The Nashville Predators couldn’t have picked a worse time to hit a snag, and it may ultimately end up being the difference between playoff hockey and a round of golf in May. While the Predators’ week got off to a promising start with a 1-0 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks, it was quickly forgotten about 48 hours later. A 4-0 loss at home against the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t the most lopsided the team has faced this season, but it was one of the softest performances from top to bottom. It was the kind of result coaches put their entire locker room on blast over, throw away the game footage, and bag skate the entire team for an hour the next day. In a tight Western Conference race, games like that simply can’t happen.
Unfortunately for Nashville, it wasn’t the worst performance of the week. While they were able to hold on to a close 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, a game they could not afford to drop, they followed it up with what was possibly the worst game of the season. With a chance to redeem a 7-4 loss against the St. Louis Blues suffered in March, Nashville fell over themselves right out of the gate, dropping an 8-3 decision. It was the first time they conceded eight goals in a single game, and head coach John Hynes probably prefers it to be the last.
The Predators play three games in the upcoming week, including a back-to-back over the weekend, but will receive some mercy in the form of a three-day break before then. Unfortunately, all three games are against top-3 teams within their division, making things dire in terms of playoff positioning. Another week of struggling could be the end of their post-season aspirations.
Predators’ Troubling Trends Bite Back
While the Predators have the luxury of a strong core of forwards who can put the puck into the net, the last five games showcase some troubling trends that can’t be ignored. Of the big three, Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, and Filip Forsberg, they have amassed a total of three goals combined. Forsberg has none of them and hasn’t registered a goal since April 1. The Swedish winger is experiencing a career year, inching closer to becoming the first player in the team’s history to reach 40 goals, but he’s having trouble finding the back of the net this month.
Regardless of his goal-scoring drought, Forsberg has managed to put up nine points in his last nine games, including two multi-point games. Duchene has registered two goals in his last five games, and since March, he hasn’t gone without a goal for more than three games, but there are underlying issues at hand. He currently sits at a minus-5 rating in his last five games, and despite firing 24 shots on net during that time, the quality of those chances has dropped significantly. His confidence has followed that direction as well. Like Forsberg, Duchene has also recorded nine points in his last nine, but the effort hasn’t been consistent enough.
Johansen’s month started scorching hot, recording two assists on April 1 and then following it up with a hat trick against the Minnesota Wild. Back-to-back performances gave fans more evidence of his bounce-back season, as he hit the 20-goal mark for the first time since the 2014-15 season. While he’s turned things around this year, he’s treading water on the same line as Duchene and Forsberg, failing to muster enough offense to mask the team’s defensive woes.
On top of the top forward’s struggles, Roman Josi has just one goal in his last five games and has cooled off from the 100-point pace he was on before April. It’s unfair to point the blame solely at Josi due to him being one of the biggest reasons for his team’s success this season, though it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to when he’s off his game. Rookie Tanner Jeannot doesn’t have a point in his last five games, and while it may be more forgivable when compared to players in the top-six, the team has relied on him for secondary scoring this season.
Predators Could Lose Wild Card Race
As it stands, the Predators are in the second wild-card position but could lose the race if some concerns aren’t addressed now. With 91 points, they have just six games remaining in the 2021-22 season to put some distance between themselves and the teams trailing behind. At the turn of the calendar year, Nashville was sitting comfortably in the first wild-card spot, sometimes leapfrogging the Central Division’s third-place team. Unfortunately, the teams ahead of them have all enjoyed winning streaks in recent memory, creating an interesting finish in the Western Conference.
Tied with the Dallas Stars, the Predators continue to have their claws attached to a playoff spot, but three teams remain in the hunt. The Winnipeg Jets are still mathematically in a position to challenge for one of the two wild-card spots, but their hopes are close to being completely erased. They have six games remaining and are currently 10 points back, meaning they’ll have to win every game until the end of the year while hoping the teams above them lose every game. Statistically, it’s possible but realistically, it’s a fantasy at best. The Vancouver Canucks are a sliver closer to realizing that dream, sitting at 86 points with six games remaining on the season.
