Predators Gameday: Hamhuis keeps it lighthearted

Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 2:37pm

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Dan Hamhuis took his sense of humor with him.

The former Nashville Predators defenseman did not hesitate when asked Thursday morning about any differences that allowed Nashville to advance — finally — in the NHL playoffs.

“They got rid of me,” he said.

Hamhuis, a first-round draft pick in 2001, was the only player who appeared in all 27 Predators’ playoff games in their first five postseason appearances.

Nashville traded him last June, when it became apparent he was not likely to re-sign. He eventually agreed to a free agent deal with Vancouver, the closest team to his hometown of Smithers, B.C.

“I don’t know that there’s anything specific,” he continued. “They were close, it seemed like, every year there and had some great teams. Last year, as an example, we were so close to beating Chicago, and it just didn’t happen.

“They finally took the step.”

The result is a Western Conference semifinal matchup with the Canucks, the NHL’s top team during the regular season, and Hamhuis.

“It’s kind of ironic that we meet here in the second round,” Hamhuis said. “They’re a great team. They’re playing really well. It’s going to be a tough series.”

Hamhuis took time on Wednesday to try to make things easier for his team. He met with coach Alain Vigneault and offered what insight he could on his former team.

“He just asked me about certain tendencies with different players and how the team plays,” Hamhuis said. “… It’s just to get us as prepared as he can for this series.”

Minutes men: Nashville defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber logged more ice time on average during the series with Anaheim than they did during the regular season.

In fact, Suter (27:28) and Weber (26:29) both were among the top 12 for all players in the conference quarterfinals, due in large part to Anaheim’s reliance on its top line.

“That was our matchup — going against their big line — and those guys play a lot of minutes,” Weber said. “Every time they were going over the boards, we were matching them.”

The same figures to be true in this series given the ability of Vancouver’s top line, which features twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

“You’re playing on adrenaline,” Suter said. “You want to win. If that’s what it takes, that’s what you do.”

No Hart: Trotz campaigned consistently throughout the final weeks of the season for goalie Pekka Rinne to be considered for the Hart Trophy, the NHL most valuable player award.

The three finalists were announced Thursday, and Rinne was not among them. Anaheim’s Corey Perry, Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis were the top three among members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, which voted for the award.

“They’re both great players who mean a lot to their teams,” Sedin, who had a league-high 104 points, said of Perry and St. Louis. “It’s just an honor to be a finalist.”

Last one standing: When Montreal lost in Game 7 of its Eastern Conference quarterfinal series on Wednesday, Vancouver was the lone remaining Canadian team in the playoffs.

“We’ve had great fans all along,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “If anyone else wants to jump on board, they’re welcome to do so.”

Quote of note: “Playoffs are the best time of year. Playing against your former team — you don’t need any more motivation than that. — Nashville defenseman Shane O’Brien, who spent the previous two seasons with Vancouver.

Notable numbers: 3 — teams that made it out of the first round despite a goals-against average of higher than 3.0. Vancouver (3.14) and Nashville (3.33) are two of the three.

3.67 — Nashville’s scoring average in the postseason, which ranks second only to Detroit's (4.50).

4 — players in the NHL with a 40 percent or better shooting percentage in the first round of the playoffs. Two of them, Matt Halischuk (50.0) and Steve Sullivan (40.0) are Predators.

9 — faceoffs taken by Blake Geoffrion in the three road games against Anaheim. He won all nine.

26 — victories by the road teams in the first round of the playoffs. The home teams won just 23 times.