Nashville, Tenn. (WKRN)- The Tennessee Titans took fans for a long ride, making it all the way to the AFC Championship game, so can the Predators be the next team in Nashville to create playoff buzz?
If there is one guy that can provide some answers it’s Jeremy Gover, who has been covering the Predators for the last 10 years. He joined News 2 Sports Reporter Kayla Anderson in the WKRN studio to breakdown everything Preds.
There have been a lot of inconsistencies in the Predators play this season. After getting off to a great start in October, the next three months were full of ups and downs. But with the All-Star Break in the rear view mirror, John Hynes’ group knows every game from here on out is a ‘must win.’
“We have seen in the last couple of games the team start to put things together, even though they haven’t played up to their potential by any means,” Jeremy Gover.
Back to back wins on the road is certainly a sign of something good, but if the Predators make the playoffs, you can look back and say the key turning point was the win on January 29th against the Washington Capitals.
“That is the NHL’s best team, in their barn and the Preds knew they were on the heels of a back to back and then you look at how horrible the first period went. They tried to give the game away (in a sense) in the first 20 minutes, but they still found a way to win the game,” added Gover.
At this time of the year consistency has to come into play night in and night out. There are still plenty of things this team will have to improve if they want to make the playoffs.
Gover said, “The third defense pairing is still the weakness for this team. Ryan Ellis goes down in the Winter Classic and that makes the problem worse because now you have a third D-pair who is basically a sixth defenseman and seventh defenseman on the team because you have Yannick Weber playing top pairing minutes with Roman Josi.”
While calling out individuals isn’t always the way to go, head coach John Hynes did reduce centerman Ryan Johansen’s minutes earlier in the week, just reiterating the fact he demands the best out of his players.
“For the amount of cash he’s getting and the fact he’s a top-line center, he definitely has to be better. But I think you have to remember he’s had a rotating cast of wingers this year and what consistency can you get with your linemates if you’re always trying something new?” asked Gover.
The current cast of Predators would like to make their way back up the standings, but if they don’t, General Manager David Poile could mix things up at the trade deadline on February 24th.
Gover said, “I think you’ll see Mikael Granlund coming into form under Hynes, which is great. So it makes you think was it a Peter Laviolette thing, did he just not fit the system? Craig Smith is another pending unrestricted free agent so it’s possible that he gets moved, but that is all contingent on the fact that the Predators are not looking like a playoff team. If they do what they did this week and win three of the last five games, Poile might take his foot off the gas a bit.”
The key to moving forward and climbing up the standings is simple, just win. But in order to do that, the team’s defense will need to step it up, including getting more production out of both Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros.
“I think goaltending and I don’t just mean Rinne and Saros, I mean the defense around them. If the goaltenders could get back to a .915/.920 save percentage consistently the rest of the season, this team will be just fine,” added Gover.
The Nashville Predators are back at home Saturday hosting the Vegas Golden Knights.