The Nashville Predators were on a roll headed into the three-game road trip through Western Canada.
Zero has changed.
Coming into the trip, the Preds were 13-2-2 in their previous 17 and then went on to rout the host Vancouver Canucks 7-1 on Wednesday night, shutout the ridiculously-talented Edmonton Oilers on Thursday and then round out the trip with a nice 2-0 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
Some may say “Yeah, well, none of the three are currently in the playoff picture.” This is true. But shouldn’t good teams blast bad teams? When it took overtime for the Tennessee Titans to beat the winless Cleveland Browns and when they barely beat the 3-7 Indianapolis Colts in week 12, what became the norm on Braden & Fitz and 3D, et al.? Fans calling in lamented the Titans for not looking impressive against horrible teams.
So, by that rationale, the opposite should be true. When a team in contention for a division title faces teams outside the playoff bubble, they should win convincingly. And that’s exactly what the Predators did these past four days, outscoring their opponents 13-1.
Perhaps the most impressive thing is that all three were done in different fashion. The obliteration of Vancouver was an all out blitz. Yes, they tallied seven goals but, more than that, they fired 48 shots on goal, scored multiple goals in each period, had only three skaters fail to register a shot on goal and didn’t take their foot off the gas once the game was in hand.
Of course, they got some fortunate bounces too like when PK Subban wound up and scored from Kimberley, British Columbia.
The next night, against Edmonton, they were on their heels most of the contest. The Oilers fired 46 shots on Juuse Saros — including 22 in the opening frame — but couldn’t solve the backup netminder as the Preds won their 20th game of the season.
Finally, in Calgary, Austin Watson received a five-minute major for fighting, a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct for his hit on Garnet Hathaway, all at one time. In the wake of all that, Anthony Bitetto was called for boarding, giving the Flames an extended 5-on-3 advantage. Not only did they kill the whole thing off, they did so without one of their best penalty killers in Watson and while dealing with the long line change that comes with any second period.
The Preds now head home for games against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday touting a record of 21-7-4.
They’re now tied for first place in the Central Division with two games in hand.