In the final meeting between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Nashville Predators, Nashville holds a commanding season series lead of 4-0-1. The Predators began the season against the Blue Jackets winning at Nationwide Arena and never looked back.
This season also saw Columbus winning their first game in Nashville in what seemed like forever with an overtime win on December 8, 2011.
Columbus has been mired in defeat at the hands of most of the league, especially the Central Division. With a string of injuries to important players such as Wisniewski and Umberger, Columbus may have sustained too many setbacks to challenge for a playoff spot.
After an emotional and sound win against Chicago Saturday night, can the Predators keep on pressing and enter the All-Star break as one of the hottest teams in the NHL?
This Year’s Series: 4-0-1 Home (1-0-1) Away (3-0-0)
Looking at the Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have mustered only 4 wins since December 15th and have a combined record of 13-28-6 making them the cellar-dwellers of the NHL. In comparison, the bottom team in the Eastern Conference (Carolina Hurricanes) is sitting 11 points ahead of Columbus.
It has been a very tough season for Columbus when off-season acquisitions like Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski were supposed to invigorate a struggling franchise. It didn’t happen. The lone bright spot in the year is the promise shown by the rookie Ryan Johanson with 16 points on the year and one of the few Blue Jackets with a positive +3 rating.
Looking at the Predators: In a packed house that was fairly divided with Blackhawk Red and Predators Gold, the Predators took care of business with a lopsided win against their bitter rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks. A sold out crowd was witness to another standing ovation during a t.v. timeout and the timely goals and solid defense and goaltending of the Predators proved to be the difference.
The only bad thing to come about from the win was the loss of Francis Bouillon in the first period. For a team already missing half of it’s All-Star defensive pairing in Ryan Suter, Nashville can ill-afford to lose another veteran defenseman for a long period of time. The rookies have definitely stepped up and are playing hard minutes but in the home stretch of a playoff run, the Nashville Predators will be depending on their defensive core to be ready to play a ton of minutes and help out Pekka Rinne.
For the Blue Jackets to win: The Blue Jackets will have to play like they did the last two periods of the prior game against Nashville. The Jackets peppered Rinne throughout the second and third period of that game and if not for the NHL First Star of the Night performance by Rinne, Columbus could have made that game a much more interesting contest.
Once again, from the forwards back, the Blue Jackets have to start playing defense. It’s all well and good that Nash and Prospal can score easily against many of the top defensive squads in the NHL, but it doesn’t help matters when the other team is putting pucks in the back of the net at double the rate. Mason or Sanford need to play consistent in goal as this huge part of every NHL game has been lacking for the majority of the season.
For the Predators to win: Why fix it if it ain’t broken. The Predators are playing inspiring hockey and have been from December 28th only losing 2 games in the span. Martin Erat has methodically climbed the ranks of the Predators and is now tied for the points lead with Captain Shea Weber with 33 points. The goal scoring lead is a tie between David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist each with 13 goals.
Hornqvist is up to his old tricks again that drive goaltenders out of their minds. He is screening every other goal for the Predators or tipping and deflecting home his own goals. His play in front is exactly what Nashville has been needing all year and with Craig Smith starting to pay dividends on the PP, look for Hornqvist to get even more chances with Weber and Ellis firing from the blueline.
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