The Nashville Predators disposed of the St. Louis Blues in a shootout win 2-1. Jason Arnott scored in regulation, and Marty Erat tallied the lone shootout goal. With the win the Predators take the season series from the Blues 5-1 and have reached 100 points with their 47th victory.
So now it's on to the post season for the Predators, their fifth trip there in the last six seasons. The opponent is yet to be determined, with the outcome depending on the result of several games on Sunday. Nashville could rise to fifth in the Western Conference, depending on the outcome of the L.A./Colorado tilt and the Detroit/Chicago game.
So what about the Predators entering the post season? Some observations from the just completed season:
The Predators have been fortunate to win some games while not playing their best hockey. For this team to have success in the playoffs, their play is going to have to improve. Specifically, the top players are going to have to be the top players for this team. Production has to come from Arnott, Dumont, Sullivan, Wilson, Erat, and Legwand. These players have tremendous offensive potential, and they are going to have to produce consistently. If they do not, it will be another first round exit for the Preds.
There hasn't been a hotter goaltender since the Olympic break than Pekka Rinne. The big guy in net just seems to get stronger the more he plays. It will be imperative that his game be at the peak of performance for this team to have an opportunity to go past the first round. Pekka has stolen some points for the Predators and has been solid in his play. This has to continue in the playoffs.
David Legwand is a strong shutdown center, and his defensive play has been exemplary. Offensively, however, he is invisible. In fact, it is almost as if the Predators are a man down in the offensive zone when he is on the ice. Whatever it takes to get Legwand going offensively must be done, because he is missing in action. Time for the coaching staff to dig deep into their bag of tricks to try to get Leggy going.
The play of the D corps has been solid, although they have been prone to the occasional lapse. It's the playoffs boys, and the occasional lapse will wind up in the back of your net. Time to take your game to the next level.
Role players have to contribute. In the Phoenix game, we saw what happens when the role players don't bring their game to the ice. We have to have guys strong on the puck and in the corners. We need you to contribute quality minutes and chip in with timely goals. Don't, and we will be finished early.
Special teams have to improve. The PK is getting better, but you are going to have to bring your "A" game in the playoffs. and the PP has got to get better. Move and shoot the puck. Good things happen when you do. If we show solid play and improvement in these areas, look for this team to make some noise in the playoffs.
The coaching staff has done a masterful job of squeezing everything out of the talent that this team has. It's time to squeeze a bit harder. This is a new level of competition, and you have to take the guys to the next level. Trotzy and company will have to be at their best to get this team past the hurdle of the first round.
At the start of the season, the Predators figured into no one's post season prognostications. Well, guess what? No one figured on the heart and character of this team. No one counted on the coaching staff to do a masterful job of bringing out the best in this team. No one thought we could score.
They were wrong.
Now the second season starts. The slate is clean. Now, every shift counts. Every check is important. The little things become big things in the playoffs.
It doesn't matter who we play. It's time to put the first round failures behind us.It's time to lay it all on the line.
It's time to bring Predator hockey to the playoffs.