The Nashville Predators are 61 games through the 2011-2012 season. Some faces have changed since the initial drop of the puck in October, but the results have been much better than anyone could have anticipated.
After Thursday night’s shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues, the Predators find themselves in sole position of 5th place in the Western Conference with 77 points, and in 5th place in the entire league at that. Their 35 wins tie them for the 6th most in the league with New Jersey and they are currently in a tie with Vancouver for the league’s best powerplay at 21.6% conversion rate (I’ll touch on that a little bit later)
Geoffrion, Bergfors, and Smithson, all starters at the beginning of the season, are now gone to their new homes (Montreal, KHL, Florida, respectively). Jon Blum went from a promising handful of games and a great post-season to a dismal performance in his first couple of months with the Predators before being sent back to the Milwaukee Admirals and becoming a continuing discussion as potential trade bait nearing the deadline.
Pekka Rinne leads the entire league with 33 wins, one greater than Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings? I doubt any one could be surprised with that. However, let’s break down what Nashville’s odd are of reaching the playoffs and their seeding, where they stand now as opposed to where they stood last year, a look back at my 20 Bold Predictions for the season and where I’m right/wrong so far, and what I believe will happen for the remainder of the season
Nashville currently stands at 35-19-7 with 77 points so far on the season. They sit 8 points behind the 1st place Red Wings with 1 game in hand, 4 points behind the 4th place St. Louis Blues, 4 points ahead of the 6th place Chicago Blackhawks with 1 game in hand, 6 points ahead of the 7th place Phoenix Coyotes, and 9 points ahead of the 8th place Dallas Stars with 1 game in hand.
According to the popular SportsClubStats.com website, Nashville has a 99.4% chance of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It will lock to 100% as long as they win at least 8 of their remaining 21 games. A less than .500 record over the remaining 21? I don’t see that being a problem for Nashville, even though 11 of their final 21 games will be played on the road, as the Predators have the 9th best road record (in terms of points collected) in the NHL at 16-12-2
This Year: After 61 games, Nashville is 35-19-7 with 77 points
Last Year: After 61 games, Nashville was 31-22-8 with 70 points
This Year: Nashville is tied for 1st in the league for their Powerplay with a 21.6% conversion rate
Last Year: Nashville FINISHED the season 26th in the league for their Powerplay with a 15.2% conversion rate
This Year: Nashville is tied for 15th in the league for their Penalty Kill with a 82.2% kill rate
Last Year: Nashville FINISHED the season 5th in the league for their Penalty Kill with a 84.9% kill rate
At the beginning of the season, I wrote a post labeled “20 Bold Predictions for the 2011-2012 Nashville Predators”. Below are my 20 predictions and what’s right/wrong/not able to be judged yet.
1: David Legwand will have a career year
If you would have asked me this earlier in the season, I would have said he was on his way to having one and I could have been correct. However, unless he really has over a point-per-game over the final 21, he won’t even come close to his career best of 63 points in the 06-07 campaign. Currently standing at 36 points, I would say that I am:
2: Pekka Rinne will win more than 33 games this season
Well, he’s 1 win away from passing this mark as he currently stands at 33 wins right now. I’d love to go ahead and say I’m right with this one, but currently this one stands at:
3: Nashville will bring home some post-season hardware this year
The season is still going on, so this one is:
4: Nashville WON’T win the division, but will go further in the playoffs than the rest of the Central Division…
The season is still going on, so this one is:
5: Columbus will win in Nashville this season
Saturday, November 19th at home in overtime, the Predators dropped their first game to Columbus IN NASHVILLE in 17 games 4-3 with a boatload of their own fans in attendance. I get to call this one as:
6: Don’t expect Ryan Ellis to start in Nashville
And he didn’t. Ryan Ellis’s first start in the Music City came a day after Christmas on a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. In his 22 games since he was called up, Ellis has 3 goals/6 assists/9 points and the Predators have gone 16-5-1. Although Ellis was re-assigned to Milwaukee this morning to play in some games to grab some more experience, Trotz noted to Ryan Porth at Smashville247.net that Ellis will be back sooner rather than later. So, in this one, I’m:
7: Blake Geoffrion will start the season in Milwaukee
Nope, wrong on that one. He started the season in Nashville but after being re-assigned to Milwaukee early, he was traded recently to the Montreal Canadiens with Robert Slaney and a 2nd round pick for the monster known as Hal Gill. For this one, I was:
8: Nashville will eclipse 40 wins for the 7th STRAIGHT season
Nashville is only 5 wins away from doing so, currently, but as the season is not finished yet, this one is currently:
9: Bergfors will find a home here in Nashville
10: Weber/Suter/Rinne will ALL sign contract extensions with Nashville
