All the bad feelings from the last couple weeks have been set aside for now, as the Predators have seemingly grabbed their mojo back. A dominating win over the Ottawa Senators on Monday followed by a quick road trip win in Detroit and suddenly the Preds are back on top in the Central with games in hand.
Somehow—some freaking how—the Vegas Golden Knights keep winning though. If the Preds have any interest in gaming for the top spot in the West (and they should) must continue to play well down the stretch.
That starts tonight against the Sharks.
The San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have managed to claw their way to 2nd in the Pacific and are likely headed for the playoffs for the third year in a row.
When it comes to goal scoring, they average 2.90 goals per game, good for 15th in the league. Most of that is Logan Couture (24 goals), Joe Pavelski (15 goals) and Tomas Hertl (15 goals), but of course Brent Burns chips in a lot of offense (he leads the team with 50 points) and right winger Timo Meier generates a lot of shots on goal for a guy who only gets around 14 minutes per game.
Looking at shot rates over the last 25 games via HockeyViz.com, the Sharks are right around the league average.
While their defense has been pretty good—9th in the league at 2.67 goals per game—underneath the surface there are some holes. The Sharks are 14th in the league in 5v5 expected goal differential (Nashville is 19th), 24th in the league at 5v5 shooting percentage (Nashville is 13th) and 22nd in the league at 5v5 save percentage (Nashville is 1st).
The Sharks, as has been the case for 20 years it seems like, have been riding special teams play all season long. Their power play is 4th in the league at 22.4%, their penalty kill is 1st at 84.2%. Welcome to Sharks Hockey, where the penalty box plays a big role.
The Predators are likely to see Martin Jones in net. His career against the Preds is shaky: 8 games played, .880 save percentage, and a 2-4-2 record. That bodes well for Nashville. If it’s Aaron Dell, it will be his first game against the Predators and therefore his first game in Bridgestone, which also bodes well for Nashville.
According to a game preview over at Fear The Fin, the Sharks might ice newcomer Eric Fehr, who was acquired from the Maple Leafs for a 7th round pick. Not sure he really factors into this much (oops, hat trick coming!).
The Nashville Predators
As I mentioned above, the Predators have sent that losing streak packing and with it all the bad play that came with it. The top two lines seem to be clicking again, the Josi-Ellis pairing has been dominating every night, and the goalies have been fantastic.
You’d like to see a better performance from the rest of the defense (P.K. Subban, outside of a few incredible passes here and there, has been quiet recently) and you’d like to see some more of that depth scoring we saw recently. Austin Watson, Nick Bonino maybe? Maybe a good night for the 4th line?
Here’s what we probably see tonight:
Arvidsson - Johansen - Forsberg
Fiala - Turris - Smith
Hartnell - Bonino - Jarnkrok
Salomaki - Sissons - Watson
Josi - Ellis
Ekholm - Subban
Emelin - Weber
Reasons to Watch
- The power play unit has been better recently. After an 0-18 streak, they are 3 for their last 11 in three games which is not terrible. The problem is that they really aren’t doing anything differently. Same scheme, same approach, same unit, but with unpredictable results does not give us much hope. Either way, at least they have been putting a few pucks in the net.
- Seriously, Pekka Rinne has been incredible. He likely gets the start tonight and oh he will be going for win #300 tonight! Only 34 other goalies have accomplished this feat. LETS GO.
- Sharks fans always bring out the best in everyone.
- The next game isn’t until Sunday morning. Prepare appropriately.
The Important Details
7 p.m. puck drop, TV: FS-TN, Radio: 102.5 The Game