If the Nashville Predators are going to make the playoffs this year, they’re going to need more victories like their 8-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on March 5. Consecutive wins will be critical to the team, as they find themselves in a tight race for one of the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference. They are now in the second wild-card position, but only two points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and three ahead of the Anaheim Ducks. On a positive note, only one point separates them from third place in the Central Division, now occupied by the Minnesota Wild. As the schedule reaches its final quarter, the Predators’ next few weeks will be a daunting task to make the playoffs.
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If the performance against the Sharks was any indication of what’s to come, the battle for playoff positioning will be one of the more exciting storylines this season, and even then, it may not be enough. With 27 games remaining, the road ahead will be tough, especially when you factor in the quality of competition. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as an easy game in the NHL.
Predators’ Face 6th-Toughest Schedule in the NHL
According to Tankathon.com, a website that determines which games are against quality opponents compared to teams lower in the standings, the Predators have the sixth-toughest schedule in the league. In their updated standings, only the Oilers have a tougher schedule in the Western Conference, while the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals have the toughest schedule ahead.
To finish the season, Nashville will face the Colorado Avalanche once and the Calgary Flames twice while taking on Eastern Conference powerhouses, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, and Pittsburgh Penguins. Nine games come against Central Division opponents, seven of which are against the four teams ahead of them in the standings. Every point will matter, and both the Predators and their division rivals will look to avoid losing any three-point games, making each matchup as intense as a playoff game.
On the other hand, they’ll take on the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers twice each while playing the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, Sabres, and Sharks one more time this season. Those eight games will be pivotal in the Predators’ hunt for a playoff spot. It’s do-or-die time for Nashville. Here’s a look at how they’ve fared against some of the top teams in the league, as well as those who won’t be playing for the Stanley Cup this year.
Predators’ Record Against Playoff-Hopeful Teams
In the Western Conference
Nashville has 11 games remaining against Western Conference teams currently in a playoff spot, be it top-three or one of the two wild-card positions. The following list shows games against both Central and Pacific Division teams with the season record, goal differential, and how many games remain between now and the season’s conclusion.
- Vs. Colorado Avalanche: 2-1-0 (12 goals for, 12 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. St. Louis Blues: 1-1-0 (7 goals for, 8 goals against) 2 games remaining
- Vs. Minnesota Wild: 1-0-0 (5 goals for, 2 goals against) 3 games remaining
- Vs. Dallas Stars: 2-1-0 (8 goals for, 7 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Calgary Flames: 1-0-0 (3 goals for, 2 goals against) 2 games remaining
- Vs. Los Angeles Kings: 2-0-0 (6 goals for, 3 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Vegas Golden Knights: 1-1-0 (5 goals for, 7 goals against) 1 game remaining
The Positives: The Predators don’t have a losing record against any of the seven teams listed above and, for the most part, have kept things close. It’s impressive that they’ve taken two of three against the Avalanche, the top team in the conference, and remain undefeated against the Flames, Kings, and Wild, a trend head coach John Hynes hopes to continue in the next two months.
The Negatives: The Flames have turned up the heat, so the next two games against them in April pose the biggest threat to a Predators team that struggles against physically-imposing teams. Calgary plays a playoff-style game, making these encounters not only must-win but must-watch as well. There’s Vegas, too, who hit the jackpot with the acquisition of Jack Eichel last November, and he looks like he never lost a step following successful neck surgery. Both teams have given Nashville a run for their money and, as the season winds down, those three games will be ferocious battles.
In the Eastern Conference
Of the eight teams in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, Nashville plays four of them at least once, and the Penguins twice. The Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, and Capitals are not listed as both games between them and the Predators took place earlier in the season. The combined record against them stands at 1-6-1, with one shutout for and two against and a goal differential of minus-12.
- Vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: 0-0-0 (Have yet to play) 2 games remaining
- Vs. Florida Panthers: 1-0-0 (6 goals for, 4 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: 0-1-0 (2 goals for, 3 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Toronto Maple Leafs: 0-1-0 (0 goals for, 3 goals against) 1 game remaining
The Positives: Beating one of the best teams in the league in the Panthers bodes well for the one remaining game against them and should serve as a confidence builder if they take the season series. They pumped Florida for more goals in a single game than any of their Western Conference playoff rivals, and they’ll play them in the second game of a back-to-back when the Panthers will play at home and then fly out to Nashville. Meanwhile, the Predators will get some rest with a day off after taking on the Ottawa Senators.
