After a three game road swing which saw the Nashville Predators drop two games, and see their road record sink to a dismal 2-6-2 this season, the team returned home and delivered a solid 60-minute game (some could argue about the final minute,) defeating Tampa Bay 3-1 on Monday night.
With the win, the Preds home record moved to a sparking 6-1-1, with the last four consecutive wins resulting in varying stages of coffee, Frosties, Big Macs and donuts. Yes, the calorically challenged fan base gets treated to carbs, carbs and more carbs, to the delight of a home team that has begun to play with maximum confidence at Bridgestone Arena.
The team closes out November with a pair of home games today (Wednesday) and Friday against the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets (both Central Division games that hold great impact on the current standings and potential post-season playoff implications) and then a pair of road games on Sunday and Tuesday against the Jets and the Colorado Avalanche, also a Central Division foe.
Four games, eight crucial points, a stellar home record, and a sub-par road record, means fans will have plenty to chew on besides carbs and turkey over the coming seven days.
Most of Nashville’s team numbers are trending in a positive fashion. The team is now 10th in the NHL in goal scoring, and has moved into the league’s upper half (14th) in goals allowed. The power play, currently 6th in the league after early season success, took a hit for a couple weeks, but with goals in the last two games (2 for the last 7 attempts) has seemingly stabilized.
The dramatic increase, however is on the penalty kill, where, once mired in 29th place (out of 30 NHL teams,) the Predators have killed off a remarkable 32 of 33 man-advantages for the opposition and have vaulted to 11th place within the league.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne has been stellar in nets for Nashville, and was voted third star in the league last week. His Monday performance, stopping all but one Tampa Bay shot continued to shrink his numbers to a gaudy 2.04 goals against average, and a tremendous .933 save percentage. Numbers that should, if maintained, find him in consideration for back-to-back All-Star honors when the mid-season classic is played in Los Angeles on January 29, 2017.
As far as offense is concerned, the Preds are currently paced by defenseman P.K. Subban and forward Filip Forsberg, both with 13 points through the first 18 games. James Neal leads the team in goals with 8, and both veteran Mike Ribeiro and sophomore Viktor Arvidsson have made notable contributions in the past week, and each have 11 points to date.
Both the Western Conference overall, and the Central Division specifically, are way too tight at present to say that the post-season picture is clear.
Currently on the outside looking in, Nashville has an 8-7-3 record, good for 19 points, and 6th place in the division. Of course, a win tonight against Dallas (8-7-5) would put them in a points tie, with Nashville having an edge in regulation/overtime wins.
Chicago, with a strong start, but coming off a 5-0 loss, paces the Central with 28 points, and St. Louis is second with 20, but both have played 20 games to Nashville’s 18. Just 3 points separate Dallas (21,) Minnesota (20,) Winnipeg (20,) Nashville, and Colorado (18.) Out west, the Pacific picture is equally muddied, with Edmonton (23,) Anaheim (22,) San Jose (21) and Los Angeles (21) seemingly taking turns holding on to first place for a night here and a night there.
Calgary (17,) Vancouver (16) and Arizona (14) have their work cut out for them, with frustrated fan bases and long nights scheduled for the cold winter months.
US Thanksgiving may not be a recognized time of celebration for the Canadian and European players, but with the team at home this week, expect all to celebrate and revel in the gratitude that the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena has brought much joy this season.
Players and fans hope the smiles continue this week, and if you’re looking ahead to December, temperatures may get lower, but the Predators will start the month with some heat, as the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and Colorado Avalanche will kick things off as we hurdle towards the Christmas holiday break.
Until next week, have a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving, and let’s look forward to plenty of stuffing… the net with Predators goals.