Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings will mark the quarter point of the 2018-2019 season and the standings as of November 15th has your Nashville Predators tied for the top spot in the league with Tampa Bay Lightning with 27 points.
That’s pretty good, eh? So, there ya’ have it.
Wait, that was only 49 words. Perhaps there’s a little more to breakdown. After all, if you peruse Predators social media during their 5-game road trip this past week, you’d think there were two games left and they were in that limbo state of 9th in the league. Doom and gloom is heavy in Music City and there’s no way this team will amount to anything. Did I get that right?
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re an established fan. You’re emotionally invested in the team, you understand the game, and when you’re talking to your friends about the previous night’s game, you refer to the team as “we.” So, it kind of surprised me after last night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, there was so much negativity. Now, I get it. I know how fan pages work on social media. It’s a sounding board to vent frustration. It’s like being in the service industry and dealing with customer service surveys. The only time people fill those out are to complain.
However, despite being the top athletes in the sporting world, this road trip took the Preds from the Mountain time zone (Colorado) to the Central (Dallas), then to the Pacific zone for a back-to-back against the Ducks and Sharks, ending in the Mountain last night against the Yotes. That’s taxing. On anyone. I get tired driving from my home to office Monday through Friday…and I don’t have people trying to bash my head in for three hours when I get to work (though it may have crossed their minds).
The previous four games saw the Predators fall behind only to come roaring back (with the exception of the Arizona game). Heck, they were down three goals to the Sharks in the first 17 minutes of the game and had a chance to win! Granted, falling behind falls on the team, but to have the fortitude to fight back in these games speaks volume to the character of the players, however, it also adds to the physical drain of playing the game.
Finally, I had a comment on my post last night about calming down and putting a long season in focus that the effort wasn’t there last night. Nashville outshot the Coyotes. Nashville outchanced the Coyotes. Nashville beat Arizona to pucks in the dirty areas. The only pucks that got by Pekka Rinne was a short-hopper over his pad and a knuckle-puck from the high slot through a Ryan Ellis screen. Other than those two fluky goals and the post that Kyle Turris couldn’t have hit more imperfectly, yeah it was obvious that those guys just “didn’t want it.” The “effort wasn’t there.” This is where I pause to allow all of you to roll your eyes.
Injuries happen. It’s hockey. It’s a physical sport. Nashville just recently got snake bit by the Injury Ninja losing Viktor Arvidsson for 6-8 weeks with a broken thumb and P.K. Subban will be out at least until the St. Louis game on Wednesday. Arvidsson has already missed 6 games this year, so that might have something to do with the abysmal power play (special teams as a whole is dead last). When you lose two of your more dynamic, creative players, the numbers will take a hit. It’s not an excuse…it’s just reality.
Despite being on a 3-game losing streak, this team is still STACKED. They have arguably the best goaltender tandem in the league along with 4 out of 6 defensemen who would easily be number ones on any number of teams. Prior to the last 4 games, the previous 4 saw a 0.75 GAA (3 games of 1 goal allowed and a shutout).
Eight out of the next nine games are back in Bridgestone. There’s no doubt the boys will be happy to get back home, enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and family. Getting an emotional recharge at this time of the season will go a long way as the season progresses. Studies show that if a team is holding a playoff spot around Thanksgiving, the odds of them making the second season are significantly higher than those on the outside. With that said, there’s three quarters of a season remaining. There will be more injuries. Refs will miss calls. Pucks will hop or take a wicked turn in a skate rut on the ice. “We’re” in first place in the West and we’ve lost the last three games in a row. A team like Vancouver would be checking lottery odds for the number one overall pick if they lost three games in a row at any point in the season. Nashville is too good to let a slide affect them long term. But hey, 76-5-1 is still a possibility. Only if they put in the effort, eh?