The Nashville Predators stormed out to a 3-0 lead in their Central Division showdown with the Winnipeg Jets and held on for a 3-1 lead. They also reached the 100 point total in the standings and with Tampa Bay losing, they find themselves tied for the best record in the National Hockey League (NHL) at this point. This is the sixth time in team history the Predators have notched 100 points in a season.
To quote the grouchy Sergeant from Stripes: “Lighten up Francis”.
The Predators haven’t won the Stanley Cup yet. There is still a month left in the regular season and then the grueling Stanley Cup playoffs where anything can happen. The Nashville Scene recently said that the Predators are making it look easy. Have they even watched a Predators’ game this season? The Predators have definitely NOT made it easy. They have had a string of two-goal comebacks as well has taking big leads only to hold on at the end. I wouldn’t call that easy.
The Predators are 9-0-1 in the last 10 games but that means nothing yet. Anything can happen. Injuries. Scoring Droughts. Goal keeping issues. A hockey season is a very tentative thing which is prone to emotional ups and downs. It is a game of streaks. I’m always very worried about a team peaking too soon and I hope this isn’t the case with the Predators. Sure, it would be nice to be the #1 seed in the playoffs and have home-ice advantage but what good did that do for the Chicago Blackhawks last year? It’s all about the team that is hot when the playoffs start.
Need scoring? Nashville has a roster full of them. On any given night any of them can light the lamp. This is a team that really doesn’t have just one player to go to for scoring. Sometimes the problem is that their aim is off. In the recent shootout loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Predators hit the post NINE times. At times their shot selection isn’t very good either. Slap shots from the point are often blocked and easily turn into an offensive rush for the other team. The defense is pretty solid but at times they tend to turn it over. I am especially worried when P.K. Subban has the puck in the defensive zone. While he is a good defender, he will often make poor choices on getting the puck out of the zone. He needs to make better decisions. Lately, he seems to be the weak link in the defense.
Goalkeeping is pretty solid as Pekka Rinne is having the best season of his career. Rinne is currently 38-9-4 right now. He is in the zone. His backup, Juuse Saros isn’t too shabby either. Saros, who is 7-5-6 is a rising star of the future but he is very capable when he has been called on to start.
As for special teams, the Predators are fifth in the NHL in the Power Play. They have been really streaky. They will go long streaks without converting and then suddenly strike. The Power Play is very unpredictable. When they have the puck in the offensive zone they tend to make too many passes and take very poor shots. This area could really come back to bite them. As far as their penalty killing, it is pretty good. In fact, the Predators are tied with Florida in leading the league with 10 shorthanded goals. Viktor Arvidsson is especially exciting to watch when he is in there because he looks for any opportunity to make an offensive surge.
So with all that said, I’m still not comfortable with the Predators at the top of the Western Conference standings. In spite of what the Nashville Scene thinks, it has not come easy. No lead has been safe. They have only had 14 games where they have won by at least three goals so in the rest of the games, it has been anything but easy. But, maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe those close games and games when they have had to overcome adversity will get them battle tested and ready for playing in April, May and June. All they will need is 16 wins for the Stanley Cup.
Reaching 100 points is awesome. Being the top team in the Western Conference is great. Tied for the top team in the NHL is amazing. Winning the Stanley Cup will make it all worth it.