Currently, St. Louis sits at second within the division, while the Predators sit in sixth. While the Predators have yet to play as many games as most teams, earning a convincing win in St. Louis would reaffirm the notion that these men in gold have surpassed their early season slump and are playing in excellent form.
St. Louis Blues
For as inconsistent as the Predators have been, St. Louis has also lacked stability in terms of results this season. The difference between the two clubs is that, despite the inconsistent play of the Blues, St. Louis is still winning games.
The Blues are coming into this game on a two game winning streak and hot off a 3-2 revenge victory over the San Jose Sharks, who eliminated St. Louis from the Western Conference Finals last season. Finishing off teams like the Sharks and sitting at second in the Central Division normally means that a team is consistent, but just last Friday the Blues managed to let the Columbus Blue Jackets score eight goals on them in a 8-4 loss at Nationwide Arena.
The real cause of these odd inconsistencies is their style of play and their goaltending, which stems from some moves made this past summer. Formerly, the Blues were a physical team, lead by big bodies such as David Backes and former Predator Barret Jackman. However, Jackman obviously left for Nashville last year before retiring and David Backes left this summer for Boston. Joining the Blues in recent years have been more skill players, such as the electric Vladmir Tarasenko and recent acquisition Nail Yakupov.
St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock is known for favoring a more physical, grind-oriented style of play, which is in direct contrast with the players he has at his disposal right now. As a result, the Blues, despite their success, are still struggling to really find an identity.
Furthermore, Jake Allen is now the starting goaltender since Brian Elliot jumped on a plane for Calgary, and he has not been impressive. His backup, esteemed former Predator Carter Hutton, has looked even worse. The Blues have serious question marks in net, and their lack of identity has not helped keep pucks out of the net either.
After it appeared that the wheels were falling off the proverbial wagon in a 2-6 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Predators responded by demolishing the Ottawa Senators by a score of 5-1. Viktor Arvidsson has looked as hot as ever and James Neal managed to extend his goal scoring treat to six games, tying a franchise record.
However, if the Predators are to prove that they are a true contender as many expected, they need to begin firing on all cylinders from the back end, as their defense has been sub par. In a “too many cooks in the kitchen” analysis, it appears that the Predators are trading offensive pressure for defensive responsibility.
Thankfully, Pekka Rinne has been playing out of his mind and appears to have found the elixir of youth, Currently he has a 2.04 GAA and a .933 save percentage and has clearly been the best player for the Predators. It would be nice for the rest of the offense to consistently begin picking up some of he slack, but Rinne is giving the Predators a chance to win every night, which is something that cannot have been said for a while.
Reasons to Watch
- Will James Neal continue his mean streak and set a franchise record of seven straight games scoring a goal?
- Viktor Arvidsson has been one of the most fun players to watch recently. It’s a treat to see him play right now.
- In terms of other fun players, any time the Blues play, Vladmir Tarasenko is capable of scoring a “goal of the year.” While Pavel Datsyuk may be in the KHL, Tarasenko’s hands are the closest that one can compare to Pavel’s.
Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day
Top Shelf, noun.
Definition: The roofing of the goal netting, where the goalie hides the cookies. It’s always considered cool to snipe a goalie and put the puck top shelf.
Example: “What a highlight reel goal with James Neal putting the puck top shelf!”
Sights And Sounds
You can catch the game on FS-TN locally and listen to it on 102.5 The Game. You can also stream the game via the Fox Sports GO app. Puck drops at 7:00 pm CST.