While the Minnesota Wild are essentially locked into the second seed in the Central Division, the Predators’ playoff seed is still very much in flux. A poor run of play by the Wild has virtually eliminated them for the Central Division crown.
The Predators would certainly like to earn the third seed and play the Wild instead of finishing as a Wild Card and having to either travel out west or play a Blackhawks team that they are 1-4 against this season. With a brutal back-to-back, facing the St. Louis Blue tomorrow, will they be able to control their own destiny?
The Minnesota Wild
To say that the Minnesota Wild have been imploding recently would be both an understatement, although it does feel like every season they have some sort of crisis. Nevertheless, the timing for their current drop in form is particularly poor with the playoffs right around the corner. Minnesota is 2-6-2 in their last ten games, although they did win their last game on Thursday night, bullying the Ottawa Senators around in a 5-1 blowout.
A large cause of their demise has been Devin Dubnyk playing like, well, Devin Dubnyk. In the return to Earth that is long overdue, the Minnesota goaltender posted an abysmal .889 save percentage for the month of March, although his drop in form can be traced all the way back to February 21st.
However, part of that regression is also due to a general drop in form. While their corsi numbers used to be fairly impressive, the Wild are now 17th in the league in the corsi-for statistic. They are also 18th in fenwick score adjusted attempt percentage while the Predators are 9th. Yes, Devin Dubnyk has been bad, but the rest of the Wild are not giving him much help.
The Nashville Predators
Two losses in a row against Eastern Conference playoff teams have the Predators needing to play catch-up to the St. Louis Blues, who now have both a point and game in hand. In both losses, it simply looked like the Predators weren’t trying as hard to win as Boston and Toronto.
In the last game against Toronto, Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette made some bizarre line changes, breaking up the best line in hockey of Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen, and Filip Forsberg. Arvidsson went to play on the third line with Calle Jarnkrok and James Neal while PA Parenteau joined Johansen and Forsberg on the first line. Although Arvidsson certainly made Jarnkrok and Neal’s line much better, chemistry simply was not there on the top unit. Sure enough, after swapping Arvidsson back to the top line, Filip Forsberg found the netting with a third-period goal.
The lines will still be in flux tonight. Before last game, Kevin Fiala was practicing with the other healthy scratches, only to play last-minute due to Craig Smith battling an upper-body injury. Is Smith healthy now? Will Fiala play? It’s a back-to-back, so will Juuse Saros or Pekka Rinne be in goal? Will McLeod finally get scratched? And where on Earth is Miika Salomaki?
Reasons to Watch
- Fiala has been a huge contributor regardless if he has the puck or not. He looks like the player we wish Craig Smith still was.
- Does Arvidsson hit 30 goals tonight?
- The scoring race among the Predators is tight between all three first liners, with Ryan Johansen having a slight lead over both Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg.
- The Wild are a potential playoff opponent. There are five games left in the season.
Darth Vader Benedict Arnold Jimmy VeseyRyan Suter is in town. You won’t find many bigger games during the regular season.
Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day
Definition: The area of the ice between the top of the end-zone face-off circles and the goal posts. This is the area of the ice where players have the highest chance of scoring goals.
Example: “Man, what will it take for the Predators to fire more shots from the slot?”
Sights and Sounds
The puck drops at 1:00 p.m. CST in Bridgestone Arena. If you can’t attend the game, the Predators will be televised on FS-TN or you can catch them on the radio at 102.5 The Game.