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Wednesday, October 1, 2008


1 October 2008

07-08 marked the fourth consecutive season in which the Nashville Predators earned a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs. While impressive, the Preds’ on-ice success has been overshadowed by off-ice issues involving ownership, attendance woes and continuing threats/rumors of relocation. Can the Predators fight through the distractions and extend their playoff streak in 08-09, or will they be Singing the Blues in Music City?

In two of the past three seasons, Nashville was one of the best teams in the NHL in early-season play, finishing their first ten games in 05-06 with a rating of +3.5 against the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC), and +1.5 in 06-07. In 07-08, however, the Preds stumbled out of the starting gate and finished the first ten games at -1 against the PQC. This was the beginning of a season-long battle for a playoff spot, which the Predators finally clinched on 3 APRIL.

Some statistics of note from 07-08:
  • Nashville’s tight-checking style of play made them very tough to come back against, as they compiled a record of 34-6-4 (.773) when scoring first, which was good for 6th in the NHL
  • The Preds were even better when leading after two periods, winning 92.9% of the time (3rd in NHL)
  • On the flip side, Nashville was 30th in the league when trailing after one period, coming from behind just 18.4% of the time
  • Special teams were good and bad – the Predators’ 27th-ranked Power Play was a woeful 14.8%, but their Penalty Kill was a stifling 85.4%, 3rd in the NHL
How do you spell STANLEY? M-O-N-E-Y. Okay, many teams have proven that it takes more than filthy lucre to hoist the Cup, but…it doesn’t hurt. Unfortunately, the ownership in Nashville doesn’t have deep pockets, and fans staying away in droves have compounded the problem. As a result, the Predators steered clear of the free agent market this summer, and are pinning their hopes on youngsters like Patric Hornqvist , Vernon Fiddler and Ville Koistinen to step up. Likewise, veterans will be asked to do more (are you listening, J.P. Dumont?).

Last season, the Predators finished 2nd in the Central Division. In the off-season, division-mates Detroit, Chicago and Columbus all improved through trades and the free agent market. To earn a fifth consecutive playoff spot, Nashville will have to consistently play to their full potential, as one off night could mean the difference between ice time and Crying Time in APRIL.

The Predators’ first ten games are played 10 – 30 OCTOBER. Our exhaustive research indicates that in that timeframe, Nashville earns an average PQC rating of 6.3 and about 13 points in the NHL standings. 07-08 marked the first post-Lockout season in which the Preds ended their first ten games below the Curve. They found themselves at -1 after Game 10, and went on a 6-2-2 tear in Games 11 – 20 before slumping to 4-6 in Games 21-30. The Predators clawed their way back to even with the PQC by Game 60, then slipped back just below the Curve for the last quarter of the season. They were one of three teams in 07-08 to play so close to the PQC that OGA could not call them IN or OUT of the playoffs prior to their mathematical clinch (3 APRIL).

In each of the three seasons since the Lockout, one team has qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs despite finishing BELOW the Playoff Qualifying Curve. In 07-08, Nashville earned that dubious honor and set a record in the process – the Preds finished the season -1.5 against the PQC, while the other two “negative” playoff teams each finished -.5.

Some statistics of note for OCTOBER:
  • Post-Lockout, Nashville has a combined record of 18-10-2 through the first ten games
  • Four of the Preds’ first five games are on the road – in OCTOBER, they’ve lost 9 of 14 road games over the past three years (64.3%)
  • The Predators are a streaky team in OCTOBER, winning their first eight games in 05-06, starting 06-07 with 3 Ls followed by 4 Ws, and dropping six straight last season
OGA will be measuring the Predators against their average PQC rating of 6.3, as well as against other NHL teams, in order to provide you more in-depth analysis with Nashville’s Game 10 Report, due to season subscribers by 2PM CST on 31 OCTOBER, and available for order from ongoalanalysis.com by 2PM CST on 1 NOVEMBER. (See a sample G10R here…)

Nashville has a solid core of talent, and Coach Barry Trotz has proven his ability to get the most out of this team. One has to wonder, though, when a player on the cusp of stardom (Alexander Radulov) walks away from his contract, deciding he’d rather play in Russia than Nashville… What is going on behind the scenes? If the Predators can set aside those off-ice distractions, if Patric Hornqvist can make the team forget about Radulov, if Dan Ellis can pick up in October where he left off last April, then the Preds might not miss The Dance in 08-09. Track the Predators’ progress on The OGA Blogs and in Nashville’s G10R, available 1 NOVEMBER. All season long, OGA will keep you posted.

Thursday, check back in for the New York Rangers SPR. Until then, Big Tex says, “Try the Fried Guacamole!” “You heard me!”

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