Win. That's it. The Nashville Predators need to win a game. That's the only way to cure your Pred-aches. Regardless of the standings, regardless of who scores, regardless of who is net and how they play... the only cure for the Preds pain you are feeling is to watch them win.
The worst has to be over, right? The fever has broken? The bleeding has stopped? The last four games were a fluke, and they win this one like 6-1, right? The Preds will need to dig deep, once again, to make that happen. They will face the New York Islanders, who are still one of the top teams in the East.
The New York Islanders
As Jeremy mentioned in his piece yesterday, the Islanders have slumped a bit recently, possibly due to exhaustion and over travel. They are 2-2-2 in their last 6 games, with some surprising results in those games. A 5-3 loss to Carolina? Losing in overtime to Dallas 3-2? That doesn't sound like the team that walloped us 5-2 a couple weeks ago.
Like the Predators, the Islanders have managed to maintain the lead in their division despite their recent play, though the Rangers pulled even with them by getting to OT last night against the Red Wings. While the Rangers were more active than anyone on trade deadline day, the Islanders seem content with their roster as is. They did acquire insurance policies Michal Neuvirth and Tyler Kennedy from the Sabres and Sharks. Neuvirth will spell Jaroslav Halak for the stretch run, but other than that, this team is basically unchanged after the trade deadline shake-ups.
The Islanders have built their team on offense, as we saw on February 19th. They are 4th in the league in scoring at 3.08 goals per game, mostly through 30 goal scorer John Tavares. Anders Lee (21g) and Brock Nelson (17g) also put pucks in net with some regularity. With three solid forward lines, the Predators defense will need to be fast and focused.
Jaroslav Halak has been the Isles top net-minder all season. He's been good, not great. His .911 save % and .617 QS% are certainly respectable, and with their offense it may be enough to carry them deep into the playoffs. He is beatable. But for a Predators team that found Rob Zepp, Jonas Gustavsson, Cam Talbot, and Cory Schneider tough to beat in recent games, Halak may be quite the handful.
The Nashville Predators
Has Filip Forsberg hit a rookie wall?
Maybe a better question: did I just commit blasphemy?
For real though. In the first 55 games of the season, Forsberg was electrifying. You saw him, you know. 19 goals, 31 assists, +22. He was a delight to watch. When he had the puck, you leaned forward a little bit, expecting greatness. In the 10 games since the Devils game on Valentine's day, he has 2 goals, 0 assists, and is -8. You still lean forward a little bit when he has the puck, but for the first time all season, doubt creeps in.
Recent Forsberg-related complaints: He's trying to do too much. He's being shuffled around for no reason. He's not making smart plays. He can't do it all, the other guys need to step up.
These are all valid complaints, especially that second one. But lest we forget he is a rookie. Just as the rest of the league has plenty of tape on the Predators, they also have plenty of tape of Forsberg. Other teams can and will find weaknesses in his game and try to exploit them. The Predators and Forsberg surprised a lot of teams in the early months of the season, but don't expect that from here on out.
Now the good news. Forsberg's even-strength possession stats over the last 10 games have not regressed... they've actually improved. While 10 games may be too small a sample size, a 61.5 CF% isn't the reason for the slump. That is likely our dear friend PDO. Forsberg's PDO sits at 87.2 over the last 10 games... far below what he has maintained all season (above 100, mostly). So, has he hit a wall? No. Has he hit a run of bad luck? It looks that way.
So keep watching Forsberg with hope in your heart... he will come around.
Reasons To Watch
- Given the last 5-6 games, these are getting harder to list... Pekka Rinne? De-slumped offense? Un-funkified Filip Forsberg? An example of why we traded for Cody Franson? Watch for all these, I guess.
- Mike Fisher, Father of the Year candidate, has been stellar throughout all this badness. See if he continues his run of great play.
- Seth Jones will use his teeth to block shots. If he has any left.
All Predator fans can probably relate to the opening epigraph from the video for Danzig's "Mother" right now:
The Important Details
7pm puck drop on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game