With the rare two-day break between games on the road trip, it gives a chance to reflect back on the start of the trip and the team’s run over the last three weeks.
|After the Break |
|NASHVILLE'S POST-ALL-STAR WEEKEND GAMES |
Games: 32 (21 Home, 11 Road)
By Division/Conference: vs. the Northwest: 12, vs. the Central: 9, vs. the Pacific: 7, vs. the East: 4
By Time Zone: Central: 23, Eastern: 4, Mountain: 3, Pacific: 2
Back-to-backs: 3 (Feb. 26-27, 1 p.m. CT @ DAL & 2 p.m. CT vs. CBJ; March 19-20, 7 p.m. CT vs. DET & 5 p.m. ET @ BUF; April 8-9, 7 p.m. CT vs. CBJ & 7 p.m. CT @ STL)
Road Trips: 8 (7 one-game trips, 1 four-game trip; 18 hotel nights)
--Kevin Wilson, NashvillePredators.com
The Preds opened this trip in fifth place in the Western Conference with 54 points. Midway through the excursion, Nashville has slid up one slot to the number four seed with 58 points. After dropping the first game of the trip in Chicago, the Predators have picked up wins in Phoenix and Colorado. Those wins are the reason Nashville sits above those teams in the standings – holding a one point edge over the Coyotes (Phoenix has played one more game than Nashville) and a four point lead on the Avalanche (with a Colorado regulation win last night the teams would have been tied).
Looking further back, Nashville has posted a 9-2-0 record over the last three weeks, playing eight of the 11 games on the road. And the Preds have been convincing in their wins; seven of the nine victories have been by three goals or more. But as impressive as the record and goal differential (+21 over the 11 games) has been, the run has produced even greater benefits.
Starting with the New Year’s Eve win at Minnesota, the Preds knocked off the Wild twice over the last three week. Minnesota currently sits in ninth place in the Conference, five points behind Nashville – those two wins (four points) represent the difference between the teams. The four points also secured the Preds at least a split of the season series between the teams with one more meeting upcoming in Nashville (on March 10 – buy tickets now
); should the Western Conference remain this tight throughout the season (and there’s been no indication it won’t), tie breakers may end up determining seeding for several teams.
After closing 2010 with the win in Minnesota, Nashville returned home to open 2011 with a 4-1 win over Columbus. At the time the win allowed the Preds to leapfrog the Jackets (opening the game one point behind them and finishing one point ahead) and since have expanded the lead out to nine points.
Similarly, the team’s California road trip proved pivotal. The win at Anaheim remains the differential between the teams in the standings with Ducks sitting just two points behind the Preds (Anaheim has played three additional games, but points earned are points earned) and also secured at least a split of the season series with just one series meeting left in the regular season (March 24 in Nashville – buy tickets now
The next night the Predators knocked off the Kings, preventing LA from passing them in the standings (Nashville entered the game just one point ahead, pushed to three points with the win and currently out to nine points). The Predators wrapped up the Cali-Sweep with a 2-1 win in San Jose, also preventing the Sharks from passing them in the standings – again entering the game up one point and exiting with a three point lead.
With three more games before the All-Star Break, Nashville has an opportunity to further entrench its place at the top of the Conference playoff picture and set itself up for a special end of season run. The Preds – traditionally one of the best home teams in the NHL – host 21 of their final 31 games at Bridgestone Arena, so the groundwork being laid this week put the Preds in a strong position to cement a playoff berth this spring.