The way the Nashville Predators have played at Bridgestone Arena this season, it shouldn’t be a surprise that coach Peter Laviolette would love to see his team win the Central Division, and maybe even end up with the top seed in the Western Conference (or the league, for that matter) for the playoffs.
“I can speak from experience that home ice matters,” Laviolette said, per NHL.com. “It’s not always a slam dunk guarantee if you get home ice and you get to a Game 7, but to start in your building and play one more game in your building is an advantage. There’s the odd year that bucks that system where road teams have the upper hand, but statistically speaking home ice is a positive factor. It certainly has been for us this year.”
The Preds are 28-8-2 at home compared to 19-14-6 on the road. With a win tonight versus Vancouver, they’d move five points up on the Blues for first in the Central, and also to within one point of the conference- and league-leading Ducks.
Laviolette mentioned the “odd year that bucks the system.” Like, say, last year, when six of the seven Game 7s were won by the visitors. (Three times by the Kings.)
In fact, dating back to 2008-09, the visitors are a remarkable 20-13 in Game 7.
PS — The Preds have never played a Game 7.
PPS — The last time Laviolette coached a Game 7 at home, things went rather well for his team:
Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt sure didn’t pull any punches when he went on 960 The FAN radio in Calgary to talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs.
You can listen to the audio here (starts at around the 5:00 mark), but following is a partial transcript:
“I think part of what’s gone on here is that they have managed to produce a team that is not just bad, but appears to not give a damn. It’s almost just rubbing it in people’s faces – the lack of try, the lack of effort. And they are the least likable group of professional athletes I think I’ve ever been around. And again, I don’t know these guys, but just the way they play, outside of the arena, the way they come across – they come across as the opposite of plucky underdogs that are trying really, really hard even if they’re not quite good enough. This is like talented guys who are getting paid enormous amounts of money who stopped trying a long time ago and are kind of laughing at everybody. And that’s a bad vibe if you’re a consumer. That’s a bad vibe if you’re a fan to think, ‘Boy, they care way less than I do.’ And that’s how it’s coming across — whether or not that’s 100 percent true — that’s what’s coming across.”
Feel free to take issue with the notion the Leafs aren’t trying or don’t care. That’s a heck of an indictment. Phil Kessel certainly wouldn’t agree with it.
But Brunt is right about the perception. And perception, as they say, is reality.
Bottom line: this group of players is not well-liked by its fan base, relative to other fan bases. And based on what we saw earlier in the season, the feeling may be mutual.
That’s not good for business.
Just another reason we could be seeing major changes to the Leafs’ core this summer.
In addition to, you know, all the collapsing and losing.
Related: Leiweke calls out ‘just terrible’ character of certain players in Leafs organization
Mike Babcock wasn’t kidding when he said he would give Petr Mrazek “an opportunity” to stabilize Detroit’s goaltending.
Even after Mrazek got the hook Sunday on Long Island, he’ll be back between the pipes tonight at home versus Ottawa, with Jimmy Howard on the bench.
Mrazek gave up four goals on just 11 shots to the Islanders. Though to be fair, he did shut out the Lightning the day before.
The Wings’ next game after tonight’s is Thursday at home to Boston.
As if a potential injury to Vladimir Tarasenko wasn’t concerning enough for the St. Louis Blues, it was far from the only worrying thing about Monday’s 4-1 home loss to Vancouver.
Take it away, Zbynek Michalek.
“I don’t think there’s one good thing about our game right now,” the Blues’ defenseman said, per the Post-Dispatch. “We need to look in the mirror. Right now, it seems like everybody’s doing a different thing. They need to get on the same page. We’re not playing for one another.”
The Blues need to pull it together, and soon. The playoffs start in a couple of weeks and right now it looks like a first-round matchup with Chicago, the same team that eliminated St. Louis in last year’s first round.
With just one win in their last six, the Blues host Calgary on Thursday.
Here’s Michalek and Hitch:
Given all the injuries the Blue Jackets have endured this season, it’s no surprise that their GM, Jarmo Kekalainen, would like to add some insurance for next season.
And he’s looking specifically at the blue line.
“I think we need to add a little bit more depth on defense to make sure… I mean defense is a position that if you have injuries you’re going to be in a tough situation,” Kekalainen told FOX Sports Ohio recently.
“The guys that come up to play from the minors have to be NHL-ready, at least, for the amount of games that they need to play at that time. That can expose you if they’re not.
“I think with the amount of players that we have now under contract for next year, and the prospects that we have, whether that’s in Springfield, junior or college coming to the pros, we have to make sure that we have enough depth for next year. That’s something that we’ll focus on in the offseason.”
Remember that the Jackets no longer have James Wisniewski on the payroll; he was traded to Anaheim at the deadline, with no defensemen coming back in the deal.
Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson are the only real veteran defenders under contract.
Related: Kekalainen ‘worried’ about Murray’s development after three injury-plagued years