It’s a night and day difference from last month to this month for the Nashville Predators. They’re reeling off wins and it’s coming against quality teams.
First off, an early Merry Christmas to everyone. The Nashville Predators have a short break, as does the rest of the NHL, has a three-day break for Christmas to spend with their family and friends. It’s awesome that the NHL does this for their players, coaches and other league employees.
Now to get to last night’s win over the Arizona Coyotes. The Predators added another quality win to their credit as the Coyotes are a first-place team and the top team in the league in terms of giving up goals per game.
The Predators didn’t pile on the goals like they have in previous games, but they scored three and combined that with solid defense and strong goaltending from Pekka Rinne. The win puts the Predators just one points behind Calgary for the final wildcard spot, and they still have games in hand over the entire Western Conference.
Roman Josi keeps charging
What a night, and what a season, it’s been for Roman Josi. His recent stellar play continued last night as he tallied a goal midway through the third period to make it 3-1 in favor of the Predators. He’s now scored a goal in five-straight games, which is a franchise record and the first time it’s happened in the NHL by a defenseman since 2009:
I wrote back in September that Josi is going to have a season that’s going to get him closer than ever before to a Norris Trophy for the league’s best defenseman. I’m feeling better and more confident after each game about that prediction.
Josi is already up to 14 goals on the season, which is one shy of his career high. He’s also leading the league among defensemen right now with those 14 goals and second among defensemen in points with 35. John Carlson has 48 points for the Capitals, who is probably Josi’s only competition for the Norris Trophy.
This team has a lot of guys playing well, but Josi is by far the team MVP. He’s living up to his new contract and not letting up. That’s a refreshing thing to see as a fan when you see a player elevating his game after receiving a massive contract extension.
Believe it or not, the Predators haven’t had a 70-plus point scorer in a season since 2007-2008 when Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont both did it. It looks highly likely Josi will break that drought as long as he stays healthy.
Other notes from the game
The Predators busted out of the gate early in this one, peppering Arizona goaltender Antti Raanta with shot after shot. They had 22 shots in the first period, but only managed one goal to show for it.
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Filip Forsberg got the scoring started finally, but this one was generated by Josi’s shot initially. It bounced around and Forsberg was there for the rebound to punch it past Raanta. It was Josi’s 21st assist of the season, and Forsberg’s 14th goal to give him the team-lead in goals.
The Predators really had to work hard in this one, which was expected. The big thing to pull away from this one is the Predators kept plugging away, as they’ve been doing a lot of lately to have this recent success. They’re staying relentless on the forecheck and sustaining the pressure.
Viktor Arvidsson scored next to make it 2-0 Predators, and this one comes in just his second game back from injury. It’s his first goal since November 2nd against the Rangers and his 7th goal of the season, but he’s played in just 24 games.
Arizona would stick around and finally break past Rinne to cut the lead in half. Rinne was locked in for the most part, but this goal by Lawson Crouse was a product of an outstanding pass from end-to-end and Crouse catching the entire Predators defense napping a bit.
This game remained close and hinging back and forth all the way until the end. The Predators persevered, and Rinne was solid enough to get the win. It’s another milestone achievement for Rinne as he moves past Evgeni Nabokov for 20th place in all-time wins.
Rinne’s win last night was his 354th of his illustrious career. He made 26 saves on 28 shots last night and had a pretty good game. He’s allowed three goals or less and had a plus-90 save percentage in his last three starts now.
Colin Blackwell registered his first career point in the NHL on Josi’s goal. He’s been outstanding during his six games with the Predators this season, but he has been reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals, which tells me Austin Watson is going to return to the starting lineup.
Whatever doubt we had just two weeks ago is gradually fading after what the Predators have managed to do recently. They’re 6-2-2 in their last ten, beating quality teams, within two points of Winnipeg and Dallas for a top-three spot in the division and they’re one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league.
Up next the Predators have a back-to-back against the Pittsburgh Penguins, so the schedule isn’t letting up at all. They’ll play first at home on Friday, and then travel to Pittsburgh for a Saturday night showdown. I’ll be pleased with a split as the Penguins are on fire right now.