Pressure is rising as the playoff race approaches the final stretch. The Nashville Predators must finish strong and earn home ice.
It has been an amazing run. The franchise-best 10 games win streak propelled the Nashville Predators not only to the top of the Central Division but to first in the Western Conference. Their lead, however, is only six points. The current streak will not last forever. Sad, but true.
Even with the streak, the Predators have not gained separation from the rest of the league. Vegas’s recent stumbles have them looking up in the standings, but a 4-0 beating of the Detriot Red Wings may spawn new life. Winnipeg has won four straight while Minnesota’s streak sits at three. The Predators still have two games each against their division foes. Fifteen games remain. Six points are not insurmountable.
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With the remaining schedule in front of the Predators, the team’s focus must be clear.
Health and home ice
We all know what happened last year in the playoffs. Injuries were the midnight in an otherwise Cinderella story. The eighth-place Predators swept through the playoffs like a storm, only to fall short in the end due to players missing games. Ryan Ellis, Kevin Fiala, and Ryan Johansen all missed time due to injuries, while Mike Fisher‘s play was impacted from being hurt. The roster was not at full strength.
Right now, minus a mysterious upper-body injury to Roman Josi, the Nashville Predators are healthy. Not only that, but they possess depth not seen last year. At the end of last season, the Predators roster include three 20-goal scorers and seven players with 40 or more points. With 15 games left, the current roster has three 20-goal scores with four more within striking distance and seven players with 40+ points. There are also more 20+ point scorers this year than last year. Furthermore, with the ability to add Fisher and Ryan Hartman, the Predator are the most talented team in the NHL.
The healthy and depth of the roster means when one player goes out, someone else will step up. We have witnessed it all season long. It is why the Predators are leading the Western Conference. If they want to win the Stanley Cup, the must-win home ice. But, they cannot be concerned about the Eastern Conference.
Right now, Tampa Bay leads the Predators by a single point for best in the NHL. Rarely, however, does the best team in the league win the Stanley Cup. It has only happened eight times since 1985 And, while the Predators do have the fewest road losses in the NHL, Bridgestone is where the Predators thrive.
So, Coach Laviolette, keep giving days off to players to allow rest. Going into the playoffs healthy will be crucial. While I want the team to win every game, it is not going to happen. Just get home ice.