It’s been a fairly successful four-game road trip so far for the Nashville Predators, but a tough game against the Boston Bruins will finish it off.
This has been widely considered a critical road trip for the Nashville Predators. They started it off strong with two wins in back-to-back nights over the New York Rangers and New York Islanders. They followed that up with a disappointing overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators after their comeback attempt fell short.
The big news going into this one is the possibility of getting Viktor Arvidsson back into the starting lineup tonight. He’s been participating in morning skates and getting closer to returning. He hasn’t played in a game in nearly a month when the Predators beat the St.Louis Blues on November 23rd.
Now the Predators take on the Boston Bruins, which is a team that’s leading the Atlantic Division by a wide margin and has only lost one game in regulation at home all season. However, they do have seven overtime losses at home, which is incredible to think about.
The Bruins have figured out ways to get points even on night when they’re not playing their best, hence their eight overtime losses and only seven regulation losses. They haven’t exactly been tearing through their schedule as of late with a 3-4-3 record in their last ten games.
Are the Predators really improving?
Have the Predators given us any real reason to believe November was a fluke and that they’re going to kick it into another gear and make the playoffs? I’ve been saying that December will reveal that answer to us, and it’s been a mixed bag so far.
The Predators are certainly living up to their offensive expectations and remaining one of the most high-scoring teams in the NHL at 3.47 goals per game. Problem is they aren’t consistent defensively and give up scoring spurts of their own in what seems like every game.
This happened against Ottawa on Thursday night when they fell asleep in the second period and the opposition seized control of the game. They woke up and made a solid effort to tie it up with three unanswered goals of their own, but a terrible second period kept them from getting the two points that they should’ve gotten against an inferior opponent.
The Predators have plenty of quality wins this season over teams like Washington, Vegas, St.Louis and the New York Islanders. They can certainly beat anyone in this league on any given night, including giving Boston just their second regulation loss of the season at home.
What’s frustrating is the Predators are also capable of losing to anyone and putting out a dud performance on any given night. This team is incredibly hard to predict, and that doesn’t translate well to making the playoffs or having any kind of sustained success if you do make the playoffs.
What stands out for tonight
Well it looks like Pekka Rinne will get another start after surrendering some starts to Juuse Saros as of late. Rinne was in the starter’s crease this morning, per Chris Mason of Fox Sports Tennessee:
Rinne has given up three or more goals in eight of his last ten starts. He has a shutout over Carolina sprinkled among those games, but it’s certainly been a rough stretch for him since starting the season 8-0-2. The Predators really need him to break out of his funk, but better defense in front of him is needed as well.
Yakov Trenin has been reassigned to Milwaukee after having a fairly successful five-game stint with Nashville. He also played one game early on in the season. He managed a goal and an assist to go along with 14 hits in those six games.
Now who replaces him in the lineup tonight? Could we see another new player get inserted in. Peter Laviolette says so, per Brooks Bratten of the Predators official website:
Well they’re really not “new” players, but it looks like Mikael Granlund and Viktor Arvidsson could be coming back to the lineup. This is way earlier than I expected Arvidsson to be back, even though it does fall barely into the window of his four-to-six week timetable for his initial injury.
Granlund is projected to be back on the second line, but with Rocco Grimaldi as the other winger. Interesting choice there that I’m not so sure about.
Then you have the big one. Filip Forsberg is projected to be on the fourth line, and Austin Watson will be healthy scratched. Many have been calling for Watson to be scratched from the lineup for a while now, but seeing Forsberg on the fourth line is strange to say the least.
I’m all for creativity, but these lineup combinations are unsettling. Tonight has the makings for a very rough game against a high-scoring and efficient offense playing in front of their home crowd. Combine that with shaky goaltending from Rinne and I’m not very confident heading into this one tonight.
We’ve seen the Predators follow up head-scratching losses with impressive wins before this season. Let’s see if they can do that again and finish this road trip off with seven out of a possible eight points.
I’ll end with this crazy point projection and Stanley Cup odds from MoneyPuck.com. As of Friday, they have the Predators with a 75 percent chance to make the playoffs and a seven percent chance to win the Stanley Cup, which is the highest projection they have in the NHL. Yes, I’m just as confused as you are:
This one is scheduled to start at 6 P.M. CDT and televised on Fox Sports Tennessee with the always excellent crew of Willy Daunic, Chris Mason and Lyndsay Rowley. Fans are lucky to have such an awesome crew to call all of the local games.
Stranger things have happened, so let’s get ready to see this ever-shifting lineup go out and get a big two points on the road against a first-place team.