Last week, the Nashville Predators closed out two big home wins vs. Minnesota and Montreal, and took a few days off for the NHL’s Christmas break.
Returning to the ice on the following day (12/26), the Preds dropped a close 3-2 decision to the Detroit Red Wings. The contest saw Filip Forsberg net the lone Preds tallies, and the special teams (Power Play: 0 for 3, Penalty Kill: 2 for 3) continue to be huge difference makers when citing why the team drops close games.
Monday saw the New York Rangers come to town. The fans were treated to an excellent Nashville effort. This was the kind of Preds output that generates fan excitement that may lead us to believe the team has what it takes to be Stanley Cup contenders. In this contest, it was James Neal who netted a pair of goals, and the team built a solid 5-1 lead before surrendering a pair of fairly meaningless Ranger goals in the 5-3 victory.
The team did a quick turnaround and headed to St. Louis for last night’s game. The Predators had dropped the previous two meetings between the clubs, and the hope was they could feed off the excitement of the previous night’s victory. Carter Hutton gave goaltender Pekka Rinne a rare night off, and St. Louis threw all they had at the backup netminder.
The teams were tied through one period, after a shorthanded goal by Preds defenseman Mattias Ekholm knotted the score at one. The Blues then added goals in the second and third periods to take a 3-1 lead, but with less than four minutes to go, Predators captain Shea Weber and forward Colin Wilson were able to knot the score and send the game into overtime.
For the first four minutes of the five-minute overtime period, there was only one standout player on either side of the ice. That man was Hutton, who practically stood on his head as the Blues barraged him with chances. At 4:01 however, Alexander Steen found the back of the net, and the Preds had to settle for a single point. The Blues grabbed two points, and widened their margin in the standings vs. Nashville. The Predators are now 0-6 in the NHL’s new 3 vs. 3 overtime format, and those missed six points will most certainly play a part in the post-season rankings.
New Year’s Eve will have Nashville on the road against the Western Conference leading Dallas Stars. The Stars are 27-8-3 this season and have all but run away and hidden from their other Central Division foes. Nashville now sits at 18-12-7 (43 points) and finds themselves 14 points behind Dallas, and fifth in the division. Fortunately, Colorado (38) and Winnipeg (36) continue to remain in non-playoff positions, with the majority of the Pacific Division teams struggling to establish their identities in the post-season picture.
After the Stars game, the Preds begin the 2016 portion of the schedule with a Saturday (1/2) game in Raleigh vs. the Carolina Hurricanes, and then return home for a Tuesday (1/5) night contest against the Winnipeg Jets.
This week’s three games are of obvious importance to the team, who continue to struggle to find their identity. Tremendous scoring from the defensive corps is a huge plus, but also gives opponents a chance to pinpoint exactly how to defend against this team. Preds forwards are not driving the net and wreaking havoc on their opponents.
If you are watching teams like Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, et al, there is only one surefire way to rattle your foes, and that’s to put traffic in front of the goalie and whip pucks in that general direction. The Preds continue to patiently wait for the perfect pass to a rearguard, and hope that blast from the point finds the twine behind the opposition’s goaltender. Exciting, yet predictable.
Following the Winnipeg game, the Preds head off on a four game road trip, and after returning for two at home, will leave for four more. This will then send the entire NHL into the All-Star break, and the festivities and game to be held here at Bridgestone Arena.
January is shaping up as a crucial month for the team, and its management, as decisions need to be made regarding personnel and addressing the needs of the squad as they spiral towards the post season with uncertainty.
We will keep you posted on all Predators news, and thank you for your support in 2015. Happy New Year!