Entering the week, the Nashville Predators were on a hot streak and had already set a franchise record for most consecutive games with a point. Now with a new game week starting there are some questions surrounding the team.
The Preds suffered two more injuries, one to Yannick Weber and the other to Austin Watson. On top of that, Nashville was only able to capture three out of a possible eight points. Sure, it might be a concern right now, but as long as this doesn’t continue into the playoffs, Nashville should have nothing to worry about.
Monday (3/19) @ Buffalo Sabres: 4-0 W
The Predators started their week off on a high note. It began with an away game in Buffalo to face the bottom-of-the-league Sabres. The Sabres might be at the bottom of the standings, but they still have one of the brightest young stars in the game in Jack Eichel. Nashville was able to do its part and silence him, as Pekka Rinne led his team to a win via a 35-save shutout.
— x-Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 20, 2018
This victory was significant for Nashville for three reasons. First, the win gave the Predators a point in 15 consecutive games, another franchise record. Second, with Monday’s victory, Nashville earned its 106th point of the season, its highest total since the 2006-07 season when it finished with 110. Lastly, this was Rinne’s 40th win of the season, enhancing his Vezina Trophy campaign.
Three 40-win seasons in @PredsNHL history.
— NHL (@NHL) March 20, 2018
Thursday (3/22) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: 5-2 L
Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was pretty much a mirror opposite from the game against the Sabres. The Preds were able to hang around for about half the game, but after that, the Leafs just took over, effectively ending the franchise record point streak for Nashville.
— x-Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 23, 2018
Viktor Arvidsson was able to strike in the second period, tying the game at 1-1. After that, the Leafs scored four straight, two in the second and two more in the third. Nashville was able to add one more in the closing moments from Scott Hartnell, but it had no real effect, as the Preds lost in regulation for the first time in 16 games.
This was no doubt a bad performance, but the effort was still there. Rinne had a bad night, and he was due for one, considering his elite level of play lately. Regardless of the outcome, you cannot be upset at the team for losing when the effort is there. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Saturday’s game.
Saturday (3/24) @ Minnesota Wild: 4-1 L
Saturday’s game in Minnesota might have been the worst game that Nashville has played all season. Everything seemed alright through the first period. Ryan Johansen scored and Nashville took a one-goal lead into intermission. Sadly, everything went downhill once the second period started.
Just like Thursday’s game, Nashville allowed four unanswered goals. Not even three minutes into the period, the Wild were able to tie things up. 10 minutes after that, they scored again to take the lead. Jason Zucker and Zach Parise added two more in the third and the Wild took the game 4-1.
Like before, losing can be accepted when the team at least shows effort. But, in this game Nashville just never seemed to show any. The Preds were never able to get any sustained offensive pressure. Through the final two periods, Nashville was only able to muster 11 shots on net. With the playoffs around the corner, now is not the time for these performances.
Sunday (3/25) @ Winnipeg Jets: 5-4 L (SO)
The last game of the week was the last regular season meeting between the Central Division heavyweights. With this being the backend of back-to-backs, Juuse Saros got the start. Considering the opponent, a much better team effort was going to be needed, otherwise Winnipeg was going to win this one easily.
One shining moment.
— x-Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) March 25, 2018
Nashville got off to a hot start, which appeared to be the theme of the week. The Preds scored two in the first, but were unable to hold their lead. Winnipeg answered with three goals in the second period. However, this time the Preds were able to respond and they scored two of their own, now holding a one goal lead through the second intermission. But again, they were unable to hold the lead as they allowed another goal just 59 seconds into the third period. The game would ultimately go to a shootout, which Nashville lost, but they did manage to pick up a point.
This game was pretty tough to analyze. Nashville did not play great, but it did not play bad either. The biggest issue was the defense. It allowed way too many high-danger chances and it is difficult to win games when the opponents are given chance after chance. Regardless, Nashville picked up a point against a top-five team, and if it still isn’t playing to its full potential, it just goes to show that this team is unbeatable when they play at their best.
WHERE THEY STAND
Despite the rough week from Nashville, they still remain in first place in the NHL. Nashville currently has 107 points and it has a game in hand on the next closest team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have 106 points. As far as the Central Division goes, Winnipeg is closing in on Nashville. The win on Sunday gave them 102 points and they clinched their playoff berth. The Wild are still in third with 93 points, but the Avalanche are right behind them with 90 points, occupying the second wild card spot as of now.
The LA Kings are in the first wild card spot with 91 points, but they are eying that third spot in the Pacific Division. Anaheim will do its best to hold on, but neither team is a lock for the playoffs. St. Louis sits as the first team out. It has 89 points and have a game in hand on Colorado and two in hand on the Kings. Dallas is the only other team in the West who has not been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but with only 84 points it will be a bit of long shot. Last in the Central are the Blackhawks. They have 72 points and according to the standings, they are the third worst team in the Western Conference.
Nashville has one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NHL. While it might not be as bad as last week’s, it is still not one to get excited about. The good news is that three of the four games are at home, but that is about it. Minnesota and San Jose are still fighting over playoff position so they will give Nashville everything they have. The Preds catch a break on Saturday with a home game against the league-worst Sabres. Then, to close out the week, Nashville will travel to Tampa Bay for a game that could have serious President’s Trophy implications.
Tuesday (3/27) vs. Minnesota Wild 8 p.m. ET
Thursday (3/29) vs. San Jose Sharks 8 p.m. ET
Saturday (3/31) vs. Buffalo Sabres 8 p.m. ET
Sunday (4/1) @ Tampa Bay Lightning 6 p.m. ET
THREE STARS OF THE WEEK
After everything that happened, Nashville does not deserve three stars for the week. There was only one player who deserves the recognition and that is Arvidsson. Not once was his effort questioned. He gave 110 percent on every shift and it showed on the stat sheet. He ended the week with five points. Arvidsson added two goals and three assists to his total and is now leading the team with 58 points. Hopefully his play carries over to the rest of the team moving forward, because if every player played with his intensity, the Preds would never lose another game.