After last night’s 5-1 blowout loss in Vegas, the Nashville Predators have lost four of their last five games. It’s not their worst stretch of the season, but it sure feels like it.

Looking at this team over the last 10 games, you’d think they were in the middle of a rebuild, not competing for a Stanley Cup. Even as the Preds sit in 2nd place in the Central, back to back losses to the Blues, a regulation home loss to the Red Wings, then Saturday night’s debacle in Vegas has fans in a state of worry.

The reason for this worry comes down to three main pressure points hitting the Preds all at once.

Divisional Pressure

The Preds recent slide coincides with some improved play by key opponents in the Central Division. St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, and Winnipeg have all put up better records than Nashville in the last 10 games:

  • St. Louis: 9-1-0
  • Chicago: 8-2-0
  • Dallas: 6-3-1
  • Winnipeg: 5-3-2
  • Nashville: 5-4-1
  • Minnesota: 3-4-3
  • Colorado: 1-6-3

The Blues are the biggest worry for the Preds right now. They’ve won nine straight games and could make it ten straight against the Wild later today. Right now, the Blues would be the Preds first round matchup. Based on how the last two games went, that’s a much harder first round matchup than the Preds would hope for, even with home ice advantage.

Nashville Predators St. Louis Blues
The Blues have won 9 straight games and are within 8 points of the Preds in the Central. Image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports.

Dallas and Winnipeg have also been better over the last stretch. Chicago is on a hot streak. Really, only Colorado looks significantly worse than Nashville right now, and they could still get hot at the right time.

The pressure from other divisional teams is starting to press against the Predators who won the Central last year for the first time in franchise history.

Trade Deadline Pressure

The trade deadline is a week away. With the way things have gone lately, it feels like there is a lot riding on this decision. The relative success of the franchise could be impacted for the next three or four years based on what Poile decides to do.

Will he make a move to improve the roster for this year? It’s anyone’s guess.

Right now, it certainly doesn’t feel like this team is one forward away from being a legitimate Cup contender. There’s too many questions about scoring depth, defensive consistency, and goaltending performance.

But what if the trade target is a significant one, like Matt Duchene or Artemi Panarin? Maybe that helps cover up other recent issues. Maybe it shakes things up enough to get things back on track.

The latest reports are that Duchene and Panarin are still available. The cost will be high, of course, but if Poile wants to improve the roster for this year, the time is now.

Which leads to the final pressure point.

Expectation Pressure

This team has never had higher expectations. A Cup Final appearance in 2017 and a Presidents’ Trophy win in 2018 cannot be followed by a first or second round exit in 2019. That would be a significant step back and one that must be met with some sort of change.

We are well beyond the nascent years of the Predators, where multiple seasons of a mere playoff appearance was acceptable. This team, this fanbase, and this city expect more.

While I am not sure if we would actually see any change this offseason should the Predators find themselves out of the playoffs in April, it would be a mistake to not make adjustments. The Stanley Cup is a moving target, not a stationary one. You cannot rest on accomplishments from two years ago. Change will be necessary and if it doesn’t come, fans will show their displeasure.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

Let’s lighten things up a bit. Here’s newcomer Brian Boyle’s first goal for the Preds from last Thursday’s win over the Canadiens.

Let’s Do That Hockey

Tuesday 2/19 – 7:30 PM: Predators @ Stars [FS-TN]

Thursday 2/21 – 7:00 PM: Predators vs. Kings [NBCSN]

Saturday 2/23 – 4:30 PM: Predators vs. Avalanche [FS-TN]

Final Thought

I don’t usually spend time looking at power rankings, let alone make my own, but with the recent slump the Predators are going through, I thought I might try my hand at it.

Here’s how I would rank the Western Conference, both in terms of wins, makeup, and recent play:

  1. San Jose
  2. Winnipeg
  3. St. Louis
  4. Calgary
  5. Vegas
  6. Nashville
  7. Dallas
  8. Minnesota
  9. Colorado
  10. Vancouver

San Jose and Winnipeg are the clear top two in the Western Conference. The balance, scoring ability, and defensive makeup of those teams is just too tough to beat right now.

St. Louis has played their way into the top three over the last month, but really this is exactly who we thought the Blues would be this season. Tough defense and a more balanced scoring approach compared to last season.

Calgary has had a very good season, though I doubt they can go far in the playoffs with 36-year-old Mike Smith and a largely unproven David Rittich in between the pipes.

We saw last night how good Vegas can be when they get rolling downhill. Honestly, by the time this season is over, they may even surpass San Jose for the top spot in the West.

So that leaves the Nashville Predators as the 6th best team in the West right now. And by the end of the season, they could be much lower than that, if they don’t turn things around.

It’s hard to believe this team won the Presidents’ Trophy only 10 months ago.

— Featured image via Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports —

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