Monday, November 24, 2008

Predators Right on Track for Playoff Run

In September, after a thorough review of the schedule I looked to a turning point of Thanksgiving week where the Nashville Predators would be done with a stretch where they would have played 13 of the first twenty games on the road. I felt that if they made it to this point over .500 and still close to the top eight in the west that they would be perfectly situated for a run at the playoffs.

The Predators had two big things to overcome in the first twenty games. First, the schedule with an abundance of road games was an obvious issue. Secondly, and what is still a work in progress, integrating a whole slew of youngsters and newcomers into the core team of veterans that were signed in lieu of expensive free agents over the summer.

This morning, the standings revealed that the Predators were sitting in a tie for eight in the west with a 10-9-1 record (including 5-7-1 on the road). Getting to this record has not been pretty at times but has been surprising at others. Friday’s loss at Tampa was the worst game the Preds have played in ages while Sunday’s game at Carolina was the most solid start to finish road game they have played. How do you reason out these two opposites in less than 45 hours time?

If the Predators will play to their capability in the next few weeks with the schedule in their favor they should be right back in the playoff hunt as they have been the last four seasons. The do have more competition within the division with improved Chicago and Columbus teams but the new schedule cuts from 8 to 6 the number of intra division games.

A key as to who gets the last two or three playoff positions will be who has the best record in the out of conference games versus the Eastern Conference. With the increased number of games against unfamiliar opponents, there will be added emphasis on teams that can make quick in game adjustments to deal with the unknown. Remember, you heard that bit of analysis here first.

Sunday’s Big Win - Sunday’s win over Carolina was the most complete road effort that the Preds have had this year. Shea Weber and Jason Arnott both had two goals and many others contributed including a goal by Scotty Nichol and two assists by Marty Erat. The penalty kill was back on track getting a lot of opportunity while killing nine penalties including 2 five on threes totaling 1:56. The power play generated a goal on five opportunities. The Preds out shot the Cains 30-26 and out hit then in a bruising battle 30-28.

Tough Guys? It’s probably not something most folks would report on but the Predators must be hitting folks fairly hard. During Friday night’s game with the Lightning, two players (Gary Roberts and Chris Gratton) were unable to finish the game and Goalie Mike Smith was unable to go on Sunday. In the Carolina game both Patrick Eaves and Tim Gleason were unable to finish the game due to injury. As far as I can tell, all were on regular plays and results of clean hits.

Banished Players Perform Well Both Ryan Jones and Patric Hornqvist performed well on their field trip to Milwaukee this weekend. Hornqvist has had a goal and two assists in two games while Jones has a goal and an assist. They will play again for the Admirals on Wednesday before a recall decision is made. Antti Philstrom also has to be considered for a recall as he scored a pair of goals on Friday and was the last cut in camp before the season.

Trotz Levels More Threats – Coach Barry Trotz publicly called out four players in a threat that they may follow the route of Jones and Hornqvist if they don’t shape up soon. He listed veteran Vern Fiddler, Joel Ward, Rich Peverly and Nick Tarnasky as under-performers. This was on the heals of a berating of David Legwand of not meeting expectations a couple of days earlier.

Vulture Balsille Back in the News – In the ongoing saga for famous team vulture Jim Balsille’s continued attempts to get a slice of the NHL pie, the National Post ran a story on Friday cheering the vultures efforts to purchase the 27% stake tied up in bankruptcy court thanks to neer-do-well Boots DelBiaggio. Something a little different in this article was the fact that if successful, as the Preds second largest shareholder, he would become the alternate member on the NHL Board of Governors, giving him an opportunity to attend meetings and suck up to the other owners in person. Full story is at This guy is never going to go away.

Versus Disruption As a final reminder, Tuesday’s game vs the Blues has a special 6:00 start due to being shown on Versus Network. I’m sure it’s all well and good that the Preds are getting the additional pub but is sure is a burden for the paying fan that works 8:00-5:00 to get to the game on time, especially those like me that live an hour out of town. Luckily, I have a great boss that wants to see my smiling face beamed out to the whole country.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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