Photo Credit: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images
After a inexplicable series of events Sunday night against Edmonton to drop the game 3-2 and stretch their losing streak to 3 games, the Predators are now mired in a 4-9-2 slump. This sets up a strangely familiar and very important match-up with Central Division foe Columbus on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
Most won’t (and don’t) stress the important of a mid-to-late season game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but with the direction that both teams are heading in right now? This is more important than it appears.
Travel back with me about 25 months ago to February of 2011. Nashville was mired in a 4-8-2 slump coming into a February 27th meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena. Columbus, who were 8-2-1 in their past 11 games and had compiled a 31-24-6 record (68 points) compared to the 32-23-8 record (72 points) for Nashville. Both teams were going in separate direction, which was very clear.
Columbus started the scoring in the second period, getting a goal from then-rookie Matt Calvert. The third period began with Nashville trailing in the game and their season, with no potential hope in sight. Then this happens:
While it wasn’t the prettiest of goals, it tied the game up and gave Nashville new life. The Predators and Jackets exchanged another goal each in the next 11 minutes from Jon Blum and Kris Russell respectively. What would Nashville do, tied with less than ten minutes to go until overtime? Find a way to win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at home in Nashville:
The goal from Legwand came with 1:35 left in the game. Nashville would go on to win, essentially sealing the fate of both teams for the remainder of the season. After that win, the Predators would go 12-4-3 to finsh the year and grab the 5th seed in the playoffs, while the Blue Jackets would finish out with a 3-11-7 record.
Two completely separate paths.
So, fate has brought both teams together again, in the same sort of situation that we saw a little over two years ago. How does it play out this time?
With the way the Predators have been playing in their past 15 games, it could have any number of results. Nashville has made Columbus their doorstep in the past decade and more, which isn’t a slight or jab at the Blue Jackets, but the absolute truth. Columbus knows this, Columbus is very aware. Would the Jackets like to step on the throats of the Predators while they’re down and vault themselves into a playoff position, you bet they would. However, on the flip side, Nashville takes pride in every win they get against Columbus, they know the value of every win, especially against a divisional foe.
After Sunday night’s loss to Edmonton, Columbus and Nashville have the same exact record. What happens in 48 hours is anyone’s guess, but to call Tuesday’s game the most pivotal game of the season is an understatement in my opinion. It could be the game that truly decides whether Nashville can turn around their slide or pack it in and miss the playoffs for only the second time in nearly a decade.