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Nashville Predators @ Detroit Red Wings: The Going Gets Tough

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The Preds will take on the Red Wings tonight to kick off a difficult 3 game road trip.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Predators will take their recently humbled 13-8-4 record to the Motor City for the first of two December matchups with the Red Wings.

If you think the last few weeks have been frustrating and disappointing, then a glance at the Central Division standings probably won't help. They are not only in a three-way tie for 3rd with the Wild and the Blackhawks, but they are 12 (TWELVE!) points out of 1st place right now. I have my doubts that the Stars will be able to keep up this pace all year long, but it's worrisome that the Preds are falling further and further behind. We all know that the Central is the toughest division in the league. Burying yourself early only makes things harder.

Need to take things one game at a time, which leads us to...

The Detroit Red Wings

Not only do the Red Wings have a similar record to the Predators at 14-8-4, the two teams have other similar numbers. In many season stat categories, the Red Wings and Preds are right next to each other. The Red Wings score 2.50 goals/game, the Preds score 2.52. The Red Wings allow 2.50 goals/game, the Preds allow 2.52.

One glaring difference between the teams is in even-strength shot-based possession numbers, where the Preds are significantly better. The Preds are sporting an impressive 55.1 CF% at even-strength, while the Red Wings are at 50.4%.  The Preds are 2nd in the league in that regard, as they continue to run Lavy's system to near perfection. The problem is that the Preds have not made the most of their possession time. With the 2nd best possession numbers in the league, they should be better than 16th in the league in scoring, right? So frustrating. But anyways, more about the Red Wings...

Rookie phenom Dylan Larkin leads the Red Wings in goals with 10. This kid is pretty fun to watch and he has taken much of the Calder Trophy spotlight vacated by Connor McDavid. Alongside Larkin, other guys have stepped up in the absence of Pavel Datsyuk, like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, who each have 9 goals.

In goal, Petr Mrazek has been more than solid with a .928 save % in 14 starts. Mrazek has all but claimed the #1 goaltender spot for the Red Wings, as Jimmy Howard continues to be as mediocre as he was last year.

The Nashville Predators

So the Preds have been on a chaotic PDO roller-coaster as of late, which explains most of what we've seen both on the ice and in the W-L columns. We've seen some goal-fests (Winnipeg, Ottawa, Minnesota) and some snooze-fests (Philadelphia, New York, Toronto) and we've seen the longest goal-drought in franchise history. But we've also seen some fantastic hockey being played by the good guys that just hasn't led to goals and wins. For the most part, this is ok, but everyone (including the team) would just feel a whole lot better if the puck started going in the opponent's net at about triple the rate it's going in now.

While everyone is focusing on the forwards, shouldn't there be just as much blame on the defensemen who we normally count on for scoring production? The Preds have been a team that relies on its blue-liners to score for some time now... and just because the forwards aren't doing their part doesn't mean the defense is off the hook. Several players have been slacking offensively recently. Roman Josi and Shea Weber have been mostly doing their part (they've at least been consistent), but look at the other guys over the last 15 games:

Seth Jones: 1g, 4a -- 5 points

Barret Jackman: 1g, 0a -- 1 point

Ryan Ellis: 0g, 5a -- 5 points

Mattias Ekholm: 2g, 4a -- 6 points

That's a combined 17 points from the bottom 2 pairings over the last 15 games. Weber and Josi have combined for 16 points over that same span. While it's probably unfair to lump Jackman in with that group, as he's not expected to light the lamp, we definitely need to see better production out of the other three. Jones and Ekholm haven't had a goal since 11/14 vs. the Jets. Ellis hasn't scored since Halloween vs. the Kings. It's time for the defensemen (and everyone else) to step up and puck the puck in the net.

Reasons To Watch

  • Watch Calle Jarnkrok. He's stepped up his game big time. No matter what line he goes on, he improves it in some way. He's a valuable piece to the puzzle and a guy that could help turn around the season if he continues to improve.
  • Chris Mason, who has been solid during a few radio broadcasts this year, has started contributing on the TV side of things and does a great job. He brings a nice former-player element to the intermission analysis and doesn't shy away from calling guys out. He also improves the TV crew beard game by about 1000%.
  • Preds vs. Wings is always must-see TV. Stick around for the whole thing and you might get treated to an 11 round shootout or maybe one of these:

The sight of 6'2" Darryl Bootland trying to crawl away from 5'9" Jordin Tootoo always makes me smile.

The Important Details

6PM start tonight! FS-TN and 102.5 The Game!