Current record- 46-28-6, 98 points (5th in West) When they clinched a playoff spot- April 3rd The stretch that lifted them- November 12 through December 19 (15-3-2)
Yesterday’s playoff-clinching win in Detroit exemplified the story of the Predators’ season. When Datsyuk tied the game late, Suter scored early in overtime. When San Jose scored six goals in a nightmarish 3rd period, the Preds responded with a six-game winning streak. And when the team started the season 3-6-1, they followed it up with a remarkable 26-10-3 record over the next couple months.
Nashville’s resiliency this year has been very impressive; each time they received a punch to the mouth, they responded with a knockout blow. After just missing the playoffs a year ago, Barry Trotz’s Predators are back in the dance. But if you think they plan on stopping here, you’re making a big mistake.
The franchise has made the playoffs four times in its history (all since 2004). They have yet to advance past the first round, and have zero road playoff wins. Trotz and company plan to change that this go-round.
Sophomore goaltender Pekka Rinne has turned his game up a couple notches since the Olympic break. He’s certainly benefitted from the two-week break, compiling an 11-3-1 record, 1.90 GAA, and 4 shutouts in 16 games. With the recent offensive inconsistencies, Rinne has put the team on his back at the most crucial point in the season.
Speaking of the offense, their scoring has been done by committee. Patric Hornqvist (30 goals, 51 points) has been critical to their success. He’s been a piece the Preds have been missing for quite some time, doing the dirty work in front of the net. His breakout season came at the perfect time, when you consider some of veterans have been disappointing. Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont will post their lowest point totals since joining the Preds.
Behind the top pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, Nashville’s blue-line is their pillar of strength. Alongside the two Olympic standouts, Dan Hamhuis, Francis Bouillon, Cody Franson, and Kevin Klein have all made key contributions this season. Deadline acquisition Denis Grebeshkov should rejoin the lineup in the playoffs after missing a month with a very painful ‘lower-body’ injury. Their defensive unit has great depth, and should pose problems for opponents in a seven-game series.
For the Predators to achieve their goal of advancing in the postseason, though, the special teams have to get better. This is one of the best five-on-five teams in the league, but they have the third-worst combined special teams. Arnott’s return should help the power play, which has gone 0-for-26 in his 8-game absence.
Without any notable superstar to speak of, this team has gone under the radar all season. But with four lines that can generate scoring chances, and one of the best back ends in the conference (if not the league), the Predators are poised to finally make some noise this playoff season.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.