Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
The Predators wrap up their five-game road trip with a visit to Nationwide Arena taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets to see who will be in last place in the Central division. This road trip has been a world of hurt for the Predators getting slammed by Vancouver and Calgary and snatching defeat from the jaws of a possibly victory against Edmonton with what can only be described as the play that will dethrone Mark Sanchez from the Not Top Ten of ESPN by Sergei Kostitsyn. I won’t go into details but this momentary lapse of reason and training has far-reached beyond the confines of local media and NHL enthusiasts to an all-out nationwide audience…it was bad….really bad. Not the kind of publicity Nashville or Kostitsyn was wanting.
Columbus has been on fire and the player truly “en fuego” for the Blue Jackets has been Sergei Bobrovsky. He has earned at least one point in his last nine starts, was named NHL’s third star of the week and his record in those nine starts is 6-0-3. Columbus is heating up at the perfect time and are becoming a formidable opponent in the stretch before the trade deadline. If Columbus can keep up this play, they will be buyers, not sellers for the upcoming playoffs in which they are two points out of eighth spot.
The Blue Jackets seem to have won in the trade department. In the Nash trade, they got a natural leader in Dubinsky and a natural scorer in Artem Anisimov. The trade with the L.A. Kings brought them a solid defenseman in Jack Johnson. Vinny Prospal leads the team in goals (9) and is tied for the team lead in points with Derick Brassard (15). The team is being led scoring-wise by unlikely personnel, much like how Nashville employs (or used to employ) all lines to step up and score the odd goal here and there to take pressure off the top lines, but the brick wall Bobrovsky has set up between the pipes is turning the tide for the Blue Jackets and a superstar showing by a goalie with a hot hand can carry teams pretty far, maybe into the realm of playoff contention.
The Predators are looking forward to getting back to home ice as the road has not been good to them this year. This road trip, much like the last one has been mired in missed opportunities, key injuries and mediocre to down-right shameful play from the forwards to the backstopper. Pekka Rinne struggled against Vancouver and Calgary and was yanked both times after allowing a total of 6 goals on 14 shots. Rinne played his tail off against Edmonton but an undeniably poor decision by Sergei Kostitsyn to come off the ice leading to a 2-on-1 shorthanded goal for the Oilers broke the spirit of Rinne and the Captain, both of whom were left to dry by the Belarussian.
As Kris pointed out in his article after the Edmonton debacle, the Predators can still turn this season around as they did against Columbus last year. But this team seems different as if the room isn’t buying into the system like they did once before. The style of play is becoming all too predictable and the key injuries to some of the only goal scoring talent on the team that was producing may be too much for the Predators to overcome. Unless the veterans like Erat, Fisher and Legwand can take it upon themselves to up their game and start contributing on the score-sheet while playing shutdown defense to give Rinne some help, it may be a long night with cannon fire echoing off the rafters in Ohio.
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