For the fourth time this season, (you're reading that right, FOURTH time), Nashville defeated Detroit. This is only the second time in the Predators history that they have secured a winning season series against one of their most revered rivals. The only other time that Nashville seemed to have Detroit's number was 2009, which came a season after the Predators gave the Red Wings a run for their money in the 2008 playoffs. The win tonight puts Nashville back in a playoff position, claiming the eighth seed in the ridiculously tight Western Conference. Should the team maintain their steam and keep themselves in the top 8, it is possible they could, yet again, meet the Red Wings in the first round of playoffs. The biggest question this year would be whether or not regular season success against a constant Cup contender like Detroit could translate to the post season.
Putting post-season posturing aside, there are two things that the Predators are using in their last few weeks of the regular season to help get the job done: scoring from the younger players and generating on-ice energy from the support of the home crowd. At the end of Trade Deadline Day, Coach Trotz and GM David Poile both stated that they would be looking to the younger players on the team to step up and fill the roles left open due to injuries. With scoring tonight from rookies Blake Geoffrion and Jonathon Blum, along with goals scored by the pair in recent past, the younger players have begun to prove themselves to the rest of the locker room. Though Colin Wilson found himself with a spot on the roster from the beginning of the season, he is also considered in the younger player category. He managed to get a puck through on Thursday night against Boston, but prior to that his game had been mediocre at best. With elevated play from the likes of Blum and Geoffrion, Wilson should use their performance as a catalyst to up his game as well.
Scoring from the younger players makes for a happy fan base. A happy fan base makes for an electric environment when the Predators are playing at home in the Bridgestone Arena. That electricity has, on more than one occasion, been what helps propel the team to victory at home. With a home-heavy schedule over the next three weeks, the energy level in the arena is almost as important as the performance level of the team on the ice. The coach and the players spoke out about the importance of crowd support, using Thursday night's win against Boston as their most recent point of reference. Some might discount the validity of a team using fan support to help them win a game. I would ask those naysayers to sit in on a game at the Bridgestone and see if they still think the same at the end of 60 minutes of play. There is a marked difference in the team's energy when the crowd is 100% behind them. I have experienced it time and again over the last few seasons. Good energy is infectious, whether you are in the stands or on the bench. Since we can't obviously join in on a rush up ice, it is our duty to make sure we keep the "rush" from our seats going until the bitter end. If the team can be taken to task over playing a "full 60 minutes", the fans can too.