You know what would put the brakes on this surge by the Nashville Predators that’s sparking talks about playoffs? An unceremonious and no-show loss to the Detroit Red Wings tonight.
We’ve already seen the Predators lose twice to the Red Wings this season, and don’t think it can’t happen again. But with that said, you can’t deny that the Predators are onto something and finally starting to find some team wide chemistry.
After a surprisingly successful road trip that saw the team go 4-3-1 over a two week timespan, the Predators now just sit four points out of the final playoff spot.
There’s a wide gap between the top-three and the fourth spot, so there’s going to be three to four teams fighting for one spot down the stretch.
The dust is still settling on the Tim Peel controversy that caught him saying on a hot mic that he intended on calling a penalty on the Nashville Predators sooner. It brings up the well-known practice of “makeup calls” that referees seem to make, and also puts the NHL in a bad spot.
Most applaud the NHL’s decision to act swiftly and not allow Peel to officiate anymore NHL games as his planned retirement was already almost here, but some are actually calling it an overreaction.
Either way, all eyes will naturally be tuned into how the game is officiated tonight and if there’s any disparity with penalties that are called. Hopefully it doesn’t disrupt the natural flow of the game.
Nashville Predators can’t beat themselves
The table is set pretty nicely for the Predators to continue this surge past tonight’s game. The Red Wings have virtually no offensive firepower to speak of while also having average at best goaltending with Thomas Greiss and Jonathan Bernier.
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Bernier is dealing with a leg injury that kept him out for Tuesday’s game, and it remains unclear if he’ll be available tonight.
The Predators struggled to get much of anything against Bernier in three matchups against him already this season, so we’ll have to keep an eye on this throughout the day to see if he becomes available to start. If not, we’ll see Greiss again, or even Calvin Pickard who was an emergency call-up last week.
This would be the proverbial “trap game” for the Predators tonight, although I don’t think the Predators have any business calling any matchup a “trap game” scenario.
The Predators are gradually getting healthier after going through their own rash of key injuries that took out Captain Roman Josi for an extended time to go along with Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, Mark Borowiecki, Brad Richardson and Luke Kunin.
Josi returned to the lineup in Tuesday’s win over Detroit and registered an assist. He looked like his normal, dynamic self and it’s great to have him back.
Head Coach John Hynes has two challenging dilemmas to navigate through. How to set his lineup as players return from injury, and how will the lineup be constructed if GM David Poile sells off some veterans as the trade deadline gets closer.
Playing your most consistent hockey of the season?
There’s no reason why the Predators shouldn’t add another two points in the standings tonight as long as they replicate what they’ve been doing since before the road trip.
The Red Wings are a feisty team that can surprise anyone, but the Predators have to be laser focused right now and I fully expect them to enter tonight ready to play a disciplined game.
I’m not particularly worried about a mental lapse mainly due to the desperation this team knows they have to play with. There’s no room for mental errors, and several of these players are playing for future roster spots or a nice landing spot on another team.
I’d be shocked, and incredibly disappointed, if the Predators came out of the opening puck drop tonight with a lack of focus or energy. That’s what will get them beat if that happens.
The goaltending for Nashville is hitting its highest peak of the season at just the right time. It’s a major factor into why the playoffs are even a possibility, and they should continue to have success tonight against Detroit’s offensive output that averages 2.15 goal per game, which is 29th in the league.
The power play has risen into being a unit that’s must-watch for Predators fans, thanks mostly to Eeli Tolvanen. It’s giving the Predators a source of offense that they’ve had a hard time finding for much of the season.
As long as the Predators don’t beat themselves and avoid costly turnovers in their own zone, I like them to get another win tonight. It might come ugly, but we’ll take it any way we can get it.
If Columbus loses to Carolina tonight, and Chicago loses to Florida, then the Predators can get to the 5th spot in the division and just two points out of a playoff spot.
Check out the game on Fox Sports Tennessee at 7 P.M. CDT from Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators are playing just their second game since March 6.