With 25% of the season behind, the time has come to take a look at how the team has performed through the first quarter.
First looking at the standings, the Predators are where they want to be at the end of the year, with a .548 win percentage and 23 points through 21 games. This is good enough to be sitting second in the division behind the all-mighty Blues and overall to earn a playoff spot.
While the final objective has been met so far, the ride has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Special units have been a disaster since the team ranks 29th in both PP% and PK%. This will have to improve as it will be hard to keep the playoffs window open while allowing twice as many goals on the PK that the team scores on the PP. Also, after a very good start to the season, the team is having a tough time playing for .500 since its starting goaltender Varlamov was injured.
The defense has been a glowing point for the Predators, maintaining the 2nd lower shot against average. Unfortunaly with the injury to Varlamov, the results hasn’t materialized in lowest goals against. A total of five different goaltenders have stopped the puck so far, including prospect Kieran Millan. While Varlamov has been able to keep a 1.84 GAA with a sv% of .920, Giguere has cracked under the pressure of replacing him for a month as the number one and has showed so far a poor 3.14 GAA with a sv% of .886. This forced the team to claim the Monster from waivers which has helped with Gustavsson having a 2.62 GAA with a sv% of .898.
Like the team as a whole, individual player performances vary greatly. Umberger has played a big role on the team, leading it for points and ice-time. Brassard and Gagne have been both pleasant surprises, leading the forwards with a +10 and a +8 rating and scoring at a 55-60 points pace while playing on the second line and with limited PP time. On the other hand, Simmonds has been disappointing. The physical aspect is there, with 80 hits already, but he has disappointed greatly with only two goals and four points in his first 21 games, despite playing first line and 1st PP for most of the games. Chris Higgins and Guillaume Latendresse were also counted on for a better offensive output, with both currently on pace for 35 points only. In fact, only four forwards are on pace to surpass the 20 goals mark.
Fortunately, the defense has been playing great from the beginning. Justin Faulk is having a good rookie campaign with 10 points through 20 games and the highest +/- on the team at +11. The top pairing of McDonagh and Alzner aren’t doing as well in +/- but considering they face the other team’s best players they are doing an adequate job.
With the upcoming return of Varlamov, as well as with Simmonds expected to get his offensive game back on track, the Predators are hoping that the team can finish the year with approximately 90 points. This should be enough for another post-season run, hopefully this time facing a different first round opponent than the Flames.