The Nashville Predators are on the road to face former head coach Berry Trotz’s Washington Capitals tonight. After a dramatic overtime win against Winnipeg on Monday, the Preds will be looking to capitalize.
Ba dum tss.
While the Predators are working to keep their momentum going into the playoffs, the Capitals are the number one team in the league. They’ve been experiencing a bit of a rough patch lately, but with goal scoring superstars like Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie they won’t stay down for long.
The Preds already have an impressive 5-2 win over the Caps, they’ll need to bring that same hunger to hand Washington their second home loss of 2017.
The Washington Capitals
The Caps are the number one team in the NHL.
They’re 45-17-7 and trending towards another 100+ point season. Trotz will be in the running for the Jack Adams Award, Ovechkin will be in the running for all the other awards, even the ones he doesn’t qualify for. We’ve heard this one before. The problem is, the Caps are notorious for underperforming this time of year.
After being handed their first home-ice loss of 2017 by the Dallas Stars, (seriously?), the Caps experienced their first extended losing streak in a little over two seasons. A four game skid spurred by Dallas and extended by San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. Minnesota attempted to round out Western conference domination but fell short when the hockey gods concluded it was time for Ovechkin to break his ten-game scoreless streak.
The Caps have holes in their game and are having a tough time proving themselves against the West on the road. The problem is their defense is struggling to adapt to the rest of the league’s push for the playoffs. The season is coming to an end and teams are coming out swinging, literally.
The lapse in offensive production hasn’t helped either. Ovechkin has 27 goals which doesn’t even begin to crack the top ten. Oshie is behind him with 26, while Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom round out the scoring power with 22 and 21 goals a piece. It’s not bad by any means but they’ve done better. Much better.
Braden Holtby has been spectacular as always, posting a Sv% of .926 with a GAA of 2.03. While the Preds faced Philipp Grubauer in their last meeting, it’s likely the Preds will face Holtby tonight.
It’s only been a few weeks since these two teams last met, but a lot has happened to both teams since then, and this match-up is sure to entertain.
The Nashville Predators
This team sure does like to keep us on our toes.
The offense has been streaking their way through this season. Given that the lines have changed more than what some might deem necessary, it’s like watching a brand new team every time the Predators take the ice.
The bottom six has hindered this team more than necessary this season in hopes that resurrecting the gritty fourth lines of the past will help propel some momentum into the rest of the offense. During the off-season when Paul Guastad retired and Eric Nystrom was let go it seemed like the Predators were finally turning over a new leaf, youth and speed over grit and experience. Then the season started and injuries happened, and the heavy rotation of faces in the line-up began.
When Mike Ribiero was put on waivers it once again looked like the Predators were moving in the direction of a youthful goal-oriented offense across four lines. Constant re-calls for Kevin Fiala, and Pontus Aberg over the likes of Cody Bass seemed promising. Somehow all of that changed when we acquired Cody McLeod and Vern Fiddler.
It’s kind of like buying new shoes but continuing to wear the old ones because they’re broken in and comfortable. This organization is comfortable with a gritty fourth line despite all the time they invest into their young players. It’s easy to argue that grit gets the job done when the team is winning, but in the long run tinkering with four lines of offense who can shoot the puck and score goals on any given night, is what this team needs. It’s a difference maker that can take the Predators from Stanley Cup contenders to Stanley Cup Champions.
Eventually the Predators have to break in their new shoes and let the old ones go.
The Capitals will be looking for home-ice redemption and the Predators are going to have to dig deep to win this one.
Reasons to Watch
Miikka Salomaki - I’m real disappointed that we didn’t see Miikka play against the Jets. While he hasn’t played with the team since October, he did get some things done in Milwaukee on his conditioning assignment, so let’s give that Watson - Sissons - Salomaki line a try. Because why not?
Colin Wilson - Regular Season Colin Wilson told the whole world he hates being known as Playoff Colin Wilson...well, okay Just Colin Wilson. I can drop the Playoff thing, but I’m not calling you Willy. Just Wilson...but like Tom Hanks in Castaway. You can’t win them all Wilson! I imagine that being bold and putting his dislike of a nickname out there could mean an even more determined Wilson down the stretch.
James Neal - Neal sealed the deal for the Preds on Monday night against the Jets with an OT goal. To be honest there’s been a void of Hateful James Neal goals in our lives for far too long now. Just let the hate flow Nealer, let it flow.
The Important Details
6:00 PM puck drop. TV: FS-TN, Radio: 102.5 The Game