The Nashville Predators and the Wild Card Race
Normally, when talking about a vital game against a division rival in February, and its relevance to the playoff race, people be talking about a “four-point game”: keeping the other team from getting two points matters as much to your team as getting those two points themselves does. This is not a luxury the Predators have; the Blues have thirteen more standings points (74 to the Preds’ 61) in one more game played (57* to the Preds’ 56), and—even more relevantly—there are three teams in the Central and five in the Pacific between them.
(* The Blues started a game that they haven’t yet finished—more on that later.)
The NHL moved this season to a first tiebreaker of regulation wins, then regulation and overtime wins, then total wins including the
skills competition shootout, and then a variety of other things. The Winnipeg Jets are just ahead of the Preds in the standings, with 63 points and 22 regulation wins in 59 games.
I know, I know, you were told there wouldn’t be math, and it’s Saturday. Sorry.
The Predators have the same 22 regulation wins as the Jets, plus games in hand on them. A regulation win today will tie them with the Jets in points at 63 and give them the first tiebreaker with 23 regulation wins, while an overtime or shootout win will leave them tied with the Jets in points but not give them the tiebreaker—though they will still have those games in hand (three going in to today, two after today). The Jets lost their West Side Story matchup against the Sharks in regulation last night and play the division-worst Blackhawks tomorrow.
The two wild card spots in the West, however, are currently held not by the Jets but by the Arizona Coyotes (60 GP, 64 points) and the Calgary Flames (59 GP, 66 points). The Coyotes have 21 regulation wins, the Flames have just 20, and of the teams out of a divisional playoff spot in the West only the Coyotes have a positive goal differential, with +2 (though the Preds are at least not negative). The Coyotes play the Capitals today.
Wildcard Spot Scenarios for the Weekend:
- If the Predators get three points while the Coyotes and Jets get zero, the Predators will have made it—for now—into WC2.
- If the Predators get four points while the Coyotes and Jets get no more than one point each, the Predators will have made it—for now—into WC2.
- If...okay, you were definitely told there would be no math. There’s some byzantine stuff with tiebreakers and “if the Predators win at least one more game in regulation than the Jets” and “the clubs’ head-to-head records” and “if a train leaves Memphis traveling east at 50 MPH at 5:00 PM, and another train leaves Knoxville traveling west at 60 MPH at 6:30 PM...”
- It’s February, okay. They’re in striking distance, and that’s better than I at least was expecting six weeks ago.
The St. Louis Blues and the Part Where It Briefly Didn’t Suck To Live In Missouri Even Though Half The State Was Underwater Last June
(Climate change is not fun, folks. Granted, neither is Missouri—we’ve all seen what they call “edible food” over there—but that doesn’t mean they deserve to get flooded out.)
The Blues are continuing their quest to repeat whatever cursed nonsense they pulled last spring by getting as good a regular-season record as possible. They’re slumping of late, while the Avalanche are roaring up behind them—spoiler: the Avalanche are good—but at the moment they do still hold the top spot in the Central by a little and the top spot in the West by exactly as much. Since their break they’ve won two games and lost six, with a game against the Anaheim Ducks postponed after Jay Bouwmeester’s collapse on the bench. In case you missed it in this morning’s links, Bouwmeester’s cardiac surgery was successful; best wishes to him for his recovery.
Vladimir Tarasenko is still out with the shoulder injury that’s cost him almost the entire season, but the Blues have been getting along fine without him. Noted classy sportsman David Perron leads the team with 55 points and 23 goals, while a remarkable 41 of Ryan O’Reilly’s 51 points are assists. Brayden Schenn joins Perron in the 20-goal club, with 20 plus 26 helpers to tie Alex Pietrangelo in total points. Jaden Schwartz and Robert Thomas have also been big contributors on offense.
Defensively, Pietrangelo has been good at keeping play moving in the right direction in the offensive end of the ice, but the Blues don’t really have any blueline standouts on defense. Among the forwards, however, Ryan O’Reilly continues to tilt the ice at both ends, and MacKenzie MacEachern’s play-driving contributions shouldn’t be overlooked despite his low point total (10 in 46 games). Zach Sanford has been pretty good too.
Jordan Binnington has a .909 sv% in the 41 games he’s started, while Jake Allen has a .924 sv% over 17 starts and 20 games played. Apparently, all Allen ever needed to get his act together and turn his game around was to be massively upstaged in the postseason by...well, I don’t much like Binnington, so I’m just going to leave that sentence there. The Blues have an effective power play and a shaky penalty kill, which isn’t my ideal for a special-teams matchup for the Preds. Hopefully, everyone will keep their tempers under control and avoid penalties.
Reasons to Watch
- C’mon, it’s Saturday afternoon. Put off whatever chores you were thinking about and come watch some hockey.
- The Predators’ last game featured actual good hockey, and it’d be fantastic if they could keep up that trend.
- Watch tomorrow’s narrative get started live—we’ll have a great recap from Nick if you do have to miss the game, but if you don’t you could both watch the game and read the recap.
How to Watch
The game starts at 2 PM Central and will air on FS-TN, with the radio call provided by 102.5 The Game.
Numerical statistics provided by hockey-reference.com. Other material referenced from hockeyviz.com. Standings information and tiebreaking procedures from NHL.com. No, I did not solve the train problem.