It must be a pleasant sight for Peter Laviolette and company to see the Hurricanes on the schedule for today. Prior to tonight, they've faced the Ducks, Kings, Blues, Blackhawks, Flyers, and Bruins. It probably feels like that time your senior year in college when you had to take that Gen Ed class that wasn't required for your major, but you had to take it to maintain 12 hours minimum for your scholarship, and you're all like I GOT THIS.
The Carolina Hurricanes
Yes, the Canes got the best of the Preds earlier in the season, winning 2-1 in their barn. But since then, they've gone 4-10-1 in 15 games and are now dead last in the Eastern Conference. Which is just... bad. Being in last place in the Eastern Conference is like getting cut from the Sri Lankan Olympic Racewalking Team. The Eastern Conference is a veritable oasis for mediocre teams and the Canes are so far from being mediocre, even Jordan Staal returning from injury doesn't help much.
Most thought that Carolina's defense would struggle against the aggressive offenses in the East, but the defense has been the only thing keeping them in games. They somehow find themselves in the top half of the league in goals allowed at 2.54 goals per game. The top defensive pair, Andrej Sekera and Justin Faulk, "lead the way" for the rest of the defense, which include names like Brett Bellemore and John-Michael Liles. No, those are not actors with lead roles in "Red Band Society"... those are actual NHL players. Like with skates and sticks and everything!
The Canes offense was supposed to be the only thing keeping them in games. Then Jordan Staal got injured and Jeff Skinner got terrible. Skinner is a player I just can't figure out. He unfortunately blazes through the Predators with ease, but Canes fans have to be scratching their collective heads at this year: 8 goals, 8 assists, a 7.2% shooting percentage (a 5% decline from last year), and zero power-play goals. His possession numbers are consistent with his career average, but his production is just not there right now. Anyways, it's not all his fault, as the Canes really don't have the supporting cast they need. They are second-to-last in the league in scoring at 1.92 goals per game.
The Nashville Predators
NOTHING IS WRONG AND EVERYTHING IS AWESOME
Yes, the Predators have allowed 5 unacceptable come-backs in the last few weeks (Anaheim, L.A., Minnesota, Boston, Chicago), but they are 3 for 5 in those games, getting 8 of 10 points possible against some big teams. And this is in addition to dominating the rest of the schedule, being at or near the top of the Central Division, and overall exceeding the expectations of everyone. Even Barry Melrose.
What we should be discussing is Filip Forsberg, who is 1 point away from breaking the Predators rookie points record. When Alexander Radulov set that mark in 2007, most knew it would take a special player to exceed it. Radulov was an exciting player to watch. He was ebullient, prideful, and creative. He had that all important goal-scorer's arrogance that Predator fans were not used to seeing, but were glad to have. It fell apart all too quickly for Radulov and when he returned in 2012, we needed him to be something different than he was. We (or maybe Trotz) needed him to be golden boy figurehead that could change the game on a dime, leading the team in dynamic and heroic fashion. Which obviously didn't happen. Enter Filip Forsberg.
Forsberg is the anti-Radulov. Charismatic, humble, and as smooth with the puck as anyone on the ice right now. He wears slick sweaters. He is as likely to dish a sick saucer as he is to toe-drag around your top defensemen. He also doesn't play the braggart, and you can tell the rest of the team loves him for it. On a team full of free agent castoffs, traded mercenaries, and draft picks of a bygone era, Filip Forsberg is a a shining beacon of royalty that gives the roster a bit of wholesome goodness. As the cliche goes: it's Forsberg's town, we're just living in it.
Reasons To Watch
- Will the James Neal returneth? Hopefully. It's time for him to make some things happen again.
- Pekka Rinne needed to refuel after Saturday. Let's see if he can right the ship after a bumpy night.
- Mike Ribeiro is second on the team in points and he is mesmerizing to watch. How can you not cheer for this guy?
Pre-Game Music For Your Listening Enjoyment
(see above... and never forget how awesome everything is)
7 PM puck drop, so be in your seat ready to cheer on Smashville's best! TV will be FS-TN, Radio will be 102.5 The Game