The sun finally came back out in Nashville, but look over social media and you wouldn’t think that way, judging by a segment of Nashville Predators fans.
Forget that the Preds won two out of three games this week and briefly regained the Central Division lead. It’s all about not if they’ll make the playoffs—it’s how quickly they’ll exit with the team in its current form.
The problem right now is that the Tampa Bay Lightning are making everyone else look bad—and Nashville beat the Bolts both times this year.
In reality, winning a Stanley Cup is a crapshoot once you make the postseason. Most years, the “prohibitive favorite” has maybe a 15 percent chance before the first puck drops in the playoffs.
This year, the Lightning are well ahead of the field at 23 percent (as of Sunday), but guess who’s tied for second at 11 percent, with the West’s best chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final?
(Note: that link to Dom Luszczyszyn’s tracker updates daily.)
And that’s still taking into account Saturday’s 5-0 loss to Colorado which was gross, sure, but play with that type of statistical dominance again and it’s quite unlikely to generate the same result.
The Preds aren’t getting the bounces right now. They are unlucky. There are some things that need cleaning up. There’s probably one player in that dressing room that needs a change of scenery and bringing in some help might just jolt the roster into a late-season push (not unlike two years ago when a lot of the same hand-wringing was going on).
Another problem is the games-in-hand, or lack of them. Nashville’s the first team to reach 64 games played this season, and they’ve played the most games in the league for several weeks.
Although games-in-hand are certainly not automatic, it makes handicapping the race a little harder as far as the Preds are concerned. All but one team in the West had two games in hand on Nashville after Saturday. That’s a bit of why finishing second is more likely than winning the division—there’s more ground to gain for everybody else.
And with all the talk of the Central Division being weak, think about this—there’s a real chance the last-place team finishes with more than 80 points. The Pacific Division is the weaker division in the West.
We may learn more about this team over the next seven days than at any point before the playoffs. A back-to-back set that ends in St. Louis, followed by a trip to Winnipeg, then a visit to Minnesota, who’s desperately trying to stay in the playoff race. There’s a good likelihood that a new member of the team will accompany them during that stretch.
And, like any fan base with high hopes and expectations, the complaining will continue.
On with it:
The Fast Money Round
Tuesday: Predators 5, Dallas Stars 3
A good response when they needed it.
Thursday: Predators 3, Los Angeles Kings 2
Two good periods, and one bad one.
Saturday: Colorado Avalanche 5, Predators 0
What is it about Saturday games and stinkers lately? I mean, yeah, all the bounces went Colorado’s way, but Philipp Grubauer getting his first shutout of the season shouldn’t happen.
Player of the Week
Saturday’s performance aside, Roman Josi was outstanding this week. It’s what you want to see from your captain when things aren’t all rosy and a leader needs to step up.
Favorite Things of the Week
Ryan Johansen can draw a laugh even after a 5-0 beating.
Flood warnings went off in the middle of @RyanJohansen19’s answer and he made sure we knew what the deal was. pic.twitter.com/olnjWl8Zfk— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) February 24, 2019
Also from Saturday:
A 12-year-old @PredsNHL fan celebrated 10 months in remission by dropping the puck at Bridgestone Arena. Story by @Pat_Pickens.https://t.co/QxubHrAomx— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) February 24, 2019
It was a family affair at the @NHLPreds game on Saturday when @gabbypmusic, the singer/songwriter sister of forward @BriBrows22, performed during intermissions. Story by @DanOLeary25https://t.co/26Z2s6zrYL— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) February 24, 2019
Grumble of the Week
Let’s get this deadline over with. Just get something done so this fan base can collectively shut up and refocus on the on-ice holes.
On trades and stuff
Columbus loading up for a run is good and bad for the Predators. Those targets stay in the East, but now a bidding war brews among West contenders and will likely drive some prices up. And if Dan Hamhuis misses any amount of time, add a defender to that equation because nobody in Milwaukee is ready to come up and having Matt Irwin as a fallback option doesn’t help matters.
[Ed: Hamhuis has been placed on IR as of this morning, but the length is unknown.]
This week’s grade
When it looked like things were moving in the right direction, you get a game like Saturday when all the bounces go the other direction. Although the power play looked better (yeah, we’ve heard this before, Chris, and nothing came out of it), it still isn’t finishing, and a first-round playoff exit is more a likelihood than a possibility with this group. But, we’ll see after 2 p.m. Central time on Monday what the group looks like moving forward. This week’s grade: B-
Who’s the Player of the Week for Week 20?
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