clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nashville Predators @ St. Louis Blues: Tiebreaker

After a big 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild yesterday, the Predators fly right into St. Louis for the biggest game left on their calendar.

NHL: Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating the Minnesota Wild 3-0 at Bridgestone Arena yesterday, the Nashville Predators fly out to St. Louis for today’s 3:00 game against the Blues. With the two points earned yesterday, the Predators pulled even with the Blues’ 91 points, tying them for third in the Central Division.

Finishing third is critical to each of these teams’ postseason success. Whoever finishes third will face the struggling Wild, a team that both the Predators and the Blues would prefer to play in the first round. Why would they prefer to play the Wild? Well, aside from just beating them yesterday, there are two alternatives.

First, if the Predators end up as the second Wild Card team, they will have to face the Chicago Blackhawks, a daunting challenge for any team in the league.

Second, if the Predators finish as the first Wild Card team, they will have to play out in the Pacific Division’s playoff rounds. While the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are not as daunting as the Blackhawks, traveling back and forth from the west coast is far from ideal. Just ask last year’s exhausted Predators roster.

While the Blues will still have a game in hand regardless of the result and have the wins in regulation tiebreaker, defeating them in regulation could pay dividends for the Predators down the road.

St. Louis Blues

Perhaps the hottest team in hockey, the St. Louis Blues have been thrashing opponents ever since the firing of Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock’s understudy Mike Yeo took the reigns and has the Blues playing excellent hockey. Going 7-1-2 in their last ten games, the Blues have not made the Predators’ job of catching them very easy.

This team was expected to fall out of playoff contention after trading away star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline, but the adversity that the Blues have faced has only strengthened their resolve. If there’s any mark of a team that will be dangerous in the playoffs, that is it.

That being said, the last two times the Blues have faced the Predators, their resolve was not on display. They most recently played two games way back in December and, although these are both two very different teams now, the Blues were blown out. In the first of those two contests, the Predators rallied from a 0-3 deficit to win 6-3 at Bridgestone Arena. Near the end of the month, the Predators walked into St. Louis and blew the Blues out 4-0. Despite their strong stretch of recent play, the Blues have yet to show that they can shut down the Predators offence and now they must do so without Shattenkirk.

Nashville Predators

Coming into a weekend of two must-win games, the Predators took care of business Saturday with a solid 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild. Despite missing James Neal due to injury, the Predators continued to stockpile second period goals, scoring twice within ten seconds. Filip Forsberg opened the Predators’ account with a deflection on a Roman Josi shot and, moments later, Kevin Fiala danced his way through both a Wild defender and goaltender Alex Stalock to score one of the prettier goals by a Predator all season.

With how Head Coach Peter Laviolette has been handling the lines as of late with the various odd injuries, it is very much in the air as to who is going to play tonight. However, Kevin Fiala needs to be in the lineup for every game from here on out. He has played phenomenally with Calle Jarnkrok. The two are showing some very clear chemistry out on the ice, with Fiala giving Jarnkrok multiple scoring chances throughout Saturday’s game.

However, what really makes Kevin Fiala special is how well he plays with nearly no space. Watching him play, he wants to draw defenders to him, knowing that he not only has the skill to stick-handle in a phonebooth and can just dance around them, but also knowing that each person who he sucks into his space springs another teammate free. This combination of knowledge and skill is what lead to the chances he created for Jarnkrok and also resulted in his goal yesterday. This kid is special and the Predators are significantly worse with him out of the lineup.

Reasons to Watch

  • As said earlier, the winner of this game will hold sole possession of 3rd place in the Central Division. Whoever finishes there plays the guys we beat 3-0 yesterday, while the Wild Card team either has to travel out west or face Chicago.
  • Do you like Juuse Saros? He’s probably starting today.
  • While I critiqued him for his lack of it at the start of the season, I don’t think there’s a Predator playing with more confidence right now than Kevin Fiala. He’s trying to stickhandle his way through every defender he sees and, more often than not, it’s working.

Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day

Sauce, noun.

Definition: A way to talk up a gorgeous pass that is raised slightly above the ground. Such a pass is called a “saucer pass” but, the prettier the pass, the more sauce there is on it.

Example: “Colton Sissons had so much sauce on that pass, you’d think it was a buffalo wing instead of a puck.”

Sights and Sounds

The puck drops at 3:00 p.m. CST in St. Louis. The Predators will be televised on FS-TN or you can catch them on the radio at 102.5 The Game.