Nashville Predators March Preview



February wasn’t so nice to Tennessee and the Nashville area in particular. Winter finally got around to giving the area what it has been missing for the last few years and doused us with snow, ice, and terrible fear. Somewhere in between the mayhem and what I assume were Thunderdome style battles for the last of Kroger’s milk and bread, the Nashville Predators managed to play fifteen hockey games. There were ups and downs, big wins and bad losses. We said goodbye to some friends and said hello to some new (old) faces.

Your Nashville Predators had an up and down month. They started it off with a convincing 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, then lost later that week to the Anaheim Ducks 2-5 in Pekka Rinne’s return. After that embarrassing home loss, they rattled off six straight victories before a three game road trip in which they went 1-1-1 and played… well they didn’t play well in any of those games, but still came away with three points. and that’s all that really matters. They ended the month on a three game home stand that saw them go 1-2-0 for a February record of 10-4-1 but ending the month on the season’s first back-to-back regulation losses.

The Predators were very peculiar in February. They had great wins over the Penguins, Rangers, and Lightning. They also had losses in which they played terribly against the Ducks, Flyers, and Wild. Even in some of their wins they looked out of sorts at times.


Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli were brought back home in a trade with Toronto for  Brendan Leipsic, Olli Jokinen, and a 1st round draft pick on February 15. I say “brought back home” because both players were originally drafted by Nashville (Franson in ’05 Santorelli in ’04) before leaving at the beginning of the decade.

Franson has developed as you would expect a Nashville defensive product to develop. He represents the “big player” in the trade. While he’s not the blockbuster that some fans were hoping for, he adds even more depth and scoring to the blueline. He’s responsible with the puck, does fine work in his own zone, and has good offensive upside. He’s a major upgrade for the Predators and should be a great fit playing alongside Mattias Ekholm or Seth Jones. Franson also picked up his 51st point as a Predator in his second game back with team, assisting on a Mike Ribeiro goal.

Santorelli is a player the Predators desperately needed on the third line. The Preds third line scoring this year has been atrocious, but they have masked this fact with their defenseman. While he is by no means a game changer, he adds much needed offensive skill to the third line of forwards, adding a weapon that I’m sure coach Peter Laviolette can use to create havoc and mismatches with opposing teams.

Santorelli also brings a bit of diversity. He’s what baseball people would term a  “utility player”. He plays all three forward positions and can move up and down the lines. He also brings the Predators their much needed third “Mike” who plays center. One more and Coach Laviolette can unleash the dreaded “Quad-Mike Center Lineup” attack he’s obviously been planning for. Just for fun, in the last game of the season, Laviolette should put all the Mikes on the same line and let them play, just so Pete Weber can say “Mike to Mike, down to Mike, back across to Mike for the one timer- AND HE SCORES!!!” Come on. Everyone reading this wants to hear that call.

I don’t expect David Poile to do anything special on March 2nd. He has said that he’s pretty much done trading after the Santorelli/Franson deal. You might see him try to unload Anton Volchenkov, but I doubt he’ll be able to get much return on him. For better or worse, there aren’t many top line centers available right now. Even if there were, the Predators don’t really have any assets left to trade that don’t fundamentally change the make-up of the team. This late in the year, I doubt Poile wants to do that, especially after the fiasco of 2012. When you have the best record in the NHL, it’s usually best not to tinker with the core too much.


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  • The Predators play 15 games in March and it’s a veritable smorgasbord of pain. Twelve of those games are against teams who are either currently in a playoff spot or just barely on the outside fighting for one. While the Predators are definitely going to be in the playoffs, there’s still a lot on the line for them. They begin March with 89 points. They have a seven point lead over the Blues for first in the Central, and a four point lead over the Ducks for first in the West.

    Also, I’d say it’s late enough in the season to start talking about the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded each year to the NHL team with the most regular season points. Nashville still has that #1 spot, but Montreal is coming on strong with 85 points and a game in hand. Winning the Central division is the absolute first priority, but grabbing that extra piece of hardware would be one hell of a coup for a team that was picked by many to finish with one of the worst records in the NHL. Regardless, the Predators have a very rough road to travel if they want to stay atop the league standings.