It’s the Vegas Golden Knights that pose the greatest threat to both the Stars and the Predators. With 87 points and five games remaining, winning four of those five could put them in a good position to leapfrog over one of the two wild-card teams. Since their debut in the NHL, Vegas has not missed the playoffs, and fans are hoping that’s a trend that does not end this season. They’re four points back, and two of their remaining games are against non-playoff teams, allowing for the belief that they can push past either Dallas or Nashville and steal one of the two final spots.
Checking in on the Admirals
The Milwaukee Admirals are heading to the 2022 American Hockey League playoffs. Going 1-0-1 over the week, the single point they secured in the 5-4 loss against the Iowa Wild was all they needed to clinch a playoff spot. Earlier in the week, they locked up an additional point against Iowa, and the three points they took during the week led to their ability to take one of the postseason spots.
Perhaps one of the most promising signs is that the team did so without the services of forward Cody Glass, who was recalled to the NHL. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see him get a chance in Nashville, as the 23-year-old was in the midst of an exceptional AHL season, registering 60 points in 63 games. Acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights for Nolan Patrick, who they acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers, Glass represented Milwaukee as an alternate captain and stepped in as a leader on the team despite his age, becoming one of the most consistent players on the team in a short time. He’s certainly earned his spot in the lineup, but it remains to be seen whether he impresses enough to earn more time next season.
The Admirals have four games remaining on the season but can now rest some bodies ahead of the playoffs. They’ll play the Texas Stars, Chicago Wolves, and Manitoba Moose this week before closing out the year against the Rockford IceHogs on April 29. It marks the first time the team has reached the postseason since 2019, and with the way things are looking, they could make some noise this year.
Predators Sign Adam Wilsby to Two-Year, Entry-Level Contract
On April 13, the Predators announced the signing of Adam Wilsby to a two-year, entry-level contract. Drafted 101st overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Wilsby spent the 2021-22 season in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Skellefteå AIK. In 51 games this season, he amassed four goals and 17 points, adding two assists in six postseason games. He was one point shy of matching his career-high in points set last season but improved on his plus/minus rating from a plus-18 last season to a plus-24 this year. He finished third among Skellefteå blueliners in goals and fourth in assists and points and made great improvements on the defensive side of his game.
Wilsby has spent his entire career in the SHL thus far, including the last six seasons under the Skellefteå AIK program. He earned himself a spot in the SHL following a solid campaign with Södertälje SK of the HockeyAllsvenskan league, registering 30 points in 41 games while on loan. His first complete season in the SHL saw immediate success with 18 points in 48 games where he received top-four minutes, which is a promising sign for a 21-year-old player in a highly-competitive league. It will be interesting to see if he continues his tenure in Sweden once his contract kicks in or if he’ll join the Admirals and get his first glimpse of North American hockey.
Predators’ Quick Hits and Rumours
- The cross-check that Mark Borowiecki ate from Evgeni Malkin led to Malkin receiving a four-game suspension. The NHL has cracked down on superstars’ actions as of late, and it’s refreshing to see Borowiecki draw those calls rather than take them.
- Josi’s remarkable season now includes him becoming the second defenseman in Predators’ history to record 20 goals and the 10th defenseman in NHL history to reach 88 points.
- Terry Crisp re-joined Pete Weber on the Predators’ broadcast to call the April 16 game against the Blackhawks one last time, and for those interested, they can listen to the full game call here.
- One fan showed off their vintage mustard Sabretooth jersey at a recent game, and it appears to have been signed by several players. The jersey debuted as an alternate uniform in the 2001 season and was retired after the 2006-07 season.
Covering the Nashville Predators. I work for a company called SPORTLOGiQ and have loved the game of Hockey for over three decades. I’m obsessed with advanced analytics and pair that with my love for the eye test – i.e. watching the games (I DO that too!)