It’s that time of year when all hockey fans get excited. There are less then 20 games remaining to determine who advances to the playoffs. In a year that also includes an amazing showing of the NHL at the Olympics, the energy levels are already peaked for most fans. For the Nashville Predators, the road to the playoffs continued last evening with a 4-2 victory over the 4th place Los Angelas Kings.
The victory gave Nashville 75 points and kept them firmly in the 7th position in the Western Conference. More importantly, it kept Nashville in striking distance of Colorado(6), Phoenix(5), Los Angelas(4) and Vancouver(3). With 5 points separating Nashville from the #3 seed of Vancouver, every game has significant importance as the Predators look ahead at their last 19 games.
Also of significance, the win last night kept Nashville 5 points over 8th seed Detroit who they play this evening. Sportsclubstats gives Nashville an 84.8% chance of making the playoffs. They have a 100% chance of making the playoffs if they reach 98 points, and a better then 50% chance of reaching the playoffs if they make it to 92 points.
1) While it has only been 2 games, the addition of Denis Grebeshkov appears to have added a more cohevisve look to the defense. Furthermore, but not trading Dan Hamhuis, “Hammer” appears to have lifted his game a few notches with punishing hip checks and more intensity along the boards. With the addition of Grebeshkov, the Predators are now able to roll 3 experienced lines any night and don’t have to rely on the Shea Weber and Ryan Suter for scoring.
2) Having a strong defense on the blueline doesn’t always ensure your opponants won’t score. It takes all 5 skaters on the ice to play defense, and last night, the forwards were contributing to the defensive effort throughout. Nashville controlled the neutral zone and as a result kept the puck in the Kings end of the ice all night long.
3) Nashville’s greatest asset is that it plays as a team, and does not rely on the contributions of one superstar or one line. Nashville, at its best rolls all four lines offensively and wears down its opponents. Last night, they received 2 goals from the 1st line and 2 goals from the 3rd line. The night before they received 2 goals from their defense. For Nashville to continue their success, they must get scoring from all 4 forward lines and all 3 lines on defense.
With wins in 4 of the last 5 games, the Predators roll into Detroit this evening against a suddenly healthy Red Wings team. For the first time in Nashville’s history, they find themselves ahead of the Red Wings in the standings this late in the season. You can rest assured that this is not lost on Detroit and they will be fired up for this game. While Nashville is assured of remaining ahead of Detroit regardless of the outcome, a loss will close the gap to only 3 points.
The Predators need to establish momentum early in the game, stay out of the penalty box, and break the 30 shot barrior to win this game. Detroit, no matter where they are in the standings can beat any team on any given night. And they are leathal on the powerplay, so that doesn’t bode well against the Predators penalty kill which currently ranks 27th in the league.
Game time is at 6:30 cst tonight and is not locally broadcast. If you have Center Ice, you are good to go, if not, you can pick up the game on the following link.
About the Author
Written by Mark Jasper