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Preds Win Twice, Extend Lead In Central Division

Preds Win Twice, Extend Lead In Central Division
Treigh Patterson

The Nashville Predators had another great week of hockey. They played three games and won two, and lost the other in a shootout. The Preds also broke a franchise record for most wins in a row. It was sad to see it come to an end, but Nashville is still distancing itself from the rest of the competition and are in prime position to win the Western Conference for the first time ever.

THE GAMES

Tuesday (3/6) vs. Dallas Stars: W 2-0

The Nashville Predators entered Tuesday’s game riding an 8-game winning streak, tying a franchise record. This meant, that with a win against Dallas, Nashville could set a new franchise record. And that is exactly what they did. Dallas came to town and Nashville did not mess around with the chance to make history.

It was pretty intense for most of the game, but with history on the line, Nashville made sure not to misstep. Then, only five minutes in to the final period Ryan Hartman put his team in front. He roofed a backhand shot from about 15 feet out, and that was all it took. Nashville added an empty-netter late, and won two goals to none. Rinne picked up his 50th career shutout and the Predators won their ninth in-a-row.

Thursday (3/8) vs. Anaheim Ducks W 4-2

Next on the schedule for the Preds this week was the Anaheim Ducks. The final matchup of the regular season took place on Thursday and Nashville was looking to sweep the season series. Not to mention they were riding a 9-game winning streak. Anaheim is still fighting for playoff position so it was not going to come easy. Fortunately for the Preds, they brought their A game Thursday.

Nashville got the scoring started earlier when Craig Smith lit the lamp five minutes in. Ten minutes later Ryan Johannsen followed suit, scoring his tenth of the season. Austin Watson added one more in the second and Nashville had a three-goal lead heading into the final period.

This is where things began to slip away for Nashville. The Preds allowed an early goal to Rickard Rakell only four minutes in. Then, with three minutes left in the game he struck again bringing the Ducks within one. In typical Predators’ fashion, they answered right away as Viktor Arvidsson scored his 25th goal of the year to ice the Preds’ victory.

Saturday (3/10) vs. New Jersey Devils: L 3-2 (SO)

Nashville’s final game of the week was against the New Jersey Devils. The Preds entered the game as hot as they come, perfect in their last ten. Jersey, on the other hand, is clinging to a wildcard spot and need all the points they can get.

Nashville got the scoring started extremely early. Mattias Ekholm scored just a minute into the game. Unfortunately, Nashville would have serious trouble scoring the rest of the game. To make matters worse the Devils scored twice to take the lead. Nashville was definitely the better team most of the game. They had sustained offensive zone time and were getting plenty of shots on net. It was just one of those nights where they could not find the back of the net.

This continued the whole game, too. That was until the final minute of the game when Nashville pulled their goalie. The extra attacker came out and Ryan Johansen was finally able to score and tie the game. The game ended up going to a shootout, where the Preds eventually lost. This ended their 10-game win streak, but it was still a gutsy effort to even get a point.

WHERE THEY STAND

After this past week, the Nashville Predators remain in first place in the western conference. They have earned points in 11 straight games and sit somewhat comfortably at the top of the division with 98 points. The Winnipeg Jets are in second with 91 points and the Minnesota Wild are in third with 85 points.

Following the top three spots, Dallas and Colorado occupy the two wildcard spots. The Stars have 82 points and the Avalanche have 80. It will be a tough finish for these two teams and they are going to have to work overtime to keep their playoff spots.

The St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks are near the bottom of the division, and time is running out. The Blues have 77 points and the Blackhawks just picked up their 68th. Technically, there is still hope for these two teams, but it will be nearly impossible for either team to get back in contention.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Nashville has a relatively easy schedule coming up this week. They start off with a heavyweight bout against the Winnipeg Jets at home on Tuesday. Winnipeg will be on the backend of a back-to-back, so Nashville should have the upper hand in this one.

Next, the Preds hit the road and travel to Arizona. Standings-wise, Arizona is the worst team in the NHL, so Nashville should have no issues taking care of business. The last game of the week will be in Colorado. Nashville has had some good luck playing the Avalanche lately, so hopefully those fortunes continue.

Tuesday (3/13) vs. Winnipeg Jets 8:00 PM EST

Thursday (3/15) @ Arizona Coyotes 10:00 PM EST

Friday (3/16) @ Colorado Avalanche 9:00 PM EST

THREE STARS OF THE WEEK

THIRD STAR: Ryan Hartman 

Since joining the Predators, Ryan Hartman has been a welcomed breath of fresh air. He is such a versatile player, he makes what ever line he is playing on better. With him on the fourth line, he has turned it around from being just the grind-it-out line, to a legitimate scoring line.

He displayed this during Tuesday’s game against Dallas. He scored the game winning goal in the third period, and propelled the Preds to victory. With his presence in the lineup all four lines are dangerous and that is a nightmare for opposing teams.

SECOND STAR: Ryan Johansen 

Everybody knows how great of a player Johansen can be, and he seems to finally be playing up to his potential again. He got off to a pretty slow start this season, but he is becoming the type of player Nashville is going to need for a deep playoff run.

He scored twice this week, and one of his goals tied the game with a minute left in the game. Johansen also picked up a Gordie Howe hat-trick this week. That is when a player scores a goal, picks up an assist, and gets in a fight all in the same game. If that does not prove Johansen is back, nothing will.

FIRST STAR: Pekka Rinne 

Rinne had another fantastic week. He played in two games and only allowed two goals. He also picked up a shutout in the process, his 50th of his career. His play has been top notch, and he has shot himself into a front runner for the Vezina Trophy. If he keeps playing this way, there really should be no reason why he can’t win it.

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