Nashville Predators: Realistic Season Hopes Enter Critical Stretch

Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) and Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) and Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

During such a short regular season, the Nashville Predators are already nearly out of time to turn things around less than a month into the season.

In a normal 82-game schedule you can usually cling on the “it’s still early” motto for over a month into it. That’s not the case during a 56-game schedule for struggling teams like the Nashville Predators, who are just three weeks in.

The Predators are currently sitting near the bottom of the NHL standings with a 5-6-0 record. In terms of points percentage, the Predators’ standing looks even worse.

Point percentages will likely be the determining factor for the playoffs if teams don’t end up all playing an equal amount of games. More postponements due to COVID-19 are highly likely.

Things have to turn around now for the Nashville Predators

A challenging start to the schedule against teams like the Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have done a number on the Predators. The measuring stick has been set, and the Predators appear to be far off from the top tier teams in the NHL.

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It doesn’t get any easier for the Predators as they face the Lightning again on a back-to-back starting Monday, and this could make the tall hill to climb even more gruesome.

The Lightning basically skated circles around the Predators in their firs two matchups, although the Predators did put up a valiant effort in the second game to nearly tie it late in regulation.

The Predators have another opportunity to get their first statement win of the season. Their five wins are against the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and a thrilling comeback win over the Florida Panthers.

I’m already on record of saying I wouldn’t be surprised if the Predators restore some hope and play very well against Tampa Bay this time around.

But will that just restore false hope? You just never know what Predators team you’re going to get, even from period to period.

Thin margin for error remaining

Another thing that’s hurting the Predators is it’s taken them overtime to win three of their five games. Surrendering that extra point to the opposition could very well come into play later in the season if it’s a close race for that fourth spot.

Eventually the Predators are going to have to prove they can get wins over teams like Tampa Bay, Dallas, Carolina and Florida. They’re the top-four, although Columbus is making things interesting and hanging in there.

The bleak outlook for the Predators can change quickly if somehow they figure out a way to at least get three of four points from the Lightning. Then their schedule eases up a little with eight of their next ten games against Columbus and Detroit.

Perhaps the expectations were too lofty for some fans going into this season, but quite frankly they’re performing exactly how we thought they were, as one of our Predlines contributors accurately said recently:

All hope isn’t lost just yet

I still think the Predators can have a lot of success against the weaker teams in the division, continue to build chemistry with each other offensively and squeak out a fourth spot in the division.

This doesn’t mean I think they’ll do much even if they do get into the playoffs, but sometimes that’s all you’re asking for. A playoff berth and then you roll the dice and see what happens. Maybe you ride a hot Juuse Saros or Pekka Rinne in net and crazy things can happen.

Just ask any Predators fan from the 2016-17 season and you’ll know that sometimes you just have to win ugly and figure out a way into the playoff field. That can still happen for this Predators team and it wouldn’t surprise me that much.

Rinne has looked sharp in his last four periods of action dating back to the third period against the Panthers that helped in the comeback win.

The top core of the roster has to rise to the challenge from here on out. Filip Forsberg has certainly done that, but aside from him, a lot is left to be desired. Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund on Forsberg’s line is something the Predators can build off of.

There’s certainly been flashes, but not enough consistency.

This glaring issue has carried over from last season, unfortunately. The overall frustration surround the team is centered around the top-paid players on the team not producing at a high enough level to make this team anything more than painfully average at best.

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One thing is for certain; these next three weeks to round out February will be a turning point of selling off this season and entering a bigger rebuild or putting themselves right back into the thick of the Central Division for a top-four spot.