The Nashville Predators return home tonight after a successful 3-game road trip with a chance to add more breathing room to their clinching scenarios, especially the Presidents’ Cup race, against the Maple Leafs tonight.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have had an odd March, to put it lightly. They began the month losing to the Capitals and Sabres by a combined score of 10-5, and they followed that up with 4 straight wins before losing Tuesday night to division rival (and leader) Tampa Bay.
They have played the entire month to this point without top center Auston Matthews, along with a few games in February, but he is expected to return tonight. Nikita Zaitsev is also supposed to make his return tonight after missing the last 5 games with injury.
Injuries have allowed other Leafs players to shine. James Van Riemsdyk, who is sitting on 49 points in 72 games, has 3 multi-point outings in his last 5. Mitch Marner has at least one point in each of his last 5 games, and he is up to 61 points on the season. Other guys such as Nazem Kadri, Morgan Reilly, and William Nylander have also done what they needed to do with Matthews and Zaitsev out, and it will be very interesting to see how everyone does with those two back on the ice.
In net, Frederik Andersen has put up decent numbers in the 59 games he has played. He boasts a 33-19-5 record, a 2.82 goals allowed average, and a .918 save percentage. In his only game against Nashville this season, he put up a 1.85 GAA and .957 SV% in 65 minutes of a win. Hopefully the Preds can solve Freddie tonight and keep their winning going.
Well, it’s official. The Preds, after a significant portion of time atop the division, then the conference, and now the league, are no longer underdogs in most people’s books. They hold the top spot in most every power ranking, and since their last game have become the Stanley Cup betting favorites at 15/4.
There is a lot that has contributed to Nashville leading the pack. Firstly, the maintenance rotation of players has allowed the team to keep almost everyone as healthy as possible heading into the playoffs. Secondly, everyone is finding ways to get on the scoresheet each game. The JoFA line is continuing their dominance, the second line puts pucks in the net when needed, and the third and fourth lines have been playing some of the best bottom 6 hockey this season. Add on Rinne and Saros dominating the crease, and the well-oiled machine that is the Nashville Predators can continue to roll right into the playoffs.
Game of Thrones Equivalent
The NHL’s most recent long-term laughing stock faces off against one of the league’s most polarizing teams tonight. A true battle of Bettman’s bastards, and if the Preds play like they normally do, it’ll be a hard-fought battle. [It’s a GoT battle scene. I feel like the gore warning is already there, but here is a warning in writing just in case]
Sights and Sounds
7 p.m. CT puck drop. FS-TN for TV, 102.5 The Game for radio.