Paul McCann: A Look Ahead

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The first half of the Nashville Predators season completed Saturday with their convincing win over the Minnesota Wild finding the team leading the league with a 28-9-4 record in 41 games, good for 60 points. A review of the first half of the season shows a team that has found an offensive groove while remaining a defensive force, a team that is the best in the league 5-on-5 while still sorting out its special teams and a team that still appears to have plenty of headroom to develop with 41 games to go.

So let’s take a look at the schedule going forward and see where the highlights and opportunities are…

The second half of the season begins with two at home, Vancouver tomorrow and Washington Friday… Friday’s game will be an emotional night at Bridgestone Arena as former head coach Barry Trotz comes to town for the first time since the coaching change. Then the team takes off for five road games in the next six, including three straight Central games, vs. the Avalanche, at St. Louis and at Colorado. Finishing that stretch is a trip to Pittsburgh before a home filled February begins.

Did I say home filled? Fifteen games in the month… ten of them at home. The Preds are 16-2-1 at home this season. There is your opportunity to run away from the pack considering the Preds dominating home record thus far.

March also sees fifteen games, eight on the road including a New York/New Jersey swing, a complete West Coast trip that takes the team through Arizona, San Jose, LA and Anaheim. This will be a key positioning trip that could go a long way to determining the playoff seeding for this team.

April has the team with two at home and two on the road and all four against Central Division teams, although it doesn’t look to be as tough as it did when the schedule was released. Two against Dallas, one against Colorado and one against Minnesota, all three out of the playoff mix as I write this. One of these teams may play their way back in and have the potential to impact the playoff race.

Unless disaster happens, this team makes the playoffs… that is a given. Keep in mind, a run like this takes a fair amount of luck to go with the solid play. Health is always a factor and the team has lost almost 90 games to injury so far this season. That isn’t a huge number, especially when you see what other teams are dealing with, but it isn’t tiny either, the fact remains that Nashville has handled injuries well. That trend will have to continue.

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Random Notes

– I am certainly willing to give players chances, but Matt Cooke has run out of chances… at least in my book. The spear on Weber at the end of the game, OK… I don’t like it… but OK. But when called upon to answer for it, his response was a cross-check… to the face. The beast was unleashed… and Cooke does what he always does… turtles.

– Congratulations to the Voice of the Predators, Pete Weber who was named Tennessee Sportscaster of the Year for the third time. He is an excellent play-by-play man and an even better person. I am b lessed to have been able to work with him over the last six seasons of SlapShot Radio and look forward to many, many more. Congrats my friend!

– The situation in Minnesota continues to get worse. The Wild have lost five straight after last night and the season is rapidly slipping away. Post game quotes after last night’s game certainly does not portend well… change has to come and soon.

– Speaking of the Wild… Josh Cooper made a compelling argument for Ryan Suter making the right call in moving to Minnesota for family reasons. That was only half the story… the other half is how well this worked out for Nashville. It could be argued that Suter has been replaced with a defenseman that is every bit as good, better in some respects… for a lot less cash.

– Great number retirement ceremony for Teemu Selanne last night in Anaheim.

– OT: – Does the NFL really want things to be about the officials during the playoffs? Certainly a case of live by the sword, die by the sword in yesterday’s Cowboys/Packers game.

– Only three games on the NHL schedule tonight… Lightning @ Flyers, Avalanche @ Capitals, Maple Leafs @ Kings.

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