As Jon mentioned in his preview yesterday, it's only November, but every divisional game matters. Dallas is on an another level right now, but only four points separate the next four teams, Nashville and Minnesota included.
Every game in this division is a tough one and tonight will be no different. Games against the Wild in the past have been gritty games that leave the team who won the small battles, won the game. You can bet on it being a playoff atmosphere tonight.
The Minnesota Wild
Things haven't been going to well for the Wild as of late. They have lost three in a row, and it isn't going to get any easier tonight for them. The advantage that the Wild have is that they are finally back home tonight, and they have a few days off after tonight's game to regroup.
This year's Minnesota team is a little different than last year's team. Last year, we came to expect a strong defensive effort that kept the team in games. This season, they rank 6th in the league in goals per game average (2.94) and third in the league in team shooting percentage (10.86). What's hurting them is that they are in the bottom half of the league in some important statistical categories. They rank 21st in goals against average (2.83), 17th in power play percentage (18.5), and 28th in penalty kill percentage (74.5). Scoring is great, but you aren't going anywhere in the long run if you don't have decent special teams.
Looking at this chart from Sporting Charts, it's clear that most of the Wild's production comes from 5v5 play and on the penalty kill. Granted, every team is going to score more when playing 5v5, but you have to take into consideration the Wild's low PP%. Special teams play may not hurt Minnesota in the near future, but it will catch up to them in the long run. Hopefully, the Predators can take advantage of it tonight.
The Nashville Predators
The Predators have been the total opposite this year. Statistically, they are in the top half of the league in all the major categories.
The special teams stats (specifically the PP%) seem surprising considering every time we watch them, it seems like they struggle with the man advantage. Regardless, being in the top 13 of the league in all these categories is a great sign for Preds fans. This is a sign of a team that is ready to make a deep run, but it starts by winning the divisional games.
Minnesota, even though they are struggling, is no slouch. They always play Nashville tough, and I wouldn't expect anything less from them tonight.
Reasons To Watch
- Filip Forsberg hasn't scored a goal in 13 straight games for the Preds. I would expect a strong performance from him in a big game tonight **Note that I wrote this before the Columbus game last night**
- It will definitely be a playoff atmosphere in Minnesota tonight. That always provides for quality hockey.
- The Predators have already made Erik Karlsson look silly this season, so let's add Ryan Suter to that list as well.
Drink Of Choice For Game Time
I will be enjoying a northern brew tonight. If you can get your hands on it, get some 3 Sheeps Baaad Boy. It's so, so smooth.
Sights And Sounds
FS-TN locally for TV and 102.5 the game for radio. Puck drops at 7:00 pm CST.