The Nashville Predators clinched a spot in the 2016-2017 playoffs last night, despite losing 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues. They got some help from the Los Angeles Kings, whose post-season hopes came to an end after losing 2-1 to the Arizona Coyotes. The Predators now sit in the second wild card spot in the West, with 91 points. They have three games remaining. They dropped a pivotal game against the Blues, who are in third in the Central Division, with a game in hand on the Predators. Now the Predators will have to try to claw their way back into the third place spot in order to avoid the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
Nashville Predators Clinch a Playoff Spot Despite Loss
Recap April 2nd – Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
The playoff implications of Sunday’s match up between the Predators and the Blues were massive. Both teams had 91 points, and desperately want the third place spot in the Central. The Predators were coming off a tough stretch of four games in six days that saw the team go 2-2. They had momentum after beating divisional rival Minnesota 3-0 at home on Saturday. Despite out-shooting the Blues 36-25, the Predators failed to claim the two points.
The Blues set the tone early in the game, killing off a 5-on-3 powerplay. They would open the scoring shortly after when Vladimir Tarasenko beat Juuse Saros on a sharp angle shot. The Predators answered just under the halfway mark in the period, when Ryan Johansen cashed in on another 5-on-3 opportunity.
From there, it was all St. Louis. Less than a minute into the second period, Alex Steen would be the beneficiary of the hard work of David Perron. Steen scored his 15th goal of the season. Perron, who played a great game, was not finished. Six minutes later, he outworked P.K. Subban to add a goal to his two assists and put the Blues ahead 3-1. This would close out the scoring in the second period. Blues goaltender Jake Allen made several key saves, including two on Craig Smith, to keep his team ahead.
The Blues scored the only goal of the third period after killing another Predators power play. Defenseman Joel Edmundson found himself up on a 2-on-1 after Kevin Fiala bobbled the puck at the offensive blue line. He elected to shoot off the rush, and cashed in on his own rebound.
David Perron had a fantastic game for the Blues, scoring a goal and adding two assists. Jake Allen stayed hot, posting five wins in his last seven starts, with no regulation losses. He is finding pucks lately, making saves in every way, including multiple with his head.
Predators goaltender Saros struggled a bit in this game. He did not seem to track the puck as well on the Blues goals, and struggled with rebound control on the Edmundson goal. Craig Smith was shut down by Allen, but had three high quality opportunities. Johansen did score his 14th goal of the season, but will need to do more in the playoffs for the team to succeed.
The Nashville Predators host the New York Islanders on Tuesday in Nashville. The Islanders are not technically eliminated from playoff contention yet, so expect them to come out swinging. They are missing top center John Tavares for the rest of the season with injury, though. Beyond Tuesday, the Predators face Dallas on Thursday and Winnipeg on Saturday. Both games are away, but should be winnable as the Stars and Jets have had underwhelming results this season.
The third place team in the Central division will avoid Chicago and draw a match up against the slumping Minnesota Wild. If the Predators can win out the rest of the season, their hopes for third place rely on the Blues losing three of their last four games. This seems unlikely given the Blues play of late and their schedule. They face Winnipeg, Florida, Carolina and Colorado.
The Predators need to finish the season on a high note and gear up to face rival Chicago Blackhawks. It will not be an easy first-round for the Predators, so they need all the momentum they can muster.