The 2023 NHL All-Star break is officially here for every team, and the Nashville Predators have actually been off the ice since their January 26 win over the New Jersey Devils. They’ll get a span of 11 days off before returning to action to take on the Vegas Golden Knights.
Having this much time off could be beneficial or it could be detrimental to the momentum the team was building. Either way, it is awesome to see the players getting some rest and relaxation to recharge the batteries.
This all begs the question of just how sharp the Nashville Predators will be coming out of such a long break, and if these impressive wins they’ve sprinkled in as of late are a sign of bigger things to come post All-Star break.
Here is a look at what the Predators will be up against in February as it’s still very unclear just how this team will approach the March 3 trade deadline:
This is a critical stretch of hockey for the Nashville Predators, a team that has been so hard to figure out. They can’t afford to lose games to bad teams, and they’ll also need some upset wins as well.
Most would probably say the Predators are just fool’s gold despite notching some recent wins over really good teams like the Devils, Jets, Kings, Flames and Hurricanes in January. A productive month for the Predators to climb back into playoff contention and just four points behind third-place Minnesota.
The key to all of this lies around giving Juuse Saros adequate goal support. A goals per game average of less than three per game isn’t sustainable in the long run. Saros covers up for a lot of that, which was shown as the Predators had three 2-1 wins in January. They also lost a heartbreaking 2-1 game to the Maple Leafs during that span.
Matt Duchene is an important player in all of this. He is far behind his goal pace of last season that made him the franchise’s single season record holder in goals with 43. He has just 14 goals this season and his shooting percentage predictably has dropped from just under 19 percent to under 13 percent. His shots per game average has also dipped.
If Duchene can pick up his goal pace, perhaps the Predators can become a more reliable offensive team. His skating has looked great, and he has been playing with an aggressive style that hopefully translates to more scoring chances and finishing results.
Duchene is third on the team in Expected Goals and three points behind the team lead with 38 points. Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg lead the way with 41 each.
The rise of youngsters Cody Glass and Juuso Parssinen have kept this team afloat as well. Without them growing so fast into important roles at the center position, this team is much further back in the standings.
It appears the Nashville Predators are in line for another photo finish to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and extend their postseason streak to nine consecutive seasons. Although impressive, it’s also frustrating as the team only made it out of the opening round three of those eight years.
In the end, they probably only go as far as Saros can carry them. The same rerun that many fans are exhausted from. This team has to prove that this year is different if they do indeed get back into the playoffs.