If the streak ended tonight, we wouldn't have much room to complain. The Nashville Predators have been the hottest team in the National Hockey League for six games, and are accumulating points like there's no tomorrow. Pekka Rinne is rocketing up the goalie leaderboard, and outside of injuries, there isn't much going wrong in Music City right now.
But there's no reason it has to end tonight. The type of hockey Nashville has been playing hasn't been overly difficult, or spectacular - just effective. It's produced some impressive statistics, sure, but at its core are the basics.
Dirk will be joining Willy Daunic again tonight on 102.9 the Buzz's postgame show, so be sure to tune in to that while you wait for the recap to post here. After the jump, a little more on tonight's game.
Before we get to the Panthers, take a look at some of these statistics, courtesy of NashvillePredators.com. All numbers over the past six wins:
- Shea Weber has points in all games, and his +12 over the time period leads the NHL. In second place, at +11, is Ryan Suter.
- Pekka Rinne has only allowed one goal in each of his five wins.
- Nashville has outscored their opponents 24-7.
- Not necessarily related to the streak, but Sergei Kostitsyn now leads the NHL in shooting percentage.
As you can see, these numbers, particularly the goal differential, reflect that the Preds are not, right now, a fluke. I've often asked myself if Nashville can go far in the playoffs as long as Shea Weber is their best player. If they play like this, the answer, resoundingly, is yes.
- Regarding Florida, there might be a tendency to take the win for granted, and peek around the corner at a Saturday showdown with the Blackhawks. And hey, I wouldn't blame you for doing so, but I recommend against it. Not only will two points tonight make Saturday that much more exciting, but it might be just as important for Nashville to win a game like this as it will a divisional showdown.
- The Panthers, record notwithstanding, are a decent team with a good defense and even better goaltending. Tomas Vokoun provides an elite backstop, while David Booth, Stephen Weiss, Michael Frolik, and Mike Santorelli lead the team in scoring. Essentially, they are deceptive - poor on paper, much better on the ice...sound familiar?
Bringing a player back from injury during a streak such is this might be a little disconcerting, because you don't want to fix what isn't broken, but Nashville's a better team with Martin Erat in the lineup. My hope is that Erat slides into Andreas Thuresson's spot alongside Chris Mueller and J.P. Dumont.UPDATE: Whoops - turns out that Erat will not play after all.
- Finally, the Predators will win their seventh straight game tonight against Florida if Shea Weber scores - Nashville is 7-0-0 when their captain notches a goal. Do that, stay true to the game plan, and the Chicago Blackhawks will roll into Bridgestone Arena Saturday night for a Central Division tilt that you won't want to miss.