After defeating Anaheim last night (but almost handing them an incredible comeback) Nashville has vaulted into a fifth-place tie in the standings with the season waning down (Streeski had an excellent breakdown of last night's game, so check it out if you haven't yet). It’s hard to criticize the Predators with their excellent play of late, but nearly giving up a large lead last night was discouraging, as well as some dumb mistakes that were made in the process of coughing up that lead. Overall, though, a win is a win, and Nashville needs the points any way they can get them.
Up next for the Preds on Saturday night in the Bridgestone arena is another team scrambling to try to get into the Western Conference playoffs: the Dallas Stars.
Riding a five-game winning streak, the Predators will enter Saturday’s game red hot and looking to keep the streak (and consequently, their playoff hopes) alive and provide some separation between themselves and another playoff contender, as they did Thursday night against the Ducks.
Dallas, on the other hand, is riding a two-game losing skid. Ironically, the last team Dallas played was also Anaheim, and they lost to the Ducks 4-3 in overtime. Dallas is in a must-win situation, as they cannot afford to continue to drop any further in the playoffs, and they definitely do not want to see a team ahead of them pull out any further.
Obviously it’s a huge game for the Preds, as all of their remaining games are now, because of the tight gap in the Western Conference playoff race. As of Friday afternoon, here are the standings in the west:
1. Vancouver – 105 pts
2. Detroit – 95 pts
3. San Jose – 95 pts
4. Phoenix – 93 pts
5. Las Angeles – 90 pts
6. Nashville – 90 pts
7. Chicago – 88 pts
8. Anaheim – 87 pts
9. Dallas – 86 pts
10. Calgary – 85 pts
For now, the only thing to focus on is winning every game and putting as much space between us and 9th place, to ensure that we actually make the playoffs. What seed we manage and whether or not we can catch certain other teams should be secondary, obviously. That said, the Predators’ seven remaining games this season shouldn’t be too difficult, as five of them will be played at Bridgestone Arena, and only three are against serious playoff contenders. Here are the remaining games: vs. Dallas, vs. Vancouver, @Colorado, vs. Detroit, vs. Atlanta, vs. Columbus, and @St. Louis.
As long as the Predators play solid hockey to close out the season, they should not have any trouble making the playoffs. But we’ll see how things shake out going forward. That Detroit game, if the standings remain this close (or get even closer) between now and then, is going to be monumental. I can’t wait. GO PREDS!!