Nashville Predators @ Vancouver Canucks Preview: To The Bitter End

The Predators second-to-last Canadian road game leads them to the Saltwater City, home of Jake Virtanen look-alike Hayden Christensen.

The Nashville Predators will look to extend their franchise record point streak on Saturday night. They will face the Vancouver Canucks in Rogers Arena to continue their final tour of Canada in this regular season.

Wednesday's overtime loss to the Flames didn't feel great, but it also didn't feel terrible. You can't be too disappointed when your team continues a franchise record points streak. And, yes, they lost in 3-on-3 again. But is it something they really need to worry about at this point? They may have a few more OT games the rest of the way, but is it worth trying to fix now? Isn't the toothpaste out of the tube? Stupid 3-on-3 goes away when the playoffs arrive anyways.

It's like when you were in a required core class in college. You didn't turn in the first paper, leaving you with a big fat zero before fall break even hits. Then you skip the group project and flub the first presentation. More and more skipped assignments lead to more and more zeroes. Yet somehow you pass the mid-term. And looking at the grade weighting system, something like 75% of the grade rests on the mid-term and the final anyway. With more papers and assignments to go between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's not like you are gonna make more progress on that front. Just study hard for the final exam, pass the class, and get this stupid core class out of the way.

The Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are 26-28-12 and currently sit 10 points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference. After a somewhat promising start to the season (6-2-4 in the first month) the Canucks have played slightly below .500 hockey the rest of the way, leaving them on the outside of the playoff picture. And that won't likely change. They just can't score enough. Scoring only 2.36 goals per game puts them in a tie with the Oilers for last place in the Western Conference (the Predators are currently 10th in the NHL with 2.71 goals per game). They are led by Daniel Sedin's 25 goals. Jannik Hansen, an average winger who has never scored more than 16 goals in a season, already has 19 goals on the year and is shooting 18.8%. Playing on the top line with the Sedin brothers has its benefits.

Defensively, they allow 2.83 points per game, good for 22nd in the league. So they don't do anything all that well. The top pairing of Alexander Edler and Christopher Tanev was the blue-line mainstay for most of the year, but Edler is now out for the year with a broken leg. In stepped rookie Ben Hutton, who has played decently in his first go at top line defensive minutes. He has 5 assists in his last 6 games and now ranks third among rookie defensemen with 19 points. The Canucks seem elated that their 5th round 2012 draft pick has ascended the ranks this fast. The Canucks also recently added an actual tree from Russia to play defense for them: 6'8", 240 pound Nikita Tryamkin. "Yeah, but he plays like he's 5'9", so he's more than just his size... he's an all-around hockey player," someone probably said.

Henrik Sedin was out with an injury against the Sharks on Thursday, but looks hopeful to play tonight against the Predators.

The Nashville Predators

Let's take a look at the scoring breakdown for this year, shall we? We did this earlier in the year, showing that the Predators desperately needed more scoring from the bottom 6 forwards. Where do they stand now?

"Top 6" Forwards
Neal, Johansen, Jarnkrok, Ribeiro, Smith, Forsberg
94 Goals
"Bottom 6" Forwards
Fisher, Arvidsson, Salomaki, Watson, Wilson, Gaustad, Sissons, Nystrom
40 Goals
Weber, Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, Jackman, Granberg, Bitetto
44 Goals

Obviously the names on this list have changed quite a bit (remember Cody Hodgson? LOL) but there's been much more balance in goal production. The play of guys like Miikka Salomaki and Viktor Arvidsson have helped make the bottom forwards a much more dangerous group. It is still pretty telling that the team gets more scoring from its blue line than 8 of its forwards, but the gap isn't as wide as you might have thought. It's also important to remember that not all forward lines are expected to be goal producing, much like some defensemen.

The Predators still need production from guys like Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher. As Kris pointed out, it may be time to temper our expectations of what Colin Wilson really is as an NHL player. But it would be nice for the 4th highest paid forward on the team to have more than 5 goals in 51 games. Perhaps Wilson can find the same groove he found late last year and in the playoffs. Whatever works.

Reasons To Watch

  • Will the streak continue? Or have the Preds been playing with too much fire recently? They will need a better start (and better finish) than they had on Wednesday.
  • Watch Filip Forsberg get richer by the minute while David Poile continues to pinch the hell out of some pennies.
  • The wild-card race is on. By the time the Predators and Canucks face-off, the Avalanche-Jets and Wild-Canadiens games will have already finished. So the Preds will know if they are playing to keep pace or merely extending their lead.

The Important Details

Put on a pot of coffee. 9 PM start on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game.