With complete transparency, I went into this article with the full intention of showing how "rest" is simply a scapegoat excuse for the Predators poor play as of late. But upon further inspection, the top six teams in the NHL have all had about the same number of games in February (aside from the horrendous end of the month of February leading into the two losses in March for the Preds) and the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers both came out with ten wins. The other top-six include the Anaheim Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues and the New York Islanders.
I started thinking that travel might have something to do with the exhaustion so I dug into the NHL Super Schedule brought to you by our beloved former leader, Dirk Hoag. Anaheim logs the third most travel in the entire NHL with thirteen back to back games (two taking place in February). Nashville sits at 10th with 11 back to back games, three of which happened in February and early March. The Blues sit mid-pack and the Canadiens, Islanders and Rangers, because of their close proximity to their conference, travel far less. It is worth noting, however, that the Canadiens and Islanders have an unreal amount of back to back games with sixteen; four in the month of February for the Islanders.
Although this new development (losing) is causing the pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth in and around Smashville, there is something to be said for getting some rest and working out all the kinks before the playoffs. The doom and gloom crowd (which I was a part of over the last four games) have been taking advice from Chicken Little. But the argument or excuses for rest which I was trying to refute may be an actual argument for their slump in the numbers above.
Take the Islanders as the perfect example of what the Predators are going through. Both teams played fifteen games in February and came away with 10 (Predators) and nine (Islanders) wins, respectively. The Islanders are 2-2-2 in their last six games and they also had four back to back series in the month of February. Nashville is 2-4-0 in their last six, mired in this four game losing streak, and three of the four losses have come against playoff teams.
It is a daunting task for a team to get their swagger back as many of us thought would happen against the lowly Devils. The true concern for most isn't the rest factor but, as one commenter very succinctly put it, "we are doing the same things we've done all year but the difference is the Predators found a way to win".
Over the course of the season, teams get a ton of video footage of each team and scouts go to games beforehand to see if they can find chinks in the armor of the upcoming teams. Nashville has employed a simple system that allows for more offensive output than in years past and a collapsing defense that tends to stifle opponents coming into the defensive zone. As we have seen in the last four games, other teams are taking advantage of our system by employing the trap game and a 1-2-2 scheme to disrupt any clean zone entries for the Predators.
Basically, if a Barry Trotz coached team from the last few years played the Peter Laviolette Predators right now, the Trotz coached team would find a way to win by capitalizing on the mistakes the Predators are making. A strong forecheck and a wall of defenders at the blue line have caused the Predators to move away from their game plan and shut down the cycle game that worked so well for the Predators all year.
It'll be interesting to see if Laviolette is playing rope-a-dope with the NHL much like Rocky Balboa fighting right-handed until Mick said he could switch back to Southpaw to throw off the opposition. Something definitely needs to be done and hopefully some rest can alleviate the problems facing the Predators right now. But unfortuantely, that rest will not come in March as the Predators play fifteen games with two more back to back series (one away/home, the other away/away).
What say you OTF? Comment below with what you feel is wrong with the Predators. Is it lack of rest? Lack of heart? Lack of Jokinen? ;^) Sound off below.