If you wanted to blame Nashville’s failure to make the playoffs in 2013-14 on a single aspect of the game, the skills competition would be a good candidate.
The Predators had more regulation plus overtime wins of any other non-playoff team (36), but they were just 2-9 in shootouts. It’s not hard to figure out why that was. They had a severe lack of skilled forwards last season and their shootout struggles were a reflection of that.
How bad was it? Well, defensemen Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis accounted for five of their nine shootout goals. None of their forwards netted more than one goal in the skills competition.
The silver lining is that help is on the way. Although he’s coming off a rough season, Mike Ribeiro is traditionally effective in the skills competition (22 goals on 63 chances), and fellow newcomers Olli Jokinen (21 for 59), James Neal (14 for 38), and Derek Roy (11 for 33) are solid options as well.
If Pekka Rinne stays healthy, then that will help too. He has a 23-23 record in shootouts with a .709 save percentage.
None of that is likely to make the Predators a dominant shootout team, but if they are even able to hold their own in that category, then that could add three or four points to their final record. That has the potential to be a big difference in their battle to squeeze into the playoffs in the tough Central Division.
If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”
There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.
Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.
One team climbing, the other stumbling
With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.
During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.
Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.