Paul McCann: Starting the New Year off with Three of Four

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Anytime you get three out of four points on a SoCal swing and leave the state first place in your division, well, you have to be happy, so in looking at the Predators weekend, be happy. But there may be a teensy bit of a cause for concern… holding on to the late lead. In Saturday’s game, the Preds let a two goal lead slip through their fingers as the Kings tied things up late in the third period before Nashville won it on OT, and that’s not even talking about the 5-1 lead that the team had in the second.

Last night against the Ducks, the team showed its resiliency again as the came back with two power play goals to take a 3-2 lead. The Ducks pressed well and it was an unfortunate bounce that ruined Carter Hutton’s best performance of the season with a little more than two minutes to go in regulation. The Preds came up empty in the shootout, giving Anaheim a 4-3 win.

So… 38 games into the season, the Predators sit at 25-9-4 for 54 points. That’s good enough to lead the Central as Nashville has a game in hand over Chicago and 3rd place St. Louis. The upcoming week will be an interesting one as a classic trap game awaits tomorrow night at Bridgestone Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes are in town… the last place in the Eastern Conference and only one point out of the league’s basement Carolina Hurricanes. This before a critical Thursday night showdown against division rival, and oh, by the way… the hottest team in the league… the Dallas Stars before heading off for a Saturday matinee in Minnesota.

There is good news aplenty though… the power play appears to be clicking right now, the unit has bounced back from single digit conversion rates to a more respectable 15.1% and the PK continues to show incremental improvement. Nashville potted ten goals in the last two games without James Neal in the lineup and the activated defense is paying off on the score sheet and the team continues to show improvement across the board. There is still plenty of headroom for this Nashville Predators team… which is something that could be very scary to the rest of the league.

The trap opens tomorrow at 7pm at Bridgestone Arena.

And here are your highlights from last night…

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Random Notes

– Seth Jones is staring to heat up on the scoresheet, scoring again last night.

– Ryan Ellis didn’t get an assist on Mattias Ekholm’s goal last night, but make no mistake, his allowing the pass to go through his legs to Ekholm was the key to that scoring play.

– Thoughts and prayers to the family of Stuart Scott, longtime ESPN anchor who died yesterday morning after a long bout with cancer. Rich Eisen’s moving tribute on NFL Network was an excellent take on the man, and kudos for him on getting through what had to be a difficult experience in sharing the news of the passing of his friend.

– More thoughts and prayers to the family of “Little” Jimmy Dickens, a very early supporter of the Predators and long time Grand Ole Opry member passed at the age of 94.

– I still don’t get all the hate on the Winter Classic… so the ratings were down a bit. It was an excellent game in a very cool setting… sometimes the hockey media takes itself WAAAAAY too seriously.

– Sometimes officials in games get a ridiculous amount of criticism… but the NFL should be ashamed of the incredibly bad call that turned a playoff game yesterday. Simply shameful to turn a game like that.

– The NHL has fined the Philadelphia Flyers for violating the CBA. They travelled to Nashville on 12/26, in clear violation of Article 16.5(b). So how did the extra rest work out for them? They’ve lost five straight since the holiday break. The fine is “undisclosed” but as Josh Cooper asks on his Puck Daddy post… why?

– Only one game on the NHL schedule tonight… San Jose visits Winnipeg, 7pm faceoff.

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