After a big win against the Seattle Kraken, the Nashville Predators continue their road trip to play the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the first game of a very short Canada swing and the second of three games against one of the two teams in Alberta.
The Oilers have been a prominent part of hockey narratives over the last month. After heading into the slightly extended Christmas break with a two-game win streak and an 18-11-0 record, they came out afterward and pooped the bed. In their last nine games, they sit with a 2-5-2 record, and if we were to extend that to the start of December, they sit with a 5-11-2 record. It’s certainly not optimal for a team with two of the top three scorers in the entire NHL. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to prove how elite they are, but the team as a whole performs at a subpar level because hockey isn’t a game where two players can carry the load to a championship.
Safe to say, it’s been a hard road for Edmonton fans to navigate, and everyone knows what happened between Draisaitl and media member Jim Matheson that went viral.
It has been a rough stretch of games for Edmonton, and it’s bubbling up in the locker room as well. They remain out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference by four points. Although they are on a two-game win streak, beating the Calgary Flames and edging out the Vancouver Canucks in overtime, plenty more needs to happen before the Oilers are reconsidered as a true Stanley Cup contender.
As far as the numbers go, Draisaitl leads the team in goals, assists, and points in the last five games (4G, 3A, 7P). Overall, he also leads the team in points, with 59 in 38 games. Notably, he has a history of owning the Predators whenever they play. In 18 games against the Preds, he’s scored 22 points, which isn’t unfathomable at all. However, 16 of those points are goals, which is second among all teams he has played. If he scores more than two goals, the Predators will be the team he’s scored the most goals against, in fewer games than most opponents. He’s someone the Predators have to be extra careful about.
They sit second in the Central Division on the Nashville side, only behind the Colorado Avalanche with a 27-14-3 record. Thanks to victories over the Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings, and Seattle Kraken, the Predators are currently holding on to a three-game win streak.
The Predators have had almost the opposite season that the Oilers have had. They came into 2021-22 with low expectations from plenty of “experts” and were thrown towards the bottom of the Central Division rankings. In all fairness, I had them at the bottom too, because losing Ryan Ellis, among other things, is a tough pill to swallow. However, the Predators have come out and surprised everyone. They’ve looked more like one collective unit than individual players trying to stick to a rigid system, which has greatly benefitted their record. Now, they’re being considered a threat, and given the teams they’ve defeated, it’s a reasonable analysis.
Matt Duchene leads the team in points over the last five games, including three goals, which is also good for the team lead in that short stretch. Captain Roman Josi is the team’s point leader, and his resurgence on the offensive end of the ice after a discouraging season in 2020-21 has been extremely exciting. He’s a contender for the Norris Trophy, just as Juuse Saros is for the Vezina Trophy and Tanner Jeannot is for the Calder Trophy. Plenty of players has returned to form, making the team much more fun to watch.
Shutting down McDavid and, more importantly, Draisaitl will be a challenging task. It always seems as if they find the puck on their stick, even if it’s by accident. However, given the stellar goaltending of Saros and solid defense of the Predators, there’s a real possibility that happens. Not to jinx anything, but it would showcase a lot about the team’s abilities if they were to shut down one of the best point scorers in the league who is well-known for destroying them in about every game he plays.
The game can be viewed on Bally Sports South and heard on 102.5 The Game at 8:00 p.m. Central Time.
That’s all from me, everyone! Go Preds!