There are all sorts of reasons to love this year’s Nashville Predators. Just the fact that they’re here is a good place to start – given how entrenched the two sides were during the lockout, it’s a minor miracle that the Preds are playing at all this season. Fans greeted them with open arms for the home opener, standing outside Bridgestone Arena to welcome their team back.
Since then the team has had its ups and downs, with more of the former than the latter. Colin Wilson (4G-4A), for instance, has been having a great season so far. He adds size, strength, a keen eye for the pass, and youthful vigor to Nashville’s top lines.
Patric Hornqvist (1G-3A) was also having a great season before being injured against the Anaheim Ducks. Thankfully the injury wasn’t extremely serious. He’s resumed skating as is expected to return to the lineup in the coming weeks.
Shea Weber (0G-1A) has struggled offensively but his defensive prowess is as sharp as ever. Without him on the top pair, the Preds’ game plan wouldn’t work nearly as well.
Kevin Klein (1G-4A) has looked better than ever this year: still a solid defensive presence, but with some added offensive punch. He eats up big minutes and factors heavily on the penalty kill, giving Preds fans lots of reasons to show him love.
This month the team has really rallied around Pekka Rinne (5-3-3, 1.75 GAA, .934 SV%), who’s being talked about as a serious contender for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Pekka has been nearly unbeatable at even strength in February, and even on the penalty kill he’s one of the toughest in the league to beat. When the team works as hard as he does, they’ve very tough to beat.
Ryan Ellis (2G-3A) continues to develop this season. It’s not uncommon to see him take charge and direct his more senior teammates on the ice during a play, making him a valuable presence in just his second NHL season.
There’s been plenty of adversity this season, with the offense and power play struggling and injuries striking key players. The tough times bring the team closer together, which makes the good times even better when they arrive.
Paul Gaustad (1G-2A) has been critical to Nashville’s successes this season. He’s second in the league in faceoff winning percentage (62.4 percent) and plays a critical role on the top penalty killing unit.
Even Rich Clune (1G-0A) has begun to feel some of the love after taking on anyone and everyone in an attempt to win a spot in Coach Barry Trotz’s lineup.
A win over the Phoenix Coyotes tonight would be even more reason to shower the Preds with affection. Whatever happens, though, one thing is for sure: it’s been great to have the team back on the ice playing hockey.