Now that the Nashville Predators are safely in the playoffs and their spot as first wild card secure, there might be little incentive to watch the last three games before the Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, there are a few things to look for.
Nashville limped into the month of April with a three-game losing streak after playing some of the league’s best hockey since Valentine’s Day. The Predators actually clinched a playoff spot thanks to the Minnesota Wild’s 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
The team hopes it can reclaim some of the momentum it lost from March. Here are five reasons to watch the last three games of the Nashville Predators’ regular season.
Can Pekka Rinne Reclaim Form?
The Finnish goalie was one of the reasons the Predators secured its playoff spot. Rinne has been solid since the All-Star Break and put up two shutouts in the month of February. March started off fine, but he had a rough end with a couple of sub.-.900 save percentage games. Two of his last three games last month ended with Rinne getting the hook in favor of backup Carter Hutton.
This team lives and dies by its goalie. A part of the early season and recent struggles have been attributed to Rinne’s issues. If “Peks” can find his game again, Nashville could be ready to make a playoff run.
Nashville Predators: Playing Spoiler
The Predators next game on Tuesday is versus a desperate Colorado Avalanche club that is seeing its playoff hopes fade away. The Avalanche would need to win out and the Wild to lose out to get the second wild card spot.
Colorado knows it has to throw everything at their remaining three opponents if it wants to go to the playoffs. However, Nashville still has a lot to play for in this game as a win would lock up the top wild card spot, so the Predators will bring their “A” game that night.
Nashville would also like to eliminate a division rival and a team that has been troublesome this season. The Avs are 3-1 this season against the Predators, but the Predators would love to have the last say in the season series.
Shea Weber and Roman Josi have set records in the latter half of the season. The Swiss defender broke his partner’s record for most points by a blue-liner in a season (56) during Nashville’s 5-1 victory over Columbus on March 26. Josi also picked up the record for most assists by a defenseman in a single season during that game.
Weber also moved into second place on the club’s scoring list with 164 goals. The last three games give the duo a chance to add to their record-breaking statistics.
Nashville wraps up the season on Saturday at Dallas against the Stars, and the rivalry between the two teams has heated up this season.
There was plenty of physical play in the previous encounters, but Dallas’ 5-2 win on March 29 had edge to it. The game was highlighted by a brawl between Patrick Eaves and Colton Sissons and James Neal getting checked into the Stars’ bench by Stephen Johns.
Dallas is still trying to earn home-ice in the Western Conference and the Central Division title, so it will go all-out versus Nashville if things are not decided by Saturday. The Predators would love nothing more than to deny the Stars a divisional crown.
Ending on a Strong Note
Two of the last three games for Nashville will be at Bridgestone Arena, and it will give the team a chance to build momentum going into the postseason.
Nashville will have to go on the road for the first two games of the Stanley Cup playoffs against either Anaheim or Los Angeles. Both the Honda Center and Staples Center are tough places to play, so a little momentum would go a long way.
The end of March was not kind to Nashville, and ending the season with some points would be helpful.
Covered hockey since attending SUNY Oswego in Upstate New York in the early 2000s. Has written about college, major junior and professional hockey for the last five years.
Resides in Watertown, NY.