The 2023 NHL All-Star break, accompanied by the NHL’s mandatory five-day break, is here for the Nashville Predators. What does this break mean for this team that is finally starting to find their rhythm on the ice?
Prior to this break the Predators have won three straight and five of their last six outings. I feel like this team is just now starting to play their best hockey of the season, no question about it. Solid efforts have led to victories over the Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, LA Kings, Winnipeg Jets, and New Jersey Devils.
Their only loss since the middle of January came against the St. Louis Blues on the road. Three of the wins were over teams that are ahead of the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference standings.
How have breaks affected the Nashville Predators historically?
Looking back to the 2019-2020 season, the Predators have had breaks of three or more days on 24 occasions. Of those 24 times with an extended break the Predators have a 9-15 record when returning to play.
With having a win percentage of only 37.5%, the Predators are going to need to improve on this when coming back from the All-Star break if they want to keep this push to the playoffs going.
In the 2021-2022 season, Nashville lost four straight coming back from the All-Star break, allowing four or more goals in all four contests. The 2021 NHL All-Star game was cancelled due to the pandemic however the 2020 break saw the Predators return to play with a 5-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nashville Predators schedule after the All-Star break
The Nashville Predators will be back in action February 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights. After that the Predators have another three-day break before they take on the Philadelphia Flyers.
Once the Predators get those two games out of the way, they start the real grind all the way to the end. Playing 32 games in 61 days, the Predators finish the regular season on April 14 playing against the Colorado Avalanche.
I have broken this down by standings to see what the Predators upcoming schedule means for the playoffs.
The Nashville Predators remaining schedule looks like this; 22 games against Western Conference teams and 12 against Eastern Conference teams. Of those 22 games in the West, 12 are against teams that currently are higher than them in the playoff picture. I would count these games as must wins if the Predators are going to extend their postseason streak to nine years.
How will the trade deadline affect the Nashville Predators?
With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline quickly approaching, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding what this team will do when Marc 3 gets here.
You look at this roster right now and have to wonder, will Mattias Ekholm, Kevin Lankinen, Cody Glass, Cole Smith, Mark Jankowski, Alexandre Carrier, and Dante Fabbro be with this organization past March 3?
It is highly probable that at least one if not more of these players will no longer wear a Predators sweater after the deadline. A few names that keep coming up in rumors are Ekholm, Lankinen, and Fabbro.
Lankinen has played outstanding in goal this season posting a 2.64 GAA and .924 save percentage backing up Juuse Saros. He deserves to get paid and it is just a matter of time before he is a starting goaltender for another NHL team.
The only question is, does it happen before season’s end or does the team hold on to him and let him go after the season for nothing in return?
With Yaroslav Askarov and Devin Cooley in the Predators prospect pool, they could trade Lankinen in exchange for some more scoring firepower prior to the trade deadline. That would leave Juuse Saros to carry this team on his shoulders down the stretch. He has shown that he can do it before, as long as he is able to stay healthy.
Nashville Predators push for the playoffs
The Nashville Predators find themselves in a pretty familiar spot at this point of the season. Just on the outside of a playoff spot. The past few seasons, the Predators have been more of a, “let’s get into the playoffs, and anything can happen”, kind of team. This season is more of the same.
Ranking 27th goals scored is not a method for success in this high scoring league. They will need to score more down the stretch and quit relying on Saros and Lankinen to save them night in and night out.
If Saros or Lankinen have an “average” goaltending performance instead of the same caliber of play this team has come to rely on, they will not win the game simply because of the lack of play from the rest of the roster.
We are in the All-Star break now, trade deadline looming, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are right around the corner. This team cannot afford to have a bad stretch coming fresh out of the break.