Nashville Predators must make statement on home ice in January

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The last few weeks have not gone well for the Nashville Predators. Home cooking may be the answer. January is a crucial month for home ice in the playoffs.

It hasn’t been fun. Going 4-4-2 in their last 10 games is not what fans of the Nashville Predators were hoping to see. Neither was the team. Yet, it happened.

It didn’t have to be this way. Sure, losing to quality teams on the road is to be expected from time to time. But, whether it is at home or on the road, the Predators lost to teams they “should” beat. That is why they play the games on ice, not on paper. Strike it up to the “any team can beat any other team at any time” cliché. Or, “every team will slump.”

Well, now is the time for that slump to end. Even without Filip Forsberg on the ice for the rest of the month, the Predators must win more than four of their seven games in January.

Set for success

Let’s be honest, the Predators should win four or more games this month. The schedule is set up perfectly for them to do so. Their next five games are on the Bridgestone Arena playing surface. Additionally, those five games are stretched over 14 days. Even better, after tonight’s game versus the struggling Edmonton Oilers, the Predators will enjoy a week off before their next game. Obviously, there will be practices and film-study sessions. There has to be. Because after this week is completed, the Predators get one last shot at the most surprising team in all of the NHL.

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The Vegas Golden Knights. At home. With the season series standing at 0-1-1 against the Western Conference’s top team, seven days off will do the Predators well. But, as karma would have it, the Golden Knights only play one game between now and next Tuesdays.

And it is against Edmonton. Well played, NHL schedule. Well played.

After the bout with Vegas, the Predators look for revenge against Arizona, then face the Florida Panthers. To me, those games appear to be great warmups for their next match, one which could cement the Predators’ postseason dreams. The only team that has yet to lose double-digit games this season, end the two-week stretch of games at Bridgestone.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are good, so good that many people are ready to hand them the Stanley Cup trophy. But, everyone was ready to hand the Cup to the Washington Capitals several times over the year. They are still waiting. A win against Tampa would do wonders for the Predators’ confidence. Especially if it is without Forsberg.

Next act

Five games. Fourteen days. All at home. It is the best stretch for the Nashville Predators for the remainder of the season. And, while the team is mostly healthy, everyone is beat-up in some way. Pekka Rinne needs a break if he will be our go-to goalie. Practicing with Ryan Ellis in his real role breeds chemistry on defense. The time off to rest the body and mind before Vegas is great. A four-game winning streak going into the game against Tampa rebuilds any lost confidence.

Then, they head to New Jersey, another tough game. To close out January, the Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks, who are currently the last place team in the Central Division. Still, I don’t trust them.

Could the Predators win seven games in a row before February? Yes. It is not impossible, but it will be tough. However, a 10-point stretch would do wonders for Nashville. In order to compete with home ice, 10-points will be needed. The division-leading Winnipeg Jet will enjoy a 10-game home stand starting January 30. After this week Nashville will only see four games in a row at Bridgestone.

Like all quality entertainment, how the acts progress matter greatly. Closing the second act of the season on a winning streak will only lead to an exciting finale.

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Let’s hope for an amazing sequel when the postseason arrives.