The Nashville Predators’s path to claiming their second ever Central Division isn’t closed quite yet.

While last Saturday’s 5-0 blowout loss to the Winnipeg Jets still stings, the Jets snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last night against the New York Islanders. The Jets led the Isles 4-3 with less than two minutes remaining, but couldn’t hold the lead. Casey Cizikas scored to tie the game with 1:46 left in the game, looking like the game would head to overtime. Then, incredibly, the Isles scored again 33 seconds later, as Jordan Eberle gave the Isles a late 5-4 lead.

The Isles held on the for the victory, stunning the Jets on home ice.

The difference between the Jets getting two points and a regulation win and the Jets getting no points and a regulation loss is monumental this time of year. If the Jets had held on for the last 1:46, the Preds would be four points out with only five games to play. Now, they are still only two points out.

Schedule Favors The Preds

Not only did last night’s Jets loss help the Preds, a glance ahead at the schedule suggests the Preds also have the advantage down the stretch.

For one, the Preds have three home games left. The Jets only have one. Home ice is crucial this time of year and the Preds have the advantage there.

Second, the Preds will face at least two opponents who are not currently in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks are good opponents, but do not have anything to play for this time of year. In fact, they could use a loss or two to help get closer to a top pick in the draft lottery.

Here’s the Preds’ final five games:

  • @ Pittsburgh, 3/29
  • Columbus, 3/30
  • @ Buffalo, 4/2
  • Vancouver, 4/4
  • Chicago, 4/6

The Jets do not face any opponents who, at the moment, are out of a playoff spot. Here’s their final schedule:

  • Montreal, 3/30
  • @ Chicago, 4/1
  • @ Minnesota, 4/2
  • @ Colorado, 4/4
  • @ Arizona, 4/6

Chicago, Minnesota, Colorado, and Arizona are all pushing for that final wildcard spot in the West. Montreal is fighting for its claim to the final wildcard spot in the East. While it’s possible that a team like Colorado or Arizona will be out of the race by the time the Jets face them, by that time it may be too late.

Both teams have a “back-to-back” left on the schedule, though I would say Nashville has the tougher task there. Going to Pittsburgh and then facing a desperate Columbus team at home is not going to be easy.

The Preds need to gain three points on the Jets in order to claim the Central, since they won’t have the ROW (regulation and overtime wins) tiebreaker. The Jets have 43 ROWs and the Preds have 39 ROWs. Gaining three points will be necessary to surpass the Jets in the standings.

Can the Preds be three points better than the Jets in the final five games? Absolutely. A scenario where the Jets finish 2-2-1 is easily plausible. If that happens, the Preds would have to finish 4-1-0 or better to claim the Central.

The Preds’ chances of finishing in 1st in the division are still only at 16 percent according to Sports Club Stats. Meanwhile, their chance of finishing in either 2nd or 3rd is at 80 percent. The numbers still favor a match-up with the Blues in the first round, but last night’s result in Winnipeg opened the road to a seemingly implausible final push for the division title.

— Featured image via James Carey Lauder/USA TODAY Sports —
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