It’s going to take patience before we start seeing real results of the John Hynes coaching era, but getting the first win tonight would be nice.
This is uncharted territory for the Nashville Predators as they move forward with new head coach John Hynes. Only the third time in the franchise’s 20-plus years of existence.
Lost in all of this is that the Predators aren’t out of it, even though it seems like they’re 20 points out and have zero chance. As bad as it seems, and it’s pretty bad, they’re one long winning streak away from changing the mood quickly and being right back in the thick of things.
The question is does this team have what it takes to actually go on a long winning streak? Especially with all of the injuries and getting adjusted to a new head coach? They try to get their first win of a new era tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
What’s it going to take?
Well let’s start with tonight’s game with the Blackhawks. You have to start winning games against division opponents who you’re battling with for a wildcard spot. It’s one thing to take a loss to an Eastern Conference opponent like first-place Boston, but it hurts that much more when it’s to an average division opponent like Chicago.
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Tonight is a big matchup to see what the players are really made of. Hynes still hasn’t had much time to implement his system or for us to really see an impact. It’s on the players to go out and win it. Seems simple enough, but it’s true.
The Predators are one point ahead of the Blackhawks with two games in hand. They an create some separation with at least one division team tonight with a win.
Minnesota and Calgary are two other teams the Predators are chasing for a wildcard spot, and they play each other tonight. So the Predators are guaranteed to make up ground on one of them with a win tonight.
It’s a busy night in the NHL on this Thursday night, and the Predators can’t afford to take another loss to a mediocre team if they want to avoid being one of those mediocre teams at season’s end.
What to watch and expect
Hynes has finally had some time to practice with the team. He’s already starting to install some practice drills and get to know his new team, per Brooks Bratten of the Predators official website:
"“We just gave little components that I think are easy to instill that will make a little bit of a difference, and we’ll just continue to build on it. Some of the concepts were simple, and the good thing in the NHL is you’re dealing with elite guys and elite minds”"
There is a sense of fresh air in Nashville with Hynes coming in. This could definitely provide an initial spark under the Predators that can lead to a hot streak and stringing together some wins.
There’s five games left, including tonight, before the Predators go on their bye week where they’ll have eight days off. Will they head into that break with a new sense of hope and resurgence, or will they be further buried to the point where we’re certainly thinking about next season?
Focusing just on tonight’s game, this is a winnable game for the Predators. I didn’t feel that way on Tuesday night against Boston. That matchup seemed like the deck was stacked against the Predators with all of the circumstances involved.
The Predators are still going to be without some key players for tonight’s game. Ryan Ellis remains the big piece that’s missing as he’s currently on injured reserve from the hit he took in the Winter Classic.
So the Predators will have to keep relying on some youth and inexperience in the lineup to try to turn this thing around. Yakov Trenin and Colin Blackwell are vital players that have to assist in getting this team back in the hunt.
Trenin in particular has lived up to the challenge and playing his tail off. Things would be much worse if he wasn’t playing up to the level he’s been at. Blackwell is also playing hard and doing everything he can to fill the void.
The Blackhawks come in with a young, but talented, roster. Patrick Kane is still the leader and has 55 points this season. After Kane, there’s a huge drop-off in production with Jonathan Toew being the next closest at 31 points.
One of their young up-and-coming talents is rookie Dominik Kubalik who is up to 13 goals. He’s 2nd in the NHL among rookies in goals and is a player that the Predators will have to watch out for.
Alex DeBrincat is another rising star that the Predators have to keep tabs on. He’s 3rd on the team with 30 points. Don’t let this team’s position in the standings fool you. They’re capable of bursting out offensively.
It’s time for the proven veterans of the Nashville Predators to rise up and win a game for this team. Roman Josi is holding down his part of it, but players like Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Matt Duchene need to step up more consistently.
This game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 P.M. CDT from the United Center in Chicago. It will be televised on both Fox Sports Tennessee and on NBCSN.