In the middle game of a run of three straight games against Original Six teams the Predators showed how dangerous their young talent can really be as they posted a true character win against the Blackhawks on home ice. Highly touted rookie Ryan Ellis netted the winner and had a shot deflected by fellow youngster Nick Spaling for a primary assist as the Hawks continued their free fall down the Western Conference standings. Despite being outshot 32-19 Pekka Rinne was the difference maker as Chicago’s highly skilled shooters were stymied on shot after shot. One game or three for that matter do not define a season but in the eyes of NHL pundits this three game run against three elite historic teams could move the Preds from the Rodney Dangerfield team of the NHL this season (“I don’t get no respect”) to one that gets the respect and fear it deserves. Taking a point on Saturday in Boston against the reigning champs is no small feat. Despite having no right being in the game Rinne was his usual self seemingly outshining reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas. The win at home against a desperate Hawks team was also one that showed true grit, however the final game of this Original Six run against the Red Wings in Detroit is the one that has the most implications in the standings and for that matter the history books.
The Red Wings after beating Dallas on Tuesday night have rolled off a league record 21 consecutive wins at Joe Louis Arena and have not lost there since November. If the Predators want to enter league history as the teams that snapped the league’s longest home winning streak they’ll need to bring a full 60 minute effort and outwork the Wings. History and record books aside the Predators now stand 8 points behind the Red Wings for the conference and divisional lead with a game at hand, a win in Motown would make the divisional race very interesting. The Preds have since their inception been the Wings “little brother” and are yet to win a Central Division title, though it may seem like a longshot given the Wings success this year it’s not out of reach. The time is now for Nashville as franchise cornerstones Ryan Suter and Shea Weber face an uncertain future beyond this season if they want to emerge as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders Friday night in the Motor City will be as Sara Evans once sang “a real fine place to start”.
Fun fact: On this day in 1999 Wayne Gretzky (Playing with the New York Rangers) played his only career game in Nashville. The Great One had 5 assists against the Predators and opened up a 1,000 point lead over Gordie Howe for the title of NHL’s all-time leading scorer.
I’m including this video complement for you guys to take in outlining the main differences between the Blue Jackets and Predators as the Jackets have (supposedly) put franchise winger Rick Nash on the trade block