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The Dog Days of February


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Photo Credit: Associated Press

The NHL season can often times be a rollercoaster.  The dizzying, jubilant highs of a 5 game winning streak–the spiraling, devastating lows of a 5 game losing streak.  It’s all part of the wild, unpredictable soap opera, it’s what makes being a fan so enjoyable.  When you hitch your wagon to a team and make them your favorite, you’re in it for all of those contrasting emotions.  Without them, it’s tough to say that you’re really invested.

With that in mind, I can imagine that for as high my fellow Preds fans rode into the All-Star Break, the crawl out of the mire since has been equally depressing.  Games at this time of year seem even more important than usual, the standings are an ever-changing horserace, with teams constantly jockeying for position.

The Central division is no different.  While the two ends of the bell curve have been relatively static in Detroit and Columbus, the Blues, Blackhawks and Predators have been swapping spots 4-6 in the Western Conference standings on a near nightly basis(although the Blackhawks recent misfortunes have eased some of that dogfight for the moment; it’d be foolish to assume they’ll stay down for too long).  This paper-thin margin adds an element of anxiety to the race, and so the sluggish gait that the Preds have loped out of the ASG with seems that much worse.

History, however, suggests that you need not worry.

While it’s true that the Predators have stumbled a bit, going 2-2-2 in the six games since the break, there’s a little bit of a historical precedent for that type of performance.  Now, I’m not here to try to explain why or what can be done to fix it–just to reassure you.  Looking back over the past 6 seasons(post-lockout to last season), the month of February has traditionally been unkind to the Predators.  In fact, so has November–with this season being no exception: the Predators went a mediocre 6-5-2.  Of course, they quelled much of indigestion that went along with such a smelly month by having a much better December: 9-5-0.  However, staying focused on February, the aggregate record looks like this: 22-22-9, or a winning percentage of 41.5%.  Compare that to other months, and you have, by far, the Predators toughest month.

Why is that?  Again, I really don’t know.  I’ve always hated February myself.  Perhaps the Predators have an aversion to greeting-card holidays similar to my own?  The world may never know.

What I do know is that the one exception to the annual curse came in the 2008-2009 season, when the Predators were able to produce an anomalous 9-4-1 record.

What else is unique about that season?

It’s the one year that the Nashville Predators have missed the playoffs since the lockout.  In fact, the WORST statistical February for the Predators came last season–the year the Predators finally shook the first round monkey off their back.

So if there’s any scientific conclusion that can be inferred from all of this empirical data, it’s this: “do really bad in February, and you’ll have a great post season!”

Okay, perhaps “scientific” is a bit of a stretch.  That last part is likely a coincidence, but the eventual we-ended-up-okay element isn’t.  We are, barring a March and April as catastrophic as the team has never experienced, going to make the playoffs.  And from there, who knows?

The key point is– step back from the ledge.  The Predators have managed to get points against some tough opponents, despite playing admittedly sloppy or poor games.  History, statistics, and a know-it-all like me are betting that it’s all going to work out fine in the end.

Plus–it could always be worse.  We could be the Chicago “winless in 8″ Blackhawks.

Ouch.

-JN