The Week That Was: Week 25
Saturday nights have become a big problem and this past one was another turn for the Central Division: The Division Nobody Wants. Well, at least we can try to figure out when Game 1 will be, anyway.
Saturday nights in Smashville used to be great nights for Nashville Predators fans.
Since the calendar turned to 2019, all they have become are a weekly series of letdowns in three acts.
The Predators have at least a .500 record on every other day this season.
Except Saturday. And even more concerning, they’re under .500 at home on Saturday, losers of their last six such contests after a 5-2 loss to Columbus.
Here’s how those days break down so far:
Sunday: 2-1-1 overall (1-0-1 home)
Monday: 8-0-2 (4-0-0)
Tuesday: 8-8-0 (7-4-0)
Wednesday: 4-0-0 (1-0-0)
Thursday: 9-6-2 (5-3-1)
Friday: 3-2-1 (no Friday home games this season)
Saturday: 10-12-0 (5-7-0)
What is it about Saturday that’s costing the Predators precious points? Historically, it hasn’t been this way. A look back at the team’s media guide shows that in most years, Nashville’s Saturday record has been at or above .500.
For reference, here are the five best Saturday records (combined home/road) in team history:
2006-07: 20-5-2, 42 points
2011-12: 15-4-4, 34 points
2003-04: 14-6-3-1, 32 points (back in the pesky four-column days)
2014-15: 14-7-3, 31 points
2008-09: 15-5-0, 30 points
Yeah, not all seasons are created equal, but Saturday has traditionally been a good night. There is one anomaly that stands out, however: the 2016-17 squad went 7-10-3 on Saturday and just 5-3-3 at home during the regular season. They then won all three Saturday games during that playoff run.
So, who knows?
Maybe this tweet from WSMV’s Justin Beasley has some merit:
Filip Forsberg said just now in the locker room that the #Preds didn’t match Columbus’ desperation.— Justin Beasley (@JBeasleyWSMV) March 31, 2019
Translation: This team is bored. And ready for the playoffs to get here already.
Maybe they are bored. Maybe these games don’t matter to them. Maybe the Central Division title and/or getting a certain matchup doesn’t matter.
Maybe this team thinks it can flip the switch when it’s time to go about 10 days from now (Sunday when this was written).
Folks, that’s a dangerous game to play. Especially when they haven’t shown improvement in the things they need to progress in (power play, Kyle Turris, responding to in-game adversity).
The 16-17 team was playing well entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Though the Preds are taking two out of nearly every three games for the past month, it doesn’t seem like they’re playing that well.
Last week, I pretty much put my stance behind a first-round exit. I always reserve the right to change my mind. Except I don’t know what to change it to.
I cannot figure this team out. And if you think you have, it’s just like Tennessee weather—wait 30 minutes and it’ll change.
One week left in the regular season. This time next week, we’ll know the specifics of the first round. We just won’t have a clue how it’s going to play out.
On with it:
The Fast Money Round
Monday: Predators 1, Minnesota Wild 0
Making the playoffs for five consecutive seasons is no small feat, especially in today’s NHL. Getting that clinched should be lauded. For two minutes. Juuse Saros was outstanding in this one.
Friday: Predators 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 1
This game got me thinking about what I said last week. There were some demons to exorcise in PPG Paints Arena and they certainly did that. That does take mental toughness. I could be wrong about it and it wouldn’t be so bad if I am. Also, I’ve been told a power play goal was scored. And Pekka Rinne might be on to something with those navy pads. Saros did good things when he switched, too. Speaking of Saros, his illness caused its share of problems.
Saturday: Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Predators 2
The Jackets were in town waiting on the Preds and more than ready to fight. With Saros seemingly okay to go, he got back in against a team that would have violated every one of the Ten Commandments for points and it showed. Saros didn’t seem right the entire night, yet Peter Laviolette ran him through it anyway because he didn’t want to play Rinne in a back-to-back situation. In all honesty, Troy Grosenick should have gotten this start, but he was sent back to Milwaukee earlier in the day as Saros appeared to be well enough to go. The rest of the team simply didn’t show up.
(Side note: I don’t consider it to be a winning streak until it reaches three games. Technically, two is correct, but are you really streaking if you start the streak and then immediately stop it the next time out?)
Player of the Week
Make it 33 for 33 in 55. That’s how many games it took Viktor Arvidsson to tie the single-season franchise goal-scoring record. He’s got a decent chance to make it his own this week.
An extra-honorable mention to Rinne for his stellar performance in Pittsburgh.
Favorite Thing of the Week
I’m taking a different route this week. Getting both Rem Pitlick and Dante Fabbro in their first NHL games now was a good thing. Let them get that experience now so the nerves don’t become a factor when they fight for roster spots later on.
It’s that time of year when some of us try to figure out when the first playoff game will take place. Since there’s still no knowing where it will be until probably the final night of the season, I’ll consider all of the likely places the postseason could begin for the Predators after looking at arena availability within the two-week series window beginning on April 10. All scenarios are based on an every-other-day schedule with no multi-day gaps between games (and all are subject to be totally wrong):
If it’s at home (Preds are higher seed): April 11 is booked for 2Cellos. Since the Preds are no stranger to opening on Friday, I’d lean toward opening on the 12th (it’ll be at 8:30 Central, just you watch). Beyond that, a multi-day gap will be built in somewhere, depending on the opponent’s arena conflicts.
At St. Louis (Preds are lower seed): Bridgestone Arena has a Godsmack concert on April 16 and Enterprise Center has a WWE event on the 19th (possible Game 5). A multi-day gap will have to be built in to accommodate both conflicts. Likeliest start date could be the 11th to avoid multiple two-day gaps.
At Winnipeg: It cannot start on April 11, as Fleetwood Mac is playing at BellMTS Place. Michael Bublé has a concert on the 19th, interfering with a potential Game 5. There would have to be a multi-day gap between either games 2 and 3 or games 3 and 4. This one could begin on the 10th or 12th, but I’d still lean toward Friday.
(Note: Dallas could still mathematically jump into the No. 2 seed in the Central, but that possibility ends with one Nashville win or Dallas loss.)
Bottom line: I’d clear out Friday, April 12 for a game at 8:30 Central, because the league loves to do that to Central time zone teams.
This Week’s Grade
The work in Minnesota and Pittsburgh was good, let’s not discount that. But with a chance to take the Central lead outright (and Winnipeg trying to hand over the division like it’s a game of hot potato), the Preds blew another chance to set themselves up for a chance to get away from both the Jets and the Blues. Which makes Saturday’s loss all the more damning.
With one fewer game to play this week than their immediate contenders, they need help not only to possibly win the Central crown, but to also keep home-ice advantage in the first round. Granted, the Preds get three non-playoff teams to finish up with, but since that’s the case, nothing less than six points is acceptable.
They’ll need all of them if they plan to begin the postseason by hosting that 8:30 Friday night game that’s quickly becoming a playoff tradition in Nashville. This week’s grade: C
Who’s your Player of the Week for Week 25?