The Nashville Predators were only three points shy of a playoff berth last season, which is pretty impressive when you consider that starting goaltender Pekka Rinne missed most of the campaign due to a hip injury.
The fact that he’s back and had all summer to prepare for his comeback campaign alone makes the Predators a significantly better team. On top of that, they arguably took a significant step forward offensively. Nashville added James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, and Olli Jokinen over the summer, which will give head coach Peter Laviolette some interesting players to work with as he tries to craft the Predators into a more offensively-minded squad.
Nashville also has one of the best blueliners in the game in Shea Weber and a maturing supporting cast of Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Victor Bartley, along with newcomer Anton Volchenkov. That’s not a bad group.
At the same time, Nashville would need to finish with a better record than at least one of the Central Division’s Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, and Dallas Stars. Considering that all of those teams are looking pretty formidable after strong offseasons, is it really realistic to think that the Predators are ready to surpass at least one of them while simultaneously staying ahead of the Winnipeg Jets?
Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.
Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”
It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.
The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.
This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.
Do you put greater blame on struggling goaliesKari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.