After a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout win versus the Vancouver Canucks Thursday, the Nashville Predators (38-23-13; 89 points) closed to within just two points of the Chicago Blackhawks (42-25-7; 91 points) for third place in the Central Division standings.
This is quite remarkable since Chicago was a hefty 20 points ahead of Nashville as of Jan. 19.
Since Feb. 12, the Predators have been the best team in the league with a 38-12-3 record and 31 points.
Much of Nashville’s success can be accounted for by the play of Filip Forberg, James Neal and Pekka Rinne.
Forsberg leads the league in goals with 17 since Feb. 6. The 21-year old is also closing in on the franchise single-season goal-scoring record of 33 set by Jason Arnott in 2008-09. To break the record, all he needs is three goals in the remaining eight games of the regular season.
The month of March has been particularly kind to Neal, who is Nashville’s third-leading scorer. Neal has eight goals and 12 points in 11 games since Mar. 1. He is just one goal shy of becoming the sixth player in team history to net 30.
Rinne is the backbone of the Predators. If it has been said once, it’s been said a thousand times. In Rinne’s past 14 starts, he is 11-1-2 with a 1.91 goals-against average, a .936 save-percentage and two shutouts.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are in a tailspin. Since Chicago’s impressive 12-game winning streak, they are the third-worst team in the league with a 10-12-3 record. Additionally, Corey Crawford, who has arguably been the Blackhawks’ best player this season, may have a concussion and is listed as ‘day-to-day’ with an upper-body injury.
The Blackhawks begin a four-game road trip Saturday, with Game 1 coming against the Calgary Flames. If there is ever a time for the Predators to trump the reigning Stanley Cup champions in the standings, it is in the coming days.
It should be noted that Chicago holds the tiebreaker with 41 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) compared to Nashville’s 34. Just imagine how different the standings would appear if the Preds were not 1-12 in three-on-three overtime.
The Predators are clicking on all cylinders and at the right time, too. If Nashville is able jump ahead of Chicago, their playoff opponent could be the St. Louis Blues as opposed to the Los Angeles Kings. Pick your poison.