This season, as mandated by the National Hockey League’s collective bargaining agreement with its’ players, each team has a five-day break in their grueling schedule.
Most teams have looked upon this break (in retrospect) as an annoyance. The number of back-to-back games has increased in what has been a compressed schedule, and the pause in the action for Nashville has come at a time where the team has seen its’ post season standing become a bit more tenuous than it had been in recent weeks.
A coaching change in St. Louis has the Blues on fire, winners of their last five games. This sudden surge has catapulted the Blues into the third slot in the West’s Central Division, and pushes Nashville down into one of the two wild card slots, both Calgary and Los Angeles of the Pacific Division fighting for the final slot. The good news is that Winnipeg, Dallas, and Vancouver are all appearing to lose steam and find themselves closer to Colorado and Arizona, the two teams who’ve seemingly been out of the race since the start of the season.
The Predators are still fighting consistency, and prior to the break lost their road game in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, and returned home for back-to-back weekend games against Florida and Dallas.
The Saturday game against the Panthers was a huge disappointment, despite a hat trick from Preds forward Viktor Arvidsson, Florida knocked Pekka Rinne out of the Nashville net with four goals midway through the second period. His replacement Juuse Saros allowed a pair (and took the loss) and an empty netter sealed the Preds fate in the 7-4 setback.
On Sunday, with Coach Peter Laviolette on record as stating the loss was “gross,” the team found themselves in a lethargic state at the start of the game against Dallas, and were saddled with a 3-0 deficit when the team received their wakeup call a little later than expected. Late in period two, defenseman Roman Josi put the Preds on the scoreboard and momentum shifted immediately. Despite Craig Smith missing on a rare penalty shot call, the team pelted Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen with a myriad of chances in those final minutes, and the team went into the locker room with the support of the crowd, and the inherent belief they could mount a comeback in the third stanza.
Over the final twenty minutes the Preds added four unanswered goals en route to a stunning 5-3 victory, and the team went off on its mandatory hiatus on a winning note. Josi added his second of the night, Calle Jarnkrok, after his first NHL fight, added the tying goal and Filip Forsberg electrified the crowd with a dazzling shorthanded effort to put Nashville ahead. Captain Mike Fisher added the empty net goal sealing the victory.
The Predators next action includes weekend road games in Minnesota (Saturday – 7p) and Columbus (Sunday – 5p.) The team then returns home for a four game homestand, beginning with Tuesday night game against the Calgary Flames. While the Flames are not within the division, they are within the conference, and as stated earlier, both the Flames and Kings compete with the Predators for those coveted wildcard spots. One of these three teams will not be making the playoffs. Mark that game down on your schedule as a “must-win” for Nashville!
There are just 26 regular season games remaining for the Nashville Predators. That’s a maximum of 52 points that are left on the table. The Preds have yet to hit their stride this season, mostly showing inconsistency that involves the team winning one, losing one, witness their 5-4-1 record over the last ten games, while Minnesota, Chicago and St. Louis have all won 7 of their last 10. It’s getting down to that now-or-never time where every game has implications for the post season. Come on down and cheer on the Preds as they make their push to the post season!