A strong end to 2017 can put the Nashville Predators in a perfect spot to compete for home ice advantage in the 2018 playoffs.
With the holidays approaching, people really recognize what they are grateful for. It is no secret that Nashville Predator fans are grateful for the success their team has had so far this season. There are many characteristics the team possesses that fans can look at to predict a great remainder of the season for their team. A strong end to 2017 can greatly enhance the possibility of future success and achievement of goals for the Predators.
With a strong finish in 2017, the Nashville Predators could give themselves an opportunity to win first place in the central division. In close company with St. Louis and Winnipeg, it is necessary that the Preds use this time to their advantage and move above these other teams. The Preds were 18-7-4 in their first 29 games this season, which is a great start. Recently, Winnipeg has lost their last three away games and have let in at least four goals in each. In addition, in St. Louis’s recent win against Detroit, they lost forward Jaden Schwartz to injury. Schwartz has 14 goals and 35 points so far this season. The loss of him for the next 6+ weeks could greatly affect the Blues production.
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It would be ignorant to say that, due to the situations in St. Louis and Winnipeg, it will be easy for the Preds to rise to the top of their division. However; the Preds are at the top of their game right now. Since acquiring Turris in the beginning of November, the Preds are 10-2-2. The team has no control over what happens the rest of the year for Winnipeg or St. Louis, however; they can use the confidence they have built to end 2017 on a high note for their team.
It is necessary that the Preds stay focused the remainder of this year and into next year in order to obtain one of those top spots in the Central Division. If the Preds fall into first or second place in the division, they will gain home ice advantage during the playoffs. While home ice advantage is always nice, home ice advantage has a different meaning for Nashville during the playoffs. Nashville was 9-2 during the 2017 playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. The Preds have confidence when playing in this loud building that is known to others around the league as a difficult place to play.
Unfortunately, Winnipeg is beginning to find confidence in their building, as well. They are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games at Bell MTS Place. A shaky end to 2017 could cause the Preds to fall into a place where they would play Winnipeg in the playoffs with Winnipeg having home ice.
It is interesting how momentum can swing for or against a team based on the building they are playing in. It is also interesting how games that may not seem like a big deal can have a big impact on the fate of a team. Games at the end of the year may seem to have little importance amist all the holiday gatherings. However; with a strong finish to 2017, the Preds could put themselves in a place that allows for continued competitiveness for the top spot in the Central.
With the success the Nashville Predators have had so far this season, it is easy to forget that Ryan Ellis has not played all season. Ellis has been out due to a knee injury after getting 16 goals and 38 points in the 2016-2017 regular season. He is arguably the Preds best defensemen and is likely to return in the new year.
If the Preds can finish out 2017 strong without their associate captain, Ellis, the future looks bright for this team. Upon Ellis’s return, Nashville’s blueline will be even better than it already is allowing the team to build on the success they have had so far this season.
Clearly, much is required of the Preds to end the season as the great team they have been to start the season. It is essential to go out of 2017 on a positive note and bring the established momentum into 2018. This will put Nashville in the perfect position to fight for the playoff spot they deserve. Then the real fun begins.