Don’t give an inch
I love watching the Predators play at even strength, 5-on-5 play. They make things difficult for the other team, but the problem early in the season was the Predators were horrendous on the penalty kill and in return couldn’t stop taking bad penalties.
It doesn’t take a hockey expert to realize that’s a terrible combination that’s not going to end well. Although the Predators’ penalty kill is completely remedied, they have shown modest improvement in this area.
The bigger development for me is the Predators are playing smarter and more calculated. When they take penalties, it’s mostly ones that are necessary. The Predators have to like their chances when it’s at 5v5.
Even with the slight improvement, the penalty kill remains a major liability that will get this team beat quickly by the likes of the top teams in the division.
So if we are thinking about playoffs and hoping not to get embarrassed in the first round, then keeping things at even strength is a must.
As for the power play, well it’s taking off like a rocket during the surge back into a playoff spot. The power play is up to 18th in the NHL, and not far behind from getting into the top half. They’re also spending a lot of time on the power play, which helps get back any momentum you may have lost.
The Predators are 12th in the NHL in total power play opportunities on the season, and that trend needs to continue to keep their winning ways fueled.
Tolvanen is playing beyond his years and making highlight reel after highlight reel, and some of the veterans are also starting to find their groove again.
With these three factors in play, I really like the Predators’ chances to beat out the other teams for that fourth spot. Getting to the grownup’s table of the division to match well with Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida is a whole other discussion for another day.