There is a fine line between playoff bound and playoff ready. The Nashville Predators are playoff bound but are definitely not playoff ready. Typically, it is ideal for a team in any league to enter a postseason with a string of wins. Since clinching a playoff spot on a 4-3 win against the Washington Capitals on March 28, the Predators are an eye-gouging 0-4-2. Since the all-star break, they are a mediocre 17-15-5.
While optimists will simply just be happy with the Predators making the playoffs after missing it the previous two years, it is impossible to ignore how pitiful they have played since clinching.
Fortunately for Nashville, their first round opponent will be the Chicago Blackhawks, who are just as cold as them and on a four game losing streak. Currently, the Blackhawks are without its second-leading scorer Patrick Kane, who had surgery on a fractured clavicle on February 24. He is practicing with the team and will likely make an appearance at some point during the series.
Though the Blackhawks and the probable return of a 27 goal scorer poses a great threat on the Predators, the bigger threat is the Predators themselves. Here are three reasons why the Predators are doomed in the playoffs.
There was a point during the season when Pekka Rinne was putting together a solid case to not just win the Vezina Trophy but the Hart Trophy, as well. Rinne is the backbone of the Predators, and if he is not playing well, neither are they. Since returning from a knee injury after the all-star break on February 5, the 32-year-old is 12-11-4. In his last five starts, he has given up three or more goals in each game and has a .865 save percentage.
Rinne has not been bailing Nashville out with incredible save after incredible save like so many are used to seeing. Instead, he is simply being average, and with the unique style he plays with, average is not good enough to win games.
Home Ice Advantage?
Through the first 60 games of the regular season, the Predators were nearly unbeatable at home, posting a league-leading 25-3-1 record inside the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena on February 24. Since then, Nashville is 3-6-3, and suddenly, the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena have turned disadvantageous for the Predators.
Nashville’s attempt at regaining that once lost spectacular home-ice advantage will be difficult when playing against one of the better road teams in the NHL. The Blackhawks had 24 road wins this season, a franchise record.
It may not be a terrible idea to have Blackhawks fans create a sea of red inside Bridgestone Arena, as per usual. It will make the Predators feel like they are playing on the road.
The good thing about the Blackhawks playing Nashville in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be the 7 home games.
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) April 11, 2015
The one aspect of the game Nashville consistently struggled with throughout the season was on the power play. It is one thing to not score with the man advantage, but they cannot even get set up. It is a two minute eye-soar.
Nashville’s power play is ranked 25th with a 16.2 percent conversion rate. Only two other playoff teams are worse — the Minnesota Wild (27th) and Anaheim Ducks (28th).
One of the solutions for improving the Predators’ power play is to replace defenseman Seth Jones with Cody Franson. Franson, who was acquired via trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 15, has limited power play ice time, despite leading all Nashville defensemen in points (when combining games with Leafs and Predators) with 17 (5g, 12a).
Game 1: Chicago @ Nashville – Wednesday, April 15 at 7:30 pm CST
Game 2: Chicago @ Nashville – Friday, April 17 at 8:30 pm CST
Game 3: Nashville @ Chicago – Sunday, April 19 at 2 pm CST
Game 4: Nashville @ Chicago – Tuesday, April 21 at 8:30 pm CST
*Game 5: Chicago @ Nashville – Thursday, April 23 at TBD
*Game 6: Nashville @ Chicago – Saturday, April 25 at TBD
*Game 7: Chicago @ Nashville – Monday, April 27 at TBD
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.