The Nashville Predators peaked too early in the 2014-2015 season. Sitting atop the NHL through the first half of the season brought excitement under first year coach Peter Laviolette, but that enthusiasm became short lived as the Predators stumbled into the playoffs and were painfully ousted in a thrilling first round matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The current regular season hasn’t seen booming success. After coming out of the gate fast, Nashville has experienced no shortage of bumps in the road. However, the recent streak of points in eight of the last nine contests and not conceding a regulation loss on the road since Jan. 12th point to the ship moving in the right direction.
The team currently sits five points above the cutoff line for the postseason with 21 games left to go. A steady turnaround from a couple months ago. Are they a flawless team? Far from it, but Nashville has begun to overcome their early season short comings.
The penalty kill has been surging lately. From hanging at the league cellar for much of the season, the Predators are up to respectable 19th overall and look to continue climbing the ranks.
In addition, he Predators are finally converting their first period chances. Many times during the year Nashville would dominate the first to only find themselves behind. They have scored the first goal in seven of their past nine games.
The sample size is too small, but the goaltending seems to be showing signs of improvement after being below average for much of the season. The emergence of a stellar Carter Hutton has begun to reap benefits for Nashville.
This is all to say the best of the 2015-2016 Nashville Predators is likely beginning to take shape. An opposite scenario from last season. It’s close to impossible to be at the top of your game for an entire regular season and postseason. Timing is everything.
The LA Kings have been making a living on that for years. In any sport the most feared team in the playoffs is usually the hottest. No one wants to play the team clicking on all cylinders in a win or go home situation. Once the playoff birth is clinched, that long winning streak in November and the 100 point total don’t mean anything.
Nashville is all but eliminated from division crown contention. Anything other than a wild card spot would take a Herculean effort, but the most important goal is to make it to the tournament and be playing your best when it starts. Unlike last season the Predators have a real shot of reaching their peak level at the perfect time.
Is that peak high enough to topple Western conference juggernauts? Only time will tell, but every single team would choose a slow start and a strong finish to the season than the other way around. Nashville is showing early signs of making that their reality.