Nashville Predators vs Calgary Flames 04/10/2023 Preview: Last Chance
The Nashville Predators saw their postseason hopes nearly disappear after a disappointing loss to the Jets. But there's no time to sulk, as they could keep their slim hopes alive against the Calgary Flames tonight.
Saturday's "Game of the Season" was the culmination of the stellar play against two of the league's best teams, but by the time the final horn buzzed in Winnipeg, the Nashville Predators (40-31-8) faced an uncomfortable truth: they couldn't keep up with playoff teams when it counted. With hopes of a playoff berth greatly diminished (they fell from a 24% chance to just 6%), any hopes of rekindling any sort of postseason aspiration lie within the very next game against another playoff-seeker, the Calgary Flames (37-27-16).
The Predators remained at 88 points with three games remaining, three points behind the Winnipeg Jets, who control their own destiny for the 8th seed. The Flames, after losing to Vancouver in the shootout on Saturday, have 90 points, just behind the Jets and two ahead of the Predators.
The loser tonight between the Predators and Flames (Nashville leads the season series 2-0-0) could face elimination by the time the final horn sounds. The Winnipeg Jets face the San Jose Sharks (6:00 pm Central) and a win by the Jets will eliminate the loser of the game nearly three hours later. Even if the Jets lose in overtime (which doesn't seem likely considering it's the Sharks), if Nashville or Calgary loses in regulation, they'll still be eliminated. For either of these teams to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, they'll need to win, and they'll need to win in 60 minutes.
Last Ten Games Out
Nashville Predators - 5-5-0
Wins: vs SEA 2-1 (OT), @ BOS 2-1, vs STL 6-1, vs VGK 3-2 (OT), vs CAR 3-0
Losses: vs SEA 7-2, vs TOR 3-2, @PIT 2-0, @ DAL 5-1, @WPG 2-0
OT Losses: n/a
Calgary Flames - 6-3-1
Wins: @ ANA 5-1, vs SJS 5-3, vs LAK 2-1, @ VAN 5-4 (OT), vs ANA 5-4, @ WPG 3-1
Losses: @ LAK 8-2, vs VGK 3-2, vs CHI 4-3
OT Losses: @ VAN 3-2 (OT)
Player to Watch: Calgary Flames
F Tyler Toffoli: Toffoli is having a spectacular season, leading the team in goals (34) and points (73) in 80 games played. And he hasn't slowed down in recent games - all of which have been important to their own playoff chase. In his last five games, Toffoli has three goals and three assists, but is a dominant force analytically as well. Tyler Tofolli has a Goals Above Replacment (GAR) of 21.8 - the next highest is the Predators' leader, Roman Josi with 12.5. There's no player on either team that approaches his metrics on offense - both even strength and on the power play. Toffoli is a constant threat to score, and the Predators' defenders will have to be on alert whenever he has - or for that matter, or doesn't have - the puck.
Player to Watch: Nashville Predators
G Juuse Saros: While the Predators' chances at anything related to the postseason are extremely slim, the only reason they had a chance at all was the play of Juuse Saros. The Finnish netminder has had an incredible season statistically, despite the terrible defense in front of him.
Saros has gone 31-23-7 with a 91.8% save percentage and two shutouts. And while his win totals won't match a player like Linus Ullmark, his career year puts him atop his nearest competitors:
Of the top 25 goaltenders in the last five season, Saros stands atop GAR, the total unblocked shot attempts against (2,850, or 46.0 per game), expected goals against (211.0 or 3.4 per game) and second in goals saved above expected (44.0 or 0.71 per game).
Juuse Saros might be the only Predators' player that will be participating in anything related to the post-season, and that should be as a finalist for the NHL's Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender in the league. Nashville's only other winner was Pekka Rinne in 2018-19, and Saros has nearly doubled the GAR accrued by the future hall of famer. If he wants to solidify his case for the award, a big performance to keep Nashville alive tonight would certainly help.
How to Watch
The game starts at 8:30 pm Central, 9:30 pm Eastern on Bally Sports and 102.5 the Game.