Nashville Predators @ Edmonton Oilers Preview: Grit Through It
The final game of a long and boring road trip against teams won't be allowed within 50 yards of the playoffs.
The Nashville Predators wrap up their grueling road trip through America's hat with a trap game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite being one of the worst teams in the league, the Oilers somehow have a penchant for embarrassing the Predators from time to time. Nashville's last two efforts haven't been all too great, though give them credit for turning on the afterburners against Vancouver.
With so much space on either side of them, Nashville just needs to focus on keeping pace with the field. They aren't catching any of Chicago, St. Louis or Dallas, but they would have to actually try to miss out on the playoffs at this point. Mathematically there exists a scenario where the absolute worst happens and the Preds go golfing early, but if that actually happens the flame out will be more impressive than anything we could witness over the summer.
Feel free to copy and paste Oiler's season ending summary from the past seven years or so. Team gets high draft pick, team spirits go up, team realizes it isn't any good, team loses, team gets another high draft pick, repeat. It's beating a dead horse, but their perpetual state of ineffectiveness despite being stocked with talented players is really a marvel to behold.
Over the summer Peter Chiarelli has some decisions to make. Will any of Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle be shipping out in favor of players that more fit the team's need? If something like that happens, is Leon Draisaitl going to be able to help the center depth along with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews?
Some really thought this was the year that Edmonton was going to take a step forward, but most of the was the McDavid hype. Even though he missed a large chunk of the season and torpedoed his Calder trophy chances, (thanks, Philly) he is really all he's cracked up to be. He actually makes the Oilers worth tuning in for, which is something they haven't been able to claim in years. Mark my words, sometime down the line McDavid is going to pull a move against the Predators that makes Pavel Datsyuk's 200 ft goal look like child's play.
I figured it out. The Flyers took out McDavid to open the door for Ghostbear to win the Calder. It's all connected, maaan.— Jon Garcia (@JGarcia36) March 14, 2016
Don't confuse "keeping up with the field" with "become complacent and coast into the playoffs." As a guest on Michelle Sturino's Sunday NHLXM program, Pete Weber described the bus trip back to the Vancouver hotel as angry. The players were not happy with their effort, and didn't make any effort to show it.
It's normal to have a bit of a tail off at this point in the season. Nashville is virtually a lock for the first wild card spot, so no matter how hard or how awful they play it's not going to make a big difference. On top of that, their last several games have come against teams with nothing on the line but pride. Those are hard to get up for.
But the early March doldrums eventually must give way to the late March blade sharpening. Yes, Nashville's position in the standings isn't likely to change, but that now means they have several weeks to prepare their optimal playoff lineup and get their minds right for the journey ahead. You want everyone to stay healthy, but you also want to work through whatever isn't working. This trip should have been another coming out party for Ryan Johansen's line, but they are still mired in a funk.
There are still 13 games to grit through. It seems as though the players got accustomed to winning, or barely losing a close game. Anything less than that pisses them off. The dials don't have to be turned up to 11 over the last few weeks, but they have to put better periods than the beginning of the Calgary and Vancouver games.
The Important Stuff
8 p.m. Central start. Hey, the sun will only have been below the horizon for a couple of hours when the game starts. Fox Sports and The Game have your eyes and ears.