    Speaking of travel, the Predators play 8 of 15 on the road this month, including a four game West Coast swing March 9-15 in which they get the pleasure of playing the Coyotes, Sharks, Kings, and Ducks consecutively. The Kings and Ducks come on back-to-back nights as well. That should be a blast. They also have tough games during trips to New York to face the Rangers, down to Tampa Bay for the Lightning, and to Washington to face Barry Trotz and the Capitals again. I wonder if the Capitals will do a “Filip Forsberg tribute”?


    • If you’re looking over the schedule for March and thinking to yourself “Didn’t we already play those guys?” you’re right. The Predators play nine teams in March that they played in February. Revenge is going to be fresh on the mind for at least one team each of those nights, so get ready for some fireworks.
    • No more blacked out games. Every game is available on FS-TN. Especially good is that there are no nationally televised games.
    • The Predators kick off the month with back-to-back games against the Rangers and the Devils away from home on the 2nd and 3rd. The Predators then have two more sets of back-to-backs on March 14-15 and 28-29. Only one of those six games (March 29th against the Flames) is at home. Ouch.
    • Seriously though, there are almost no “easy” games on this schedule. This is going to be a brutal month if the team doesn’t get it together quickly. Five of the eight away games are against teams who are probably going to be in the playoffs.
    • Beware the Ides of March. March 15th is Nashville’s date against Anaheim. Not sure who Caesar is supposed to be in this scenario, but let’s hope it’s the Ducks. “Et tu Forsberg?”
    • St. Patrick’s Day comes on the 17th as it is wont to do, and the Minnesota Wild come to town to help celebrate (just be glad it wasn’t the Blackhawks with their fans). Make sure to change out of your green back into Predators’ Gold before the game, and yeah, you should probably call a cab.
    • A week later, on the 24th, the Predators face off against the Montreal Canadiens. That should be an epic showdown of two Vezina candidate goalies in Pekka Rinne and Carey Price. It could also go a long way in deciding which team wins the Presidents’ Trophy, as there are only eight more games in the regular season after that one.
    • Sunday, March 29th is Lupus Awareness Night. This is near and dear to me for two reasons. The first is that there are two people very close to me who have lupus and this foundation means a lot to them. The second, of course, is that it gives me a reason for more Seinfeld.


    The Predators are coming down the home stretch in great position despite some shaky play as of late. There hasn’t been a team in Nashville with such high expectations since Eddie George was still a Titan. David Poile has made the moves to put this team in position for a deep playoff run, but that all starts with a strong finish to the season.

    Roman Josi played at a point per game level in February, so look for him to keep that up. He’s actually passed Shea Weber in points by a defenseman on the team. Santorelli hasn’t gotten on the scoresheet for the Predators yet, but that should change very soon. Likewise, Franson should start gelling with the rest of the defensive corps and get into a groove as the team drives towards the playoffs.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if Laviolette keeps switching up the line combinations going forward. Lately, Matt Cullen has been playing on the second line and bumped Colin Wilson down to the third in order to create more balance. I have a feeling that this won’t last. With the way Wilson was playing in the top-six, I would expect him to go back soon. He hasn’t registered a point since the 21st of February against Philadelphia.

    March is going to be tough for Nashville. I wouldn’t be surprised if they slipped a bit and the Central Division race got a little tighter. That being said, they’re going to beat the Kings and Ducks on consecutive nights. They almost got embarrassed by the Kings the last time they played, and got very embarrassed by the Ducks at home. The retribution will be swift and just.

    They go 9-2-4 in March and still in control of the Central and the West, but tied for the NHL lead in points with the Canadiens.


    Feb 28, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones (3) prior to the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    Seth Jones regains that groove he had mid-way through February and scores four goals and six assists in March. He’s played (mostly) great hockey lately. It seems like he’s very close to having it all together and really breaking out as an elite NHL defenseman.

    Josi keeps up his scoring pace and starts to really pull away from Shea Weber for the lead in points by a defenseman. Weber “accidentally” hits Josi with a slapshot during practice and all of a sudden Weber starts getting the puck more often (hey, he’s done it before).


    In my February preview I predicted that the Predators would lose to the Flyers and that the team would go 9-3-3. They lost to the Flyers and went 10-4-1. So I got the game right and the number of points. Not bad.

    I also predicted that Calle Jarnkrok would put up 11 points. He put up one goal and one assist. Hey, that’s why it’s a bold prediction, not a “Oh this is totally going to happen so I’m going to ‘predict’ it” prediction.

    Also, Weber didn’t get a puck stuck in the Zamboni door. I was way off base in that one.