Tonight the Nashville Predators (44-22-5) return home to Bridgestone Arena and face the Los Angeles Kings (23-30-6). This is the second time these teams play this season, with the Predators winning the first contest on November 17th, 5-3.
Despite their poor form over the past month, the Predators sit only one point behind the Winnipeg Jets for first in the Central Division. The Jets may have two games in hand, but claiming the division crown is still a realistic goal for the Predators. Therefore, even though tonight’s game is against the worst team in the Western Conference, there is still plenty on the line for the Nashville Predators.
The Los Angeles Kings
After playing against two fast teams in Vegas and Dallas, the Predators get a break against the Kings, who entered the season as the oldest team in the league with an average age of 28.7 years old. Already one of the more elderly clubs, they decided that they did not need youth and speed, instead doubling down and signing 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk, not known for speed himself. The solution that the Kings had to an age problem demonstrated an ignorance to the team’s own flaws.
As a result. the Kings are unbearably slow and simply a bad hockey team. Head Coach John Stevens took the axe just 13 games into the season for the sins of Rob Blake’s terrible job as General Manager. Stevens had a lot of great ideas and probably overperformed with the talent that he was given, but he just could not make that group of archaic veterans skate fast enough to compete in the modern NHL.
Now last in the Western Conference, the Kings have begun selling off some of their last valuable assets. Jake Muzzin was shipped off to the Toronto Maple Leafs while Nate Thompson jumped on a one-way plane to Montreal. The Kings may not be done quite yet either, with Tyler Toffoli’s name generating some buzz around the league. A rough year for Kings fans is only looking rougher, and the light at the end of the tunnel is only dwindling as the Kings fall ever further.
The Nashville Predators
To be utterly blunt, the Predators’ performance against the Golden Knights on Saturday night was worse than that of Tommy Wiseau in The Room. The Predators were out-hustled, out-performed, and out-coached for all sixty minutes of the game. After forcing Juuse Saros to make 47 saves in a win earlier this month against Vegas, he faced 50 shots on goal Saturday night. That includes an abysmal second period in which the Predators were outshot by a margin of 24-7.
Thankfully, the Predators then defeated the Dallas Stars 5-3 in an up-tempo game. However, despite winning, the same issues that existed all season long remained: failure to communicate in the defensive zone and an atrocious power play with less creativity than an East Berlin apartment complex.
Things have not looked great for the Predators as of late, as they've looked outplayed even in games where they have emerged victorious. It makes me question whether or not acquiring Mark Stone, Artemi Panarin, or Matt Duchene would ultimately make a difference because, with how deeply rooted the Predators’ issues are, it almost feels like it would be like putting a band-aid on to treat strep throat.
We know the Predators are having communication issues while in their defensive zone, and new blood would only exaggerate that problem. Additionally, just as leading a horse to water doesn’t mean it will drink from it, adding a new weapon to the power play does not mean that the Predators will change their flawed tactics to suit the new player. The only reason Brian Boyle has slotted into the power play is because he fills a role that was already established. He does not fix an inherently flawed system.
Now, as everything in sports (and life), such a despondent take could be proven wrong, and it would thrill me to be incorrect. However, after recovering from the injury bug, the Predators’ play shows they are further than one top-tier player away from being true contenders. What will happen when Viktor Arvidsson’s 20.2% shooting percentage inevitably regresses? With every game the Predators play, they further resemble a flawed 2017 Chicago Blackhawks team primed to be eaten in the playoffs.
Reasons to Watch
- As mentioned earlier, the Kings are a blasphemously slow team. If there was ever a team that the Predators matched up well against, this is it.
- It feels like a while since the Predators were last at Bridgestone Arena. It’ll be nice seeing the team get a boost from being home.
- I’ve been very high on Ryan Johansen’s play as of late. He’s been the best defensive force on the first line this calendar year and, coupling that with a few goals and a lot of points, there’s a very good argument that he’s been the best player on the Predators outside of the goal.
I’m feeling some pasta tonight, with some warm alfredo sauce to battle the cold outside. Mix in some red pepper, paprika, and some mushrooms, and you’ve got a pretty nice remedy for freezing temperatures here in Columbus.
However, what I really want is some good thai red or peanut curry, but I don’t have any good recipes. If anyone can help me out on that front, I’d be happier than Arvidsson after scoring a goal. Maybe. That’s a high level of happiness.
Sights and Sounds
The game begins at 7:00 PM Central in Bridgestone Arena. ESPN+ and FS-TN will televise the game, while 102.5 The Game will carry it on the radio.