New York is such a terrible state. And I’m not just saying that - the evidence supports it. It’s a state that, consciously (presumably), decided it would be better off if Cody McLeod was rostered and spending time on the ice for one of its teams. I mean, sure, we did for awhile too, but that’s because he had pictures on David Poile (it’s the only logical explanation). It’s no surprise that with him gone, we’ve played some of our best hockey. These last two games against the Kings and the Rangers have been all Predators from start to finish. At no point, as a viewer, did it seem like we were going to lose those games. And we didn’t.
Next up are the the Islanders, and they have had a host of problems. John Tavares and the will-he won’t-he see-saw will likely dominate into the off-season. The Barclays Center is universally panned as one of the worst places to both view a game and actually play in one. It’s so bad they’re going back to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum next year, which, if I’m not very much mistaken, is where the first ever hockey game took place (though, at the time, they used severed human heads instead of NHL approved pucks).
New York Islanders
The Islanders are perilously close to the basement of the Metropolitan division... just two points off (with more games played). And they are also tied in points for the final wild card position in the Eastern Conference (57 points). That’s amazing. I triple checked that to make sure it was actually accurate. The discrepancy between the East and the West this year is astronomical, and that pretty much sums it up.
The Islanders are also just, well, bad. Their goal differential is -15. Their defense has been atrocious and their netminding has been suspect. Jaroslav Halak, never extraordinary but consistently solid, is averaging 3.15 GAA, but his save percentage isn’t abysmal (.910). Backup Thomas Greiss’ numbers are more consistently seen in your local men’s no check beer league. They’ve given up 192 goals this year - by far the most in the league - even more than the toothless Arizona Coyotes. Teams score at will against these guys.
Their offense, however, is dangerous. The Islanders top scorers - John Tavares, Josh Bailey, and Matthew Barzal are each averaging over a point per game. Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle are close behind, each with 40+ plus this year. Nick Leddy is sixth on the team, the only other person with 20 or more points, but his +/- is -27. Ouch.
Seeing this entire team healthy, for the first time in what seems like forever, has produced absolutely stellar results. The Prince returned from his upper body injury February 1st against the Kings, and, as a result, the Preds have put up their two most impressive performances of the season in the subsequent games.
The problem is that Forsberg is now suspended for three games for his hit on Jimmy Vesey. A suspension? Maybe surprising. Three game suspension? Definitely surprising.
The Kings got manhandled 5-0, while the Rangers went down 5-2, but it wasn’t that close. In those two games Ryan Johansen had four assists (and played spectacularly - few are able to use their body and create chances like he does), Filip Forsberg had one goal and three assists, and Viktor Arvidsson had a goal and two assists. JOFA is back, but the Preds will need a stop-gap for the next three games. I’d say Pontus Aberg steps in and boy does he need to perform.
They haven’t been the only ones performing laudably, though. P.K. Subban continues to make a strong case for the Norris trophy, with eleven points in his last ten games. He also leads the Preds in points at 40. And who can forget the FS-TN line (have we settled on their nickname yet?) of Fiala, Smith, and Turris, which has remained deadly even while others around them have struggled with injury and ineffectiveness.
Lastly, let’s not forget sweet, sweet Pekka. The guy is on a seven game winning streak and is only five wins away from 300 for his career. <3
Things are exciting. And Mike Fisher isn’t even back yet. The giddiness that is coursing through my body is substantial.
Reasons to Watch
Though the last two games are a small sample size, admittedly, this team has never been more exciting to watch. So tape Monday Night Raw and get your butt on the couch (or local bar stool) for what is likely to be another flawless performance.
And I have a feeling Criag Smith is going to have a heckuva game, which means #ShirtlessSmith is a distinct possibility
A shirtless #Preds Craig Smith offers his take on the first period of action and what Nashville can work on going forward. He seems to be in a pretty good mood! And wouldn't you if you had just scored a goal? #NSHvsSTL pic.twitter.com/J2mfnZHq0C— FOX Sports Tennessee (@PredsOnFSTN) December 28, 2017
Preds-Islanders WWE Feud Equivalent
Being in different conferences, without even an ex-player to speak of (to my knowledge), the Preds don’t have much reason for animosity tonight. So just like Viscera and Charlie Haas jostling over Lillian Garcia, it all will ultimately end in both teams going their separate ways. Hope we get to walk away like Viscera or Haas, rather than Lillian Garcia.
How To Watch
Early east coast game with the puck dropping at 6pm CT, and it can be watched on FS-TN. Listen on 102.5 The Game, if you’re a radio guy or gal.