The Negatives: If the miserable 1-6-1 record against four of the eight Eastern Conference teams wasn’t enough, the Predators are 1-2-0 against the remaining four and have not played the Penguins yet. Being shut out by the Maple Leafs and losing this year’s Stadium Series game to the Lightning at home has left a sour taste in their mouth, and maybe it will provide them with a spark to take down two of the top teams in the Atlantic Division. The wild card here is the Penguins, who went 6-3-1 in February and opened March with a win and an overtime loss. They’ll face Pittsburgh twice in two months, and depending on where the two teams will be in the standings by April, the last game might make or break the Predators’ chances at playing for the Stanley Cup.
Predators’ Record Against Playoff-Omitted Teams
In the Western Conference
Although they’re currently on the outside looking in, four points separate the Predators from the Oilers, Ducks, and Vancouver Canucks in what is becoming a tight race for the two wild-card spots. Despite facing an uphill battle, the remaining games against these types of teams are just as important as those against the clubs ahead of them. The Predators won’t play the Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, or Seattle Kraken anymore this season, finishing with a record of 4-5-0 and a goal differential of minus-1.
- Vs. Edmonton Oilers: 0-1-1 (7 goals for, 4 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Anaheim Ducks: 1-0-0 (3 goals for, 2 goals against) 2 games remaining
- Vs. San Jose Sharks: 2-0-0 (11 goals for, 1 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Chicago Blackhawks: 2-0-1 (10 goals for, 4 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Arizona Coyotes: 2-0-0 (8 goals for, 3 goals against) 1 game remaining
The Positives: Nashville has beat the bottom-feeding clubs more often than not this season, and it’s a trend that needs to continue. Against three of the last four teams in the Western Conference, the Predators are 6-0-1, with a whopping 29 goals for and eight goals against. Outscoring inferior teams by a 3-to-1 margin should mark a momentum shift, and they’ll play each of them one more time, providing them with a prime opportunity to collect points.
The Negatives: The record against the Oilers is something to keep in mind with one game left, scheduled for April 14. The good news is that Edmonton is struggling, despite the addition of Evander Kane. Losing six of eight games, including contests against the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes, must have hurt their confidence, and Nashville should take advantage of this situation. The six games in March and April could deflect any of the damage dealt to the Predators in their losing record against the Kraken, Canucks, and Jets.
In the Eastern Conference
The Predators torched the weaker teams in the Eastern Conference this season, holding a record of 8-2-1 and a goal differential of plus-10. They lost twice in regulation, once to Buffalo and another against Montreal, and one overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They have five games remaining, four of which come against the Flyers and Senators, and a rematch against the Sabres where they seek retribution for the loss they suffered earlier this season.
- Vs. Philadelphia Flyers: 0-0-0 (Have yet to play) 2 games remaining
- Vs. Buffalo Sabres: 0-1-0 (1 goal for, 4 goals against) 1 game remaining
- Vs. Ottawa Senators: 0-0-0 (Have yet to play) 2 games remaining
The positives: Unlike the Western Conference, the teams outside of the playoffs in the East have a slim chance of climbing up the standings. The Flyers are riddled with injuries, and key losses to Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis make it an impossible task for Philadelphia. The Senators have lost almost twice as many games as they’ve won, and while the future is bright with all the talent coming through their pipeline, unfortunately, this is another season of pain and agony. These are eight points the Predators cannot afford to lose.
The Negatives: The two hiccups are the 4-1 loss to the Sabres and the 6-3 loss to the Canadiens. With one game remaining against Buffalo, the Predators must find retribution against a team that embarrassed them during their last outing. It wasn’t only a poor performance, but one lacking any emotion or effort from Hynes’ club.
Predators’ Chances Of Making It To The Dance
If a team earns 90 points, they’re generally expected to make the postseason. In the 2019-20 season, the top five teams of each conference got in with 80-85 points, while the top three teams sat comfortably with 90 points or more. In the season before, the Avalanche clinched the last wild-card spot when they finished with 90 points. The Predators clinched the Central Division that season with 100 points. This is likely what it’ll take to reach the postseason again, but the race in the West will make things more interesting.
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With 27 games left to play (and 66 points accumulated), winning 12 games could be enough for the Predators’ to squeak into the playoffs. If general manager David Poile is serious about his team contending year in and year out, he’ll need to make adjustments before the trade deadline. Since the Predators play 11 games against non-playoff teams, and they hold an 11-6-0 record against teams currently in the mix, they should make their eighth consecutive postseason appearance.