Coming off an adrenaline pumping win against the Los Angeles Kings, the Nashville Predators will try to carry that sense of purpose into a game against a dead in the water Vancouver Canucks squad.
While the Preds are absolutely the better team, this is the definition of a trap game. The Canucks are a beleaguered team in the midst of a five-game losing streak. If Nashville decides to look past the opponent, the could see their shrinking gap on the Blackhawks go back to being a little wider.
The Vancouver Canucks
This team isn't very far removed from how bad they were just a couple of weeks ago when Nashville saw them last. I'm not sure either of us wants to wade through that information. So instead, here's a video of several orca whales swimming next to a boat, courtesy of The Smithsonian.
The Nashville Predators
Yesterday, Dan quickly mentioned in the links how being stapled into the first wild card spot is a pretty good place to be. That's not as foregone a conclusion as it was a few weeks ago, but I'll stand by my initial statement that that's where Nashville ends the season.
Whether or not you agree, the Predators still have to play someone in the first round. (Imagine that.) Here are the probabilities as of March 23rd:
Unless something Wild happens, the Predators will play either the Kings, Stars, or Blues in the first round. Anaheim, San Jose and Chicago are still statistical possibilities, but we all know better. Which is the best/worst matchup? It depends on what you want.
Team Scope: LA found themselves outside of the playoff picture a season after winning their second Stanley Cup. No one thought that would be a multi-season thing, and they've proven it wasn't.
Why the Preds want this series: It gets them out of the Central division and matches up a playoff power house before they have a chance to really get their confidence rolling. Imagine playing the Kings after they've already steamrolled a team or two, when you're players are nursing injuries from a couple of previous series.
Why they don't: That whole playoff power house thing. Even if Nashville had 15 more standings points than LA, the Preds would still be the underdog. It's hard to argue with history, and the Kings have shown a penchant for coasting to a playoff berth then annihilating everything in their path from there.
Team Scope: The Stars started the season off as one of the hottest teams in the league thanks to their dynamic offence, but hit a wall when January rolled around. They've rebounded since, and seem poised to win both their division and their conference.
Why the Preds want this series: They own the goaltending and defensive advantage by far. Nashville's weapons have been firing on all cylinders over the past few weeks, and if that holds up in April that could spell trouble. No one thinks the Predators could outscore the Stars in a wild west shootout, but if they can pot a few while Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, Roman Josi and the rest stifle any attack they mount, that'd be a pretty picture.
Why they don't: They're unpredictable and can still score when you least expect it. Plenty aren't holding much faith in the Stars to make a deep run, but winning a round? That's not far fetched. Rinne is on his game right now, but it was just a year ago he was outplayed by Scott Darling. If he falters, Carter Hutton may not be able to take up the slack.
St. Louis Blues
Team Scope: A model of consistency. Despite not being able to ice a healthy roster for almost the entirety of the season, the Blues are within spitting distance of the Central division and have been glued to that second place spot all year.
Why the Preds want this series: Blues and playoff success is oil and water. Something is going to happen to ensure there is another heartbreak.
Why they don't: Joking aside, St. Louis is a heavy team that would stifle Nashville into submission. It would be boring, boring hockey, but the Blues are still a very good hockey team capable of winning a round or two. We've already seen several times this season what it's like when they frustrate the team and wear them down. Imagine that for seven games.
So, who you got? Who you want?
Sights and Sounds
7 p.m. Nashville time on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game.