Rinne signed a few months ago, however Weber and Suter have yet to give their John Hancock’s to David Poile for their extended stay in the Music City. There is still time for this one to get done this season, although unrealistically, but it’s set at:
11: Jordin Tootoo will nearly double (or more) his current point highs
Tootoo stands at 26 points so far for the season, only 10 points away from doubling his career high and with 21 games to go in the season. He’s still got time to do it. Right now it’s:
12: Colin Wilson will have a “make it” type of year
Although he’s had his ups and downs this season, I would consider this a “make it” year for him so far. He’s 3 points away from his career best in points (stands at 31 points currently) and he’s seemingly matured from his previous years….at least we hope he has. I would call this as:
13: Cal O’Reilly will have a “break it” type of year
Yep, he definitely broke it. He’s not even in the NHL right now, but yet is playing with Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate. I would set this as:
14: Overtime Losers to Overtime Winners
While Nashville was 2-7 last year in the overtime period, they are 3-3 this year. Although it’s not the dominance I thought it was, they are better than their record last year, so this is:
15: Nashville WILL win an overtime home playoff game
Season is still going on, so this one is:
16: Nashville will have a streak of 7 (wins/losses) or more…
Nashville has currently had 3 stretches of 5 wins this season, but has yet to reach 7 in wins OR losses this year. However, the season is still underway so this is:
17: 20+ Regular Season Sell-Outs
They’re close! But the season is still underway, so this is:
18: Santa will bring a Top 6 Forward to Nashville
Wrong…..ugh, I wish I would have been right on this one. But nope, so this one is:
19: Nashville will give up the fewest goals this season
Season is still going on, so this is:
20: The Powerplay is BACK
And in an AMAZING way! Tied for 1st overall in the entire league? Can’t say I was wrong here, so we’ll mark this as:
So, so far this year I am 6-4 with 10 left to be determined.
Here is my belief on the final standings in the Western Conference after the 82nd and final game is played for each of the teams:
1 – Vancouver Canucks
2 – Detroit Red Wings
3 – Los Angeles Kings
4 – Nashville Predators
5 – St. Louis Blues
6 – Phoenix Coyotes
7 – San Jose Sharks
8 – Chicago Blackhawks
Vancouver is going to stay ahead of Detroit for the rest of the way and Los Angeles (who stands only 5 points back of San Jose/Phoenix for the division lead) will surge ahead with and take control of the Pacific Division.
Nashville and St. Louis seemed destined to meet in the first round and kill each other, although Nashville will get the better of St. Louis and grab the 4th overall seed.
Phoenix and San Jose will still make the playoffs, coming in right behind the St. Louis Blues respectively
The Chicago Blackhawks will slide and nearly miss the playoffs while the current concussion to Jonathan Toews will be the key reason. However, they’ll make it, and have another thoroughly entertaining series with the Vancouver Canucks.
Vancouver VS Chicago – After an amazing comeback last season after being down 3 games to none to the Canucks before losing in Game 7, Chicago won’t be able to repeat the same magic. Vancouver dispatches the Hawks and does so quickly. CANUCKS IN 4
Detroit VS San Jose – The second most entertaining series in the Western Conference Quaterfinals, Detroit and San Jose never cease to impress anyone in terms of supremely awesome hockey. Yet, the Sharks will get bounced by the Red Wings for the first time since the 2006-2007 season. WINGS IN 5
Los Angeles VS Phoenix – Now that Phoenix doesn’t have to meet Detroit in the first round, they’ll stand a better chance at getting out of it. Los Angeles, even though they grab the Pacific Division title, won’t be able to solve Dave Tippet’s Coyotes and Phoenix will grab their first playoff series win since moving to Arizona in 1996. COYOTES IN 6
Nashville VS St. Louis – Although both teams WILL most definitely kill each other in this series, the Predators will best the Blues and move on to the Western Conference Semi-Finals. PREDATORS IN 5
Vancouver VS Phoenix – What an ODD matchup, indeed! Strangely enough, I can’t see the Vancouver Canucks getting past the Phoenix Coyotes as crazy as that sounds. However, Mike Smith and Shane Doan will lead the way for the Coyotes as they book their first trip to the Western Conference Finals. COYOTES IN 6
Detroit VS Nashville – A matchup that will be sure to please. Pekka Rinne VS Jimmy Howard. Datsyuk VS Suter/Weber. Trotz VS Babcock. The storylines are endless and so will be the drama. The Predators and Wings will go neck and neck each game, which will not surprise anyone, but Nashville comes out on the winning end of things. PREDATORS IN 7
Nashville VS Phoenix – Home advantage for the Western Conference Finals? That’ll be the difference maker as this series will go the stretch. However, as this is really a toss-up as both teams play the same style of hockey, Pekka Rinne will hold the fort and do so in a definitive fashion, grabbing their first Conference crown and the first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. PREDATORS IN 7
As for the Stanley Cup Finals? We’ll get to that if my predictions come true Call me a homer, but the Predators have the pieces to at least make it to the Western Conference Finals and more, that’s for sure.
What say you on all of this? Am I crazy with my predictions for the rest of the season/playoffs? Or am I just crazy, entirely? Tell me how you feel!