Things have not been going well for the Nashville Predators this season. Putting the puck into the back of the net has been a tough task all season, Pekka Rinne is just 16-14-6 on the year with a .902 save percentage and they hold the title of having the second-worst penalty kill in the league.
Dating back to December 1, the Predators have posted a record of 7-10-4 and have fallen to sixth in the Central Division standings and out of a playoff spot. Despite Nashville’s undeniable struggles, there is one factor that needs to be accounted for and that is their woeful schedule.
The Predators have already played 23 games away from home this season. Only the Winnipeg Jets have played more road contests among fellow Central Division foes with 25. To close out the month of January, the Predators will have played 27 road games opposed to just 23 games in Music City.
January has already beaten up on Nashville, as they have gone 1-4-1 to open 2016. Things are not going to get any easier with a brief home stand with the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks coming to town before a four-game Western Canada road trip to close out the month.
With that being said, there are reasons to be optimistic for the near future.
The Predators’ February slate has them set to play eight home games and just five games away from Nashville. With just five road contests, February will be the lightest traveling month for Nashville, excluding the shortened opening month of October. While Nashville has not been as stellar at home as they were last season, going 28-9-4 as opposed to this year’s 12-6-3, not many would argue that getting a season back on track is much easier in your home building is easier than on the road. The Predators have 20 home games and 18 road games to close out the regular season.
Outside of the fact that the schedule is more favorable than not, the Nashville faithful have other things to be positive about as well.
Ryan Johansen has been stellar in his four games played in a Nashville sweater with two goals and four assists. While the Predators have gone 0-3-1 since acquiring Johansen, he has looked right at home as the No. 1 center alongside James Neal. Filip Forsberg has gotten some time with Johansen as well as 19-year-old winger Kevin Fiala in the team’s most recent overtime loss to Winnipeg.
Ryan Johansen gets his 2nd in a #Preds sweater to cut the #NHLjets lead to 4-2 midway in the 3rd: pic.twitter.com/59i9unOriO
— Mark Harris (@MCHisTweeting) January 15, 2016
The Predators have also been doing many things right as of late and throughout the season.
Nashville has outshot their opponent in 24 of their 44 games played. They also lead the NHL in high-danger scoring chances differential with a 90 rating and they sit second in the league in overall scoring chance differential with a 156 rating.
Let’s also not forget about how well Mike Ribeiro has been playing, as he is a point-per-game player over the last 12 games played. The now second-line center is on pace for nine goals and 42 helpers.
Lastly, Rinne has performed much better in front of a home crowd this season and that is exactly what he will be facing for the majority of the remaining season. Among the company of netminders with at least 500 minutes played this season, Rinne holds the sixth-best home save percentage of .941. He is 12-5-3 at home and just 4-9-4 away from Nashville.
At this point last year they had just 21 home games under their belt and with 23 already this season perhaps it is an opportunity for the club to close out the regular season in strong form as opposed to stumbling down the stretch.
All stats via War on Ice.