Nashville Predators @ St. Louis Blues: A Central Division Challenger Approaches!
The Predators will face the Blues for the last time in the regular season. The Blues are 5 points behind, but that could change quickly if the Preds don't take care of business in the next few games.
Let's be real... the Blues are as hot as the Predators are right now. Yes, the Preds are 5 points up on them in the standings, but look at the most recent results. The Blues are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, the Preds are 7-1-2. The Blues most recently beat the Avs 3-1 (on January 19th, before the All-Star break), the Preds beat the Avs on Tuesday 4-3 in OT. And if there is any team that can come close to beating the Preds home record (19-2-1) it's the Blues (18-4-2). And that's exactly where the Preds will have to face them tonight.
Get ready for another knuckle-crackin', boot-shakin', flip-floppin', rabble-rousin', juice-spillin', tray-topplin', bar-scufflin', hair-tusslin', woooo!, wowzer of a game.
The St. Louis Blues
It really pains me to talk so highly of the Blues, so I will keep this short. I might have to stop mid-sentence and dry heave while typing. Thinking about Ken Hitchcock and Provel cheese isn't helping. Oh.. Oh god... [wretching sounds]
I think... I need... T.J. Oshie!
The Blues are scoring a lot, you guys. They are 3rd in the league at 3.13 goals per game, and are just hitting their stride. They've recently been leaving a host of defenses in their wake, including putting up 7 goals against San Jose twice. While they haven't faced many top defenses, the Blues also haven't scored less than 2 goals in a game since before Christmas. And in most of those games (10 out of 12), they have hit the 3 goal mark. Incidentally, one of the two times they did not hit the 3 goal mark was against the Preds on December 30th. While that sounds like good news, that game was with Pekka Rinne in net. So... good news trumped.
I'm afraid not much good news awaits when looking at the Blues defensive numbers. With the Predators firmly in 1st place in overall defense, the Blues are close behind in: 5th place at 2.37 goals per game. Brian Elliott is a proven All-Star: he leads the league in GAA (1.86) and is 4th in Save % (.930).
Finally: the Blues, who are smart, just acquired former Predator Marcel Goc in a trade with the Penguins, who are dumb. Not sure if we will see him tonight, but I wouldn't mind it. Always liked Goc. (Quick brain-teaser: what do Marcel Goc, Derek Roy, and Brandon Yip all have in common besides being former Predators? First caller wins a stupendous prize.)
The Nashville Predators
Ok, let's rewind. Back to, say, late September, early October.
The Predators have three guys in the building, all purchased over the summer for around the same price. While most of the attention is on James Neal's arrival, Mike Fisher's Achilles, and Pekka Rinne's hip, many are wondering which of these free agents is going to pay off the most? We asked this question several times and some predictions were spot on. Here was one take, back in September:
Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy aren't the players they used to be, but they still have the ability to produce. In Ribeiro's case, his ceiling is much higher than people give him credit for, as long as the situation is right. Playing alongside a sniper like Neal, and on the power play with Shea Weber, could do wonders for his point totals, even if he is in decline.
At just over the halfway mark of the season, Mike Ribeiro has obviously been the free agent signing of the summer. If this were a foot race, he would already be bathing in champagne at the finish line while Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen were rounding the first quarter-turn. We are talking a Secretariat level beat-down, folks. At least 63 furlongs.
But all of us would be stone-cold liars if we said we thought Mike Ribeiro would be this good. Ribs leads the team in assists (32), which is good for 6th in the league... a total, by the way, that is already higher than his season total from 2013-14. He also now leads the team in points with 42. He is an important part of the power-play, helping it actually improve of late. And he makes passes like this:
That is some sick sauce. I'm guessing nearly 4 feet off the ice? And whatever Alex Tanguay did looked less like an attempt at a pass block and more like what Alex Ovechkin tried to do in the All-Star Skills Competition.
Anyways, all I'm trying to say is that ribs are good. Or something. I'm hungry, I think.
Reasons To Watch
- Carter Hutton looked pretty dang good against the Avs on Tuesday. Here's to more of that!
- Filip Forsberg is now 3 goals away from breaking the Predators rookie goals record (18, by Alex Radulov of course). Wow, what if he broke the record tonight? (And he totally could)
- Colin Wilson: 3 points away from a career high for points in a season, 1 goal away from a career high for goals in a season. What if HE did that tonight? (And he totally could)
All these guys looking to set or break career records and we haven't reached 50 games played yet. What a season.
Pre-Game Music For Your Listening Enjoyment
This match-up calls for the most invigorating TV show theme song ever written. Here's four hours worth. Start this around 3pm or so:
The Important Details
7pm puck drop, TV: FS-TN, Radio: 102.5 The Game