The longer the 2013 NHL season goes on, the more this year’s Nashville Predators team is beginning to resemble the 2008-09 Preds squad. In case you’ve blocked it from your memory, that was the only time in the last eight seasons that there wasn’t postseason hockey in Nashville. It was also the only time the Columbus Blue Jackets made the playoffs, almost exclusively because they finished four points ahead of Nashville in the Central Division. That season was such an anomaly that most Nashville fans probably don’t think about it much. But as of Sunday there’s plenty of reason to look back and wonder if it’s not a harbinger of what’s to come in the final half of the 2013 season. What reason is that, you ask? Just the Blue Jackets’ fifth consecutive win.
Yes, you read that right. The same Columbus Blue Jackets squad that was 5-12-3 on March 1st has improved its record to 10-12-4 in just 10 days. Their five-game winning streak is the longest in the league right now and it has them on the heels of the Nashville Predators. With a Columbus win tomorrow night and a Nashville loss, the Preds would technically remain in fourth place on a tiebreaker because they’ve played one less game. But both teams would have 26 points after heading in opposite directions over the last two weeks.
Now, Columbus isn’t there yet. They could very well start being Columbus again tomorrow. Their next two games are against the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks, teams the Blue Jackets have defeated (Canucks) and played very close (Blackhawks) who expect more from themselves against the Jackets. Regardless, being in a position to fall behind Columbus is pretty much the opposite of what Nashville Predators management was selling to the local market after it spent $159 million on Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne and came up short of convincing Ryan Suter to join the money party. It’s not what fans have been told to expect, and it’s not the kind of performance that’s going to extend the home-game sellout streak too much further than the 25 it’s at right now. Good will has its limits.
Fifth place in the Central Division wouldn’t be the end of things with 22 more games to play. It might even serve as a wake-up call to a team that’s been underperforming nearly all season. I just know that I would feel a lot better if the Preds were to avoid getting themselves in that position in the first place. It’s going to be tough missing both Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson. But who knows? Maybe all that character David Poile likes to draft so often will start showing up on the ice and propel this season’s Nashville Predators to a Columbus Blue Jackets-like winning streak.