A weird hockey weekend that showed the best and the worst of the Nashville Predators. The worst? The uninspired, “just show up and we will win” attitude displayed on Friday night in an overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The best? The inspired, on your toes, aggressive forechecking, solid defensively Predators that took down Montreal on Hockey Night in Canada.
So… which one shows up tonight in Toronto for a tilt against the young, high-flying Maple Leafs? Your guess is as good as mine.
Toronto has started the year with a loss to Minnesota and a dominating win over Vancouver. They currently stand second in the Atlantic Division with 56 points, going 6-3-1 in their last ten. Odd quirk about the Leafs… they have a slightly better road record then home record.
Toronto has incredible firepower, John Tavares has 27 goals, Auston Matthews has 20, Mitch Marner has 15… and don’t forget some really solid secondary scoring from Kasperi Kapanen (14g,) Morgan Reily (13g) and Patrick Marleau (10g.) In net? Frederik Anderson has been excellent and Winnipeg castoff Michael Hutchinson has been very good in relief as Andersen has been nursing a groin injury and Hutchinson is reported to be in net tonight.
For Nashville, owners of a four game point streak, it comes down to the old Herb Brooks quote from the end of the Miracle on Ice game.
“Play your game.”
When the Predators play on their toes, aggressively forecheck and take care of the puck, they are hard to beat, even with a power play that continues to struggle. As the team gets healthier, Colton Sissons has now returned to the lineup, Filip Forsberg is with the team on this road trip and practicing as is Yannick Weber. Reuniting the JoFA line would be a real boost for this team as they head into the dog days of the schedule.
The return of Viktor Arvidsson has been just the tonic this team has needed. The shot of energy he provides is undeniable and has been sorely missed. Keep an eye on Ryan Johanssen and PK Subban as well, both players have had very good success against Toronto and Craig Smith has been on a roll as well.
This is game three of a five game in seven night stretch that will end with a back-to-back in Chicago and Columbus. I do expect to see Pekka Rinne in net tonight, then we will see Rinne and Juuse Saros split the upcoming back-to-back.
Game time is 6pm with pregame getting started at 5pm on 102.5 the Game and 5:30 on Fox Sports Tennessee. Willy Daunic and Chris Mason have the TV call, the Voice of the Predators, Pete Weber and Hal Gill have the radio call. Puck drop is 6:08pm.
The Where We Stand
As play begins today, Nashville stands second in the Central Division, one point behind the Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeg holds two games in hand over Nashville. The Preds lead Dallas and Colorado by four points and Minnesota by ten points.
Nashville currently holds the 4 seed in the Western Conference playoff race and has a 98.2% chance of making the playoffs according to SportsClubStats.com
- Milwaukee Update –The Admirals picked up their second consecutive win with a win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night and Hershey on Sunday. The Ad’s are back home Wednesday night against Grand Rapids. Eeli Tolvanen should be back with the team by then.
- Speaking of Tolvanen, congrats to Team Finland on their gold medal win in the World Juniors.
- The Predators power play is … well… awful. They are converting at a 14.6% rate… yuck. They are in the bottom five of the league… ugh!
- The drumbeat is getting louder in Philly for massive change (beyond the GM and coach) … I think the only reason it hasn’t been louder is that the Philly media is busy covering another Eagles Super Bowl run. The Flyers got another week as the Birds won last night to keep the drive alive, but it’s coming… and things are gonna get realllllly ugly in the City of Brotherly Love.
- Also keeping an eye on Ottawa, who just dropped their 8th straight. Hmmm… Mark Stone would look good in Pred colors…
- If David Poile is going to pull a trade deadline deal… well… he has a habit of doing it early… Recall the Turris trade happened in November… the Johansen trade happened in early January.
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