After winning six of possible eight points on the road, the Nashville Predators must stand tall at home, now just one point out of first in the West.
Coming off a long week of hockey on the road that included two overtime games, and two shootout finishes, the Nashville Predators are finally headed home. Nashville beat the Islanders 5-4 in OT, lost 3-2 in a shootout to Toronto, lost 4-3 to Ottawa in overtime, and beat Montreal 3-2 in a shootout this week.
Now, with six of a possible eight points in their pocket, the Predators face a four-game homestand. Although they only won two of the four games, securing the extra points was huge for the Predators. Nashville is two points ahead of Winnipeg and four ahead of St. Louis in the Central division. The lone team above Nashville is Vegas, one point ahead in the Western Conference.
During this upcoming homestand, Nashville faces St. Louis, Calgary, Detroit, and Ottawa. At the same time, Vegas will be in the middle of a home stretch that extends until February 23rd. This stretch is crucial for Nashville
Top Dog in the West
With the exception of St. Louis on Tuesday night, this is an easier stretch of the Predators schedule. Dominating inferior teams, and not playing to the level of your competition is something that Nashville has struggled with this season. If they want to be a championship team, they must learn to put a beat down on weaker teams.
Calgary, Detroit, and Ottawa are all teams that the Predators are just flat out better than. Those three games need to be a guaranteed six points.
At the same time, Vegas will be playing some of the weaker teams in the league, meaning that they will most likely rack up points. In order to hang with the best in the West, Nashville must be able to defend home ice and take easier points when they are given the chance.
In order to prove to themselves and the league that they really are a championship team, the Predators must be able to win at home and on the road, and not just be streaky.
Sure, Nashville has had its share of streaks this year, however, championship teams are consistent, not lucky. The Predators must capitalize at home, with lesser opponents on deck, and make a push for the #1 spot in the West.
Different Man Each Night
Although the Predators were not amazing on their road trip, they were able to scrap together timely goals and big plays to keep themselves in it. Most impressive of them all is Pekka Rinne, who is 9-0-1 in his last 10 starts.
When Rinne is in net, the Predators are at an advantage and need to be able to capitalize off of his play. Over his last 10 starts, Rinne has accumulated a .938 save percentage and a 1.9 GAA, both just a few points off the league lead.
Simply put, he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.
Other individual performances as of late have been noteworthy as well, as it seems that a different Predator steps up each night to take over the game.
P.K. Subban has 5 points in his last five games, including a 2 goal performance in Ottawa a few nights ago. He has tied his career high in goals already with 15 and has the most of any NHL defenseman.
Kevin Fiala has 5 goals in his last 5 games, including two multi-goal games in a row.
Roman Josi has been eating up minutes and playing solid defense for the Predators, while also contributing on offense, and generating tons of shots from the point.
With a new player stepping up seemingly every night, it makes Nashville hard to defend. The offense is coming in all shapes and sizes, making Nashville dangerous at any moment. Being able to generate deadly offense from all areas of the ice, and with multiple players and lines is crucial for a team in the playoffs.
Now back at home, and playing a very balanced, dangerous game, the Predators need to make a push for first place in the West. Vegas is not invincible, and the Predators are right behind the new guys.