Everyone and their creepy uncle is now aware that the Detroit Red Wings are, well, red hot. After all, the team that went to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals series rarely finds itself completely off the radar, right?
Perhaps it’s fitting that the Red Wings are completely overshadowing the equally impressive run of their longtime Central division bridesmaids, the Nashville Predators.
The Predators and their criminally underrated goalie Pekka Rinne are absolutely on fire right now. Just like Detroit, Nashville is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
There are three big things that stand out for the Predators. First, the performance of Rinne. Check out his stats from his last nine games. (Click the button to enlarge the stats at your leisure)
Four shutouts in nine games. No more than 3 goals allowed in any of those contests. Aside from that 3-1 loss against Dallas, he’s had a good-to-amazing performance in every game.
One other fact popped out about Nashville’s impressive streak: they’re not getting any help from their powerplay. It’s all hard work (also known as 5-on-5 play). They failed to score a PP goal in their last six games, going a horrendous 0-for-16. In the entire 10 game stretch, they’ve only scored twice on the man advantage. Yet they managed an amazing 8-1-1 record without getting those easy skill goals.
Of course, their penalty kill is carrying its own weight though. They haven’t allowed a PP goal in four games and only allowed three in the last 10 games. Clearly this team is scraping by with its all-D, no-O approach.
Certainly, a deep playoff run is always easier with an explosive offense. Still, considering the fact that the playoffs account for a time when passing lanes clog faster than Fat Albert’s cartoon arteries and selfless acts like shot blocking become crucial, the Predators might be the dark horse team of the playoffs.
And sooner or later, pundits will have to give Rinne his due.
No, the Nashville Predators did not forget how to score goals … or at least they were lifted from that amnesia on Wednesday.
Mike Fisher lifted the curse 13:52 into the first period of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. You can watch that rare beast in the video above.
They had been shut out for three straight games and pretty close to four in pure game time.
On this subject, PHT’s Jason Brough asked Predators GM David Poile if he was considering moving a defenseman to improve in another area earlier today.
Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.
Perhaps some of that has to do with health?
Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.
The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.
“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”
He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.
You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.
Here are the handy links for the two contests.
First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.
Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.
“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”
Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.
Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.
Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.
Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer