8 Days….could it really come down to 8 days?
The Nashville Predators play 6 games over the next 8 days after they return from the mandatory 5 day break. This could be the toughest stretch of the year for the Predators and while they may not be able to win a playoff spot in these next 8 days, they most certainly could lose one. Let’s break down this upcoming stretch.
They will face the #1, #2, #4 and #8 teams in the standings (based on points) during this stretch. Also, they will face Calgary who is 1 point behind them in the wild card race. They have 2 sets of back to backs, one here at the start and one at the end. This looks like a stretch the Predators could tumble down the standings. However, taking a closer look, this may not be as bad as it seems on the surface.
Let’s start with the opening back to back this weekend. They start on the road at Minnesota and then at Columbus. Recent history against the Wild has been pretty even, the Predators are 4-3 over the last 7 against the Wild. However, this year they are 1-1-1, taking 3 of a possible 6 points. They lost both games at home and won in Minnesota, so if there is a silver lining, it is that the Predators have beaten the #2 team in the league on their home ice. Then they travel to Columbus, a team the Predators have been good against historically, including a 5-2 stretch over the last 7 games against the Jackets. In the first meeting of the year, the Predators won a great game in Nashville 4-3 that featured a rare Craig Smith siting, as he potted 2 goals in this game. The team has been very good in the second half of back to backs this year, going 5-3-1 so far, but this will be a tough test playing 2 of the top 4 teams on this weekend.
Now, let’s look at the 4 game home stand. On Tuesday, they play the Flames, a team they have historically struggled with. They did win in Calgary earlier this year, but after getting up 4-0, they had to fight to hang on to a 4-3 win. Factor in that the Flames are just 1 point behind the Preds in the wildcard race and the Flames are 5-2 against the Preds in the last 7 games and this will not be an easy first game back at Bridgestone. On Thursday, the Avalanche come to Nashville. Almost everything points to a Predator win here. The Preds are 6-1 in the last 7 games against the Avs, including 3-0 this season and the Avs as an organization are looking ahead to next season. However Colorado started to show some signs of life at the beginning of February winning 2 straight against the Jets and Habs. Then they came crashing down with 5 straight losses, which could reach 8 straight by the team they come to Nashville, if they don’t turn it around before then. One thing about this league, when you think you have a team in a good position to beat them, they usually rise up and strike back. The Preds will have to be ready and not look past the Avs to win.
Finally the Preds will welcome Washington and Edmonton for a back to back at the Bridge. This will be the first meeting against the hottest team in the league for the Predators this year. Against the Caps last season, the Preds went 0-2 in two games that were not a close as the final scores said they were. Add that to the fact that the Caps have been just destroying teams and this will be a very tough win. The only thing going for the Predators is they are at home. Lastly, the Oilers are in for a late afternoon game. This is a match up Nashville has dominated lately. Nashville has won the last 8 games against the Oilers and Pekka Rinne has owned them. Rinne has a lifetime record of 17-6-1 with a 2.30 gaa and a .917 save percentage. Also, he was the winning
goaltender in each of the last 8 games where he has posted a goals against of 0.98 and has 3 shutouts against Edmonton. The last meeting was at Bridgestone where the Preds won 2-0 and you could see the frustration mounting with every Oiler shot that Rinne turned away. They say all good things must come to an end, but let’s hope this one lasts a little longer.
As I wrote earlier, the Predators might not win a playoff spot during this 6 game in 8 day stretch, but with the quality of teams they will be facing, they could surely lose one. Conservatively a record of 3-3 would be welcome but, in today’s streaking NHL, anything less than that could be a disaster for Nashville.
Feature Image Photo Credit: Getty Images