The Nashville Predators don't have time to sulk on two losses to end the week.
Their upcoming schedule has them playing four games in six nights, including three division games, two of which are against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Tonight, they get to make their annual trip to Boston to test their luck against the Bruins.
The Boston Bruins
The Bs have the best power play in the NHL, and it isn't even close.
Boston is clicking at an absurd 30.6%, which is exactly five percentage points better than the second place Washington Capitals. That isn't going to hold up for the entire year, but it's still an impressive rate that shows how deadly the Bruins are a man up. Nashville has the third-worst penalty kill in the league, which means if they go to the box even once they are setting themselves up for trouble.
For the most part, things are going very well for the boys from Beantown. Those ridiculous trades Don Sweeney made over the offseason are not coming back to bite them too hard yet. They're currently sitting in a wild card position, only two points behind the Ottawa Senators for third in the Atlantic division. Seven of their last 10 games have ended with a win, and the Bruins are coming off a 4-0 bulldozing of the Vancouver Canucks. After missing the playoffs last year, Boston has its sights very much on making it back to the dance. Tampa's surprising stumble this season has opened the door so far for them to do just that.
Surprisingly, star netminder Tuukka Rask has not beeing having a very Tuuka-like season. The Finnish Vezina winner has only won 9 of his 19 appearances this year, and is sporting a .906 Sv%. That's nearly .020 points below his career average, which means it likely isn't going to stay that low forever. Anytime he starts, Rask has the ability to shut down the opposition, so for a Nashville team with scoring issues as of late, they need to do everything they can to create traffic in front.
The Nashville Predators
It's kind of ridiculous how good Nashville's underlying numbers are. Score-adjusted corsi (2nd), scoring chances (2nd), high-danger scoring chances (1st), shots per 60 minutes (7th), shot against per 60 minutes (1st/fewest), you name it they are up there. But that isn't translating on the product on the ice. It's curious, because when you watch this team, it becomes evident that something is missing. So why are those other numbers so good?
That's question that none of us have an answer to, but something the coaching staff needs to figure out really quick. Whether that means tasking one forward per line to park his ass on top of the crease, or mandating all shots have to come from the tops of the circles or below, we're good for anything.
We spent a ton of time talking about the penalty kill in the latest episode of the Predcast, but it's bad. So bad. Want to know how bad? This is an actual screen shot from an actual hockey game in which the Preds tried to defend a team using this actual scenario:
It went about as well as you'd think.
The good news is that Boston's penalty kill is nearly as bad as Nashville's. They sit 23rd in the league while Nashville is 28th. Not quite as bad, but the Predators have been having success on the power play, sneaking up to 9th in the NHL. So really, whichever team is on the penalty kill has a very high chance of getting scored on.
This is just a frustrating team right now, so take some of that frustration out in the next segment.
I'd be remiss to let a game in Massachusetts pass without mentioning two of the most influential bands not only in the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, but in my life as well. 2002 saw the monumental releases of Shadows Fall's "The Art of Balance" and Killswitch Engage's "Alive or Just Breathing." 14-year-old me ear-chugged them every chance I could get, and they are still in my music rotation to this very day. Both bands hail from 90 minutes outside of Boston, and each of their newest releases bring a sense of musical maturity that 13 years later I can absolutely relate with. Music is weird, people.
Also, Brian Fair's dreadlocks can seriously injure people.
Reasons to Watch
- James Neal. Brad Marchand. Department of Player Safety's public enemy number one vs. the slimiest of all vermin in hockey. Which would you rather have as a son?
- We could get some Finn on Finn action if both Rask and Pekka Rinne start. I imagine they spent all of yesterday's Finnish Independence Day drinking tons of beer and hanging out in saunas together.
- I don't know. It's Monday? What else are you going to do?