Pavel Datsyuk's game-winner essentially made the Central Division a two-team race Friday night, sending the Preds 10 points behind Western Conference-leading Detroit. Had Nashville found a way to snap the record streak of home wins by the Red Wings (in regulation, of course), the Predators would be right in the thick of the race, being six points back with two head-to-head meetings left and a game in hand on Detroit.
Instead, the gap is 10 and the Preds are firmly entrenched as the No. 5 seed, five points behind fourth-place St. Louis, who has played one fewer game as of this writing.Ten points is just too much to overcome, as it doesn't look like the Red Wings are going to slow down. The goal now should be to take fourth away from the Blues and secure home-ice advantage in the first round.
Now that the particulars are set, let's get to the bigger news, the deal to acquire hulking defenseman Hal Gill from Montreal.
First of all, for anyone who believes the Preds "overpaid" to get one of the league's best penalty killers, take a deep breath. Remember we are still more than a week away from the trade deadline. By dealing for Gill, Nashville accomplished a number of objectives that outweigh a 2nd round draft pick, Blake Geoffrion (sorry, Boomer) and Robert Slaney.
Penalty Killing: Gill is regarded as one of the best on the PK and a big reason (no pun intended) that the Habs were the league's top-ranked shorthanded unit. It helps to have a big reach to slow down opposing power plays, and his big frame will help to neutralize campers in front of Rinne. It lessens the PK burden for Weber and Suter when Gill and his new partner can provide a second solid pair for man-down play.
The Weber/Suter effect: Not only will Gill ease the PK pressure on the top pair, it will also allow for a little extra rest for 6 and 20 when Gill can eat up minutes. Having another veteran in the locker room with Stanley Cup playoff experience can help the team down the stretch. Think of it as another coach on the ice for Ellis, Josi and Klein. Gill also provides extra physicality on the back end, which will come in handy in the postseason.
Poile's preemptive strike: Like dealing for Mike Fisher in advance of last year's deadline, Gill's acquisition keeps him away from other teams fighting with Nashville. It also means the first-round pick is still in play for another move, hopefully to grab a top-six forward.
Again, with apologies to Boomer, the Preds added without really subtracting, as Geoffrion was in Milwaukee and Slaney was with Cincinnati of the ECHL. Hate to see Geoffrion go, but the asking price for Gill could have been higher and likely would have been if David Poile had waited any longer to pull the trigger. For a team that wants to convince Weber and Suter they are going to have a chance at a Cup in Nashville, a move like this simply had to be made. Right now, a 2nd rounder and Geoffrion for Gill doesn't sound so bad when you consider that half the league was probably hoping to grab him.
Now, the next step is to get help up front...