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Nashville Predators vs. Boston Bruins Preview: Always Gold

The Predators haven't lost two games in a row all year. They look to keep that streak alive against the Bruins on Tuesday night in Smashville.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The last time the Boston Bruins came to Bridgestone Arena it was 2013 and the Predators lost 6-2. I don't think I'm being hyperbolic here: things looked hopeless. Marek Mazanec started because Pekka Rinne was lost in Injury Land. The Bruins went up 3-0 in the 1st and didn't look back, with Jarome Iginla netting two goals. Craig Smith was apparently the only forward who dressed that night, as he scored the only two goals for the Preds. It was two days before Christmas and many were wishing David Poile would #firetrotz as an early Christmas present. Seriously, it was bad. I was there.

So let's give a nice HIP HOORAY for it being 2014!

The Boston Bruins

The Bruins desperately need Tuukka Rask to regain his once dominant, Vezina trophy winning form. This season has been, by his standards, a disaster. In 23 games, Rask has a .911 save % which is 15 points below his career average. His goals allowed average is 2.55, which is a half-goal worse than last year. He only has 1 shutout and he has had some major stinkers. He is currently the 42nd ranked goalie among save percentages. I would be surprised if Tuukka Rask has ever been ranked 42nd at anything when it comes to goaltending stats. After typing all of this, I went to Pekka Rinne's stats page and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. You should do the same.

But the Bruins have other problems, too. They are scoring a below-average 2.47 goals per game, which is 22nd in the league. They have managed to balance out the scoring across multiple forward lines, but no one is really causing opponents problems the way Jarome Iginla did last year. Brad Marchand leads the way with 8 goals, while Reilly Smith is close behind with 7. They have seven players with 5 goals, including Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, and Carl Soderberg.

The Bruins find themselves in 6th place in the meek Atlantic Division with a record of 15-13-2. Something tells me they will find their way in the coming months and climb to the top... but they better start soon.

The Nashville Predators

The glory of last Thursday's power-play production was short lived: the Preds were 0-3 with the man advantage on Saturday vs. the Sharks. So, pretty much, the trend hasn't changed. The 10.9% success (or not so much) rate power-play sits at 29th in the league.

But, wait a minute. Does having a good (or, in this case, an average) power-play even matter? If we are so good during 5v5 play, is power-play effectiveness really important? Will our lack of a power-play eventually be our downfall, or will it merely be an inexplicable blemish? It's an interesting thought experiment. When looking at the "bigger picture," should we be placing so much emphasis on the power-play? We excel in so many other areas on the ice that are arguably more important to winning hockey games.

Think about power-plays. I mean reaaaally think about them. It is not entirely uncommon to get only 1-2 power-plays a game. It seems a bit unreasonable to expect those 2-4 minutes in a game to be that much more valuable than the other 56-58. To put it another way... we would certainly never judge a single player's play in a game based on 1 power-play shift alone, but by looking at all of his shifts in a game combined. Sure, the power-play seems to be the most important time to shine for the offense because of the overwhelming offensive zone time and the amount of shot opportunities. But does power-play effectiveness really make a difference in the long run?

Consider this:

  • 2013-14 season: 10 of the 16 playoff teams had a regular season power-play % that was above the league average. Playoff team with the lowest power-play %: Los Angeles at 15.14%, good for 27th in the league. The Kings won the Cup anyway.
  • 2012-13 (lockout-shortened) season: 11 of the 16 playoff teams had a regular season power-play % that was above the league average. Playoff team with the lowest power-play %: Boston at 14.75%, good for 26th in the league. The Bruins were Stanley Cup runners-up.
  • 2011-12 season: 7 of the 16 playoff teams had a regular season power-play % that was above the league average. Playoff team with the lowest power-play %: Phoenix at 13.55%, good for 29th in the league. Coyotes beat the Predators on the way to the Western Conference Finals.
  • 2010-11 season: 8 of the 16 playoff teams had a regular season power-play % that was above the league average. Playoff team with the lowest power-play %: Nashville at 15.24%, good for 26th in the league (#firetrotz). And we won a 1st round playoff match-up for the first time ever.

(stats and rankings from nhl.com and hockey-reference.com)

While this is hardly concrete statistical proof that power-play success does not necessarily lead to playoff success... but, it sort of looks like power-play success does not necessarily lead to playoff success. I should point out that NO team over the past 4 seasons made the playoffs with a power-play as bad as the current Predators power-play... the lowest was the Coyotes with 13.55%. So, yes, it needs to get better. But maybe not by that much. And perhaps (PERHAPS) we shouldn't worry too much.

Reasons To Watch

  • The lines they are-a-shufflin'! Could be interesting what Lavy does against the Bruins here. And given Monday's practice, might we see Viktor Stalberg back in the lineup soon?
  • Maybe you will see Shea Weber do something Captainy like get cut by a skate blade then get taped up and return to the ice. Like again, I mean. Maybe he will do that again.
  • It's time for another Scoresberg goal. It's been 2 whole games without one.

Pre-Game Music For Your Listening Enjoyment

The Preds, who are always gold, are home after the road trip! Here's a tune to welcome them home:

And Finally, Some Important Details

7pm puck-drop! You should really be at the game, but if you would rather watch from home it will be on FS-TN with the radio on 102.5 The Game.