Editor's note: Thanks to an errant ticket schedule, the numbers provided below for the Red Wings were initially incorrect. They've been updated to reflect the correct numbers.
Looking for futures bet with a decent return? Thinking the nice price on the Predators to win the Central Division are worth a couple of bucks? Though the mainstream folks have labeled the Predators as a defensive team, Pekka Rinne has been the true difference maker for these Predators. And while the Predators will undoubtedly make a move or two to add offense at the trade deadline, the rest of the Western Conference contenders will move to patch holes as well. Can this supposedly defensively-minded team chase down the big bad Wings?
Nashville is 16th in the league in shot prevention, giving up 30.3 shots per game. They are 23rd in the league in shot differential at -1.8 shots per game. Rinne has made up the difference as Nashville has posted a .924 save percentage, third-best in the league, largely drive by Rinne's individual performance. Rinne has appeared in 36 games, posting a .932 even strength save percentage and an absurd .927 short-handed save percentage, far and away the best in the league for a regular goaltender. There's not much to the narrative that this is a "lockdown" team or a superior defensive team. With league-average goaltender on the season, the Predators would have given up 16 more goals, pulling their goal differential down to even and knocking at least five points from the win column.
So if the Predators aren't a true defensive team, but are being carried by their goaltender, how can they win the Central Division?
It's all about home cooking.
Over their final 29 games, the Predators play 19 games at home and only ten on the road.
Contrast that with the Red Wings. The Wings must finish the season with 15 road games and only 15 home games.
Nashville's schedule is as follows:
|Mon, Feb 7||vs||Edmonton Oilers|
|Wed, Feb 9||@||Detroit Red Wings|
|Sat, Feb 12||vs||Colorado Avalanche|
|Tue, Feb 15||vs||San Jose Sharks|
|Thu, Feb 17||vs||Vancouver Canucks|
|Sat, Feb 19||vs||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Tue, Feb 22||@||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Thu, Feb 24||vs||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Sat, Feb 26||@||Dallas Stars|
|Sun, Feb 27||vs||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Tue, Mar 1||@||Edmonton Oilers|
|Thu, Mar 3||@||Vancouver Canucks|
|Sun, Mar 6||@||Calgary Flames|
|Tue, Mar 8||@||San Jose Sharks|
|Thu, Mar 10||vs||Minnesota Wild|
|Sat, Mar 12||vs||Colorado Avalanche|
|Tue, Mar 15||vs||Los Angeles Kings|
|Thu, Mar 17||vs||Boston Bruins|
|Sat, Mar 19||vs||Detroit Red Wings|
|Sun, Mar 20||@||Buffalo Sabres|
|Tue, Mar 22||vs||Edmonton Oilers|
|Thu, Mar 24||vs||Anaheim Ducks|
|Sat, Mar 26||vs||Dallas Stars|
|Tue, Mar 29||vs||Vancouver Canucks|
|Thu, Mar 31||@||Colorado Avalanche|
|Sat, Apr 2||vs||Detroit Red Wings|
|Tue, Apr 5||vs||Atlanta Thrashers|
|Fri, Apr 8||vs||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Sat, Apr 9||@||St. Louis Blues|
There is a four game road-trip, but it's offset by four homestands of three games, two four-game homestands and a length five-game homestand.
The Predators play 12 of final 15 at home, including two against the Red Wings.
All of this may be moot, however. Even though Nashville has averaged 1.364 points per game at home and only 1.065 on the road, the machine-like Red Wings have averaged 1.308 points per game at home and 1.357 on the road. Should those rates hold, the Predators will rack up 36 points to close the season with 99 points and the Red Wings will tally 40 points on their way to a 108 point season. But the Red Wings will have to deal with much more travel during this stretch - they've got a three-game homestand and a six-game road trip, but most of the other 21 games are bouncing from city to city. If the travel begins to wear on the Red Wings and they falter - the homebody Predators have a fighting chance to catch them.