Oh January, we hardly knew ye. This was the month filled with frigid winter temperatures, overblown meteorological warnings, and Hollywood rolling out whatever movies get stuck between the sofa cushions. It was also the month that sidelined Pekka Rinne with a knee sprain and finally handed the Nashville Predators back to back losses (twice!). It wasn’t all bad for the hometown team though. They compiled a respectable 7-2-3 record during the bitter cold, earning 17 out of a possible 24 points.
Good riddance to that silly month though. It’s time to bring on February, the month of love. Women can look forward to waiting anxiously for what their men have planned for Valentine’s Day, and men can look forward to
planning an elaborate, romantic frantically searching Walgreens on February 13th hoping to snag the last box of chocolates and a Valentine’s card that doesn’t feature a “Peanuts” character. Bring on the romance.
Home Sweet Home
The Predators do have a sweetheart this season: playing at home. They have compiled an astounding 19-2-1 record inside Bridgestone Arena, and that bodes well for the team in February, as they play 10 of their 15 games down on Broadway, and no team has a better winning percentage in their own barn this year (.826) than the team from Nashville. They’re going to want to keep that mojo going now, because this is the time that the Preds can really put a stranglehold on the rest of the Central Division and separate themselves from the pack, but it isn’t going to be a cakewalk.
This month, Nashville plays eight teams who currently occupy playoff spots. However, there is good news. They only play two of those games on the road. This means that the toughest teams the Predators play this month have to play in the toughest arena in hockey.
February Schedule Highlights
- The Preds aren’t easing into February by any means. Four of their first six games come against legitimate Stanley Cup contenders as they take on the Penguins, Ducks, Rangers, and Lightning. Luckily, the only one of those that they travel for is the game in Pittsburgh on the 1st. That run will serve as a litmus test for the team to see where they stand against the best teams in the league.
- February 3rd the Preds host the Toronto Maple Leafs. As you may remember, the fans in Toronto really stepped up for America back on November 18th. Wouldn’t it be something if the fans here in Nashville repaid their kindness with our own brand of Southern hospitality? Just bring a copy of “O, Canada” to the game and sing along. As much as it pains me to say this: We owe those crazy Torontonians.
- Roman Josi Bobblehead Night is February 7th against the Rangers. The kid done good, and now he’s got his own bobblehead. I assume that’s the apex of being an NHL player.
- Hopefully your relationship is a hockey filled one, because the New Jersey Devils come to town on Valentine’s Day. I recommend going to this game if your significant other allows it. The team does really sweet Valentine’s Day themed events all throughout Bridgestone Arena. It’s kinda hokey, but still fun. I also mention this because they are playing the Devils and it gives me the chance to show my favorite clip from Seinfeld.
- There are two stretches of back to back games this month. The first comes February 7-8 when the Preds take on the Rangers at home, and then travel down to Sunrise, Florida for an afternoon game against the Panthers. The second round of back to back games comes up the 21st and 22nd when the team travels to Philadelphia and then flies up to Buffalo for a scrimmage against the Connor McDavid race-leading Buffalo Sabres.
- Interestingly, there are five afternoon games this month, so be on the lookout for that as you plan your own hockey schedules.
- 10 of the 15 games this month are against Eastern Conference teams, which is the most against the East for any month of the season.
- Nashville gets home stands of 3, 4, and 3 games at home this month.
- The Preds round out the month with a three game home stand against the Avs, Wild, and Red Wings. Look for Nashville to take for some revenge on the 28th against their former division rivals with a healthy Pekka Rinne. Speaking of that guy…
Pekka Comes Back
The Smashville faithful are going to love this. Rinne makes his return sometime this month. The long national nightmare will soon be over. Rinne is traveling with the team on the road at the moment, leading many to believe that his return is imminent. I’m sure he’s ready to get back on the ice and continue his Vezina campaign that has come under attack as of late by some great goaltending around the league.
While I could see him coming back soon, I would personally rather make sure he is 100% healed and ready for the stretch run. This season isn’t getting any easier, and Pekka’s going to have to Pekka like he’s never Pekka-ed before if the Predators are going to win the Central and make a deep playoff run.
There are some pretty big tests coming up this month. The Penguins, Rangers, Ducks, Islanders and Lightning are all very good teams coming up on the schedule. If the Predators expect to go deep in the playoffs, these are the types of teams they’re going to have to play well against. I think they will. With the emergence of Colin Wilson and Craig Smith as legitimate, any time threats, opposing coaches now have the nightmarish task of deciding how to defend against two lines full of speedy snipers and crafty veteran scorers. Oh yeah, and just to make things tougher, five of Nashville’s top eleven point-getters are defensemen.
This is a team with a lot of balance that can strike from anywhere, at any time. Peter Laviolette’s system has taken hold in Music City and those rewards are being reaped by the entire team. The Predators averaged 3.25 goals per game in January and I look for them to improve upon that in February.
I see the Preds taking care of business at home this month. They score enough goals with Rinne out to keep first place in the Central, and then go gangbusters on the league when he returns. But I do see them dropping a really dumb game somewhere away from home, probably in Philly on the 21st. I don’t know why, I just see that as a trap game. Overall, the team goes 9-3-3 and retains control of Central Division. St. Louis has to cool off eventually, right?
Calle “Iron Hook” Jarnkrok really gets going this month, potting four goals and tallying seven helpers for eleven points. I really like the way he’s been playing lately. It just hasn’t translated to the scoresheet. February is his month. Also, a Shea Weber slapshot gets lodged in the Zamboni door, delaying a game for seven minutes. Oh and if you have any out of this world Valentine’s Day suggestions, leave them in the comments or find me on Twitter @RobertfromTN. Otherwise my girlfriend will be looking forward to a lovely Snoopy card this year.
Statistics from www.nhl.com and www.nashvillepredators.com