The Nashville Predators lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 on Thursday night in a game many were calling a possible Stanley Cup Finals preview. The game didn’t live up to the hype but it did provide Nashville fans with a little taste of something they’ve been missing for nearly four full seasons, an Alexander Radulov goal.
Radulov ditched the Predators after the 2007-08 to join Russia’s Kontinental Hockey league. After three successful seasons as captain for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL, which included an couple of MVP’s and Gagarin Cup, Radulov decided the time was right to return to the NHL.
He joins a Nashville team that sits fifth in the Western Conference just one point behind the Detroit Red Wings for the number four seed and home ice advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.
Predators general manager David Poile made a splash at the NHL trade deadline by acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad in an attempt to bolster an already potent offense. Nashville is ranked ninth in the league in scoring, averaging 2.78 goals per game. But I’m sure Poile would tell us there is always room for one more offensive weapon and Radulov is certainly that.
Fans are hoping Radulov is the final piece to the Preds’ first Cup, but that remains to be seen. The 25-year-old Russian was probably the best player outside the NHL and could make Nashville a real Cup contender right now. But he hasn’t played an NHL game in three years, it may take him sometime to get used to the speed of the game especially at this time of the year, when every game is more intense than the last.
With that said, Radulov Should have an immediate positive impact of the Pred offensively. He’s noticeably bigger, stronger and much, much more mature. His goal tonight was a pure power move and it’s obvious his time in the KHL was spent wisely. He used his body to push the defender off of him, creating space to snap the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury. Predator fans hope it was the first of many.
So what if Nashville lost to the Penguins, everybody else does these days, the important thing is the long lost Radulov has returned and the Predators will be better off for it.
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