Nashville Predators, Second Round, VAN vs. NSH, Vancouver Canucks

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By Tim Wharnsby,

Nashville Predators scouts have an uncanny eye for talent and the organization sure can develop prospects.

How else do you explain the fact that they snatched Norris Trophy-candidate Shea Weber in the second round (49th overall) of 2003 NHL entry draft and Vezina Trophy-nominee Pekka Rinne in the eighth round (248th overall) a year later?

By the time the Predators selected Weber eight years ago they already had chosen Ryan Suter, Konstantin Glazachev, who never did leave Russia, and Kevin Klein in that draft. The hard-shooting Weber simply didn't get much ice time in his rookie season of junior playing behind Duncan Keith, Josh Gorges and Tomas Slovak on the WHL-champion Kelowna Rockets. That's why Weber slipped to the second round.

Rinne, on the other hand, was a backup goalie to Niklas Backstrom, now with the Minnesota Wild, on the Finnish champions, Karpat. Rinne played only 14 games in 2003-04 as a 20 year old, but his 6-foot-5, 207-pound frame was hard to ignore. So the Predators scoured for some video of Rinne in action and took a chance on him with the late pick.

Rinne, 28, played three seasons in Milwaukee before he became a full-time NHLer because the Predators had plenty of depth in goal with Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason and Dan Ellis. Rinne also suffered a setback in the summer of 2006 when he dislocated a shoulder when he was mugged by a couple of thugs back home.

Among his many attributes that the Vancouver Canucks have discovered in their second-round series against Nashville has been the work of Rinne's glove hand. Rinne claims that he developed his catching hand because he played a lot of baseball as a kid, or at least the form of the game they play in Finland.

Trotz in good humour

Predators head coach Barry Trotz has a summer home on Kalamalka Lake in Vernon, B.C., not far from Predator Ridge Golf Resort. Well, the management of the place decided to temporarily rename the resort Canuck Ridge during the second-round series.

"I have a house near Canuck Ridge now," Trotz said as he chuckled. "The boys will be getting some feedback in the summer."

Where's the puck?

There were no shenanigans with the puck that found its way past Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo in double overtime on Saturday. When Hockey Night In Canada rink-side analyst Glenn Healy hopped over the boards moments after Nashville's Matt Halischuk scored his game-winning goal, Healy noticed the puck was still in the net.

So he picked up the keepsake and gave the puck to Predators media communications coordinator Kevin Wilson to present to Halischuk.

"Wow, that's awesome," was the reaction from the low-key Halischuk when Wilson gave him the game-winning puck.

Where's the offence

The four goals combined in the first two games of this series is the lowest offensive production since the beginning of the 2003 Western Conference final when the Anaheim Ducks opened with 1-0 and 2-0 victories over the Wild.