With the calendar flipping to February, focus for all teams is making the playoffs. With the trade deadline close, the Nashville Predators should stay put.
Welcome to February, where every goal matters and the referees still do not understand goalie interference. Teams are looking to gain every point in the standings possible. Thankfully, the Nashville Predators are close to the top of the division and within striking distance of gaining home ice throughout the playoffs. A mere five points separate them from Vegas. (Thank you, Minnesota for winning last night).
The focus is now on making it to the playoffs. Every team who believes they are in the hunt for the cup will attempt to improve their roster. No team in the Central Division is out of contention. Not even the last place Chicago Blackhawks, who are six points out of the second wild-card spot. Jumping five teams will be a challenge, however.
Teams across the NHL will start to talk and bid for the reinforcements needed to make a run. After watching the Predators dominate the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, staying put is in their best interest.
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As I am sure you are aware, Thursday’s game was the first time all season the Nashville Predators’ roster was at full-strength. The season started with Ryan Ellis on injured reserved. By the time he came back, Filip Forsberg was out of the line-up. Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen, and Scott Hartnell all missed time. Throughout the season big names on the roster missed time. Still, the team powered through and won games.
Now, everyone is back healthy just in time for Filbruary. And this team is loaded. Just watching the opening period on Thursday let everyone know the Predators are ready for the playoffs. Finally, the power play looked inventive. The defense kept opponents out of the slot and high-danger area. And every goal for the Predators came at the net.
If you want to view paradise, just look at the center position. Ryan Johansen may not be generating the points he did last year, but 26 assists cannot be ignored. Now that Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson return to the team’s top line, watch scoring increase.
The second line is anchored by Kyle Turris. While his 5v5 production is not what the team hopes, Turris is helping the power-play look powerful. Part of the issue was lineup changes as Kevin Fiala floated from line to line due to injuries. When Turris is paired with Fiala and Craig Smith, the second line dominates possess. The line has a CorsiFor of 57.73% and generated 64 high-danger chances during 5v5 in 33 games. Without Fiala, those numbers drop to 45.98% and 17 HDC.
Add Mike Fisher and the depth looks impossible to stop. Of course, that depends on how well Fisher plays.
With Ellis back, the Nashville Predators’ defense is back to legendary production. Ellis is paired with captain Roman Josi. It is just what the team needed. In 11 games, the pairing has allowed 5 opponent goals in 5v5; however, they have notched 8 goals themselves. Ellis and Josi deny shots, with a FenwickFor of 58.04%. Without them on the ice, the team has allowed 270 high-danger chances while gaining only 220. With them, it is 35 HDCF versus 21 HDCA.
The pairing of Alexei Emelin and P.K. Subban has not performed as well. With a CorsiFor of 48.77, the Emelin-Subban pair has allowed 122 high-danger chances, leading to 11 goals. Just for reference, the pair as allowed 16 goals all year at 5v5.
Now, if Mattias Ekholm is slated with Subban, things change. Their CorsiFor is 54.65%, allowing 7 total goals. But, opponents have 5 goals in high danger areas in 23 chances.
No Upgrades needed
Look at the roster. What does this team need right now? Rumors brew saying David Poile is looking for a top-six winger. Honestly, the team does not need it.
“But wait? Aren’t you the guy that said there are cracks in Poile’s armor?” Yes, because I had questions about the moves of McLeod and Fisher. They seem to be outside his normal philosophy. I still trust his judgment. Still, this team is loaded already. Is he going to move a piece to rent Evander Kane for the rest of the year? There is not much cap space next year for the team to sign a player long-term.
The top two lines are ferocious and there is enough talent on the third and fourth lines. The defense is already one of the league’s best. If the Nashville Predators play the rest of the season like they did against the Kings, the roster is already set to contend for the Cup.