The Central Division has been an odd one this season. There are teams that we knew would be good, and teams we knew would be bad, and this season they actually were. There are teams who haven't lived up to expectations, and a team from north of the border that has thus far exceeded expectations.
And then there's the Nashville Predators.
Having been safely written off as a team to not lose to before this season began, the Predators instead own the best points percentage in the league, and the only reason they trail the Anaheim Ducks in points is because Corey Perry has been systematically targeting NHL players with a campaign that has gone viral. Literally.
None of the Perds got the mumps though. Maybe that's one secret to their success...
The Stars have been good of late (barring a few meltdowns against the Columbus Blue Jackets the other night), but so too have the Perds. A 7-2-1 record over the last ten games sounds pretty great for the Stars. The Preds are 7-1-2. Ho-hum. Just another day at the office for a team that just won't lose as often as they were supposed to.
So what else do we know about Nashville? Not too much really, all things considered. Which is why we've called in everyone's favorite Tenneseean (is that right? There seem to be way too many vowels in that word) J.R. Lind of Central Division blog III Communication to set the record straight in a way that only he can.
Our questions, his answers:
Defending Big D: The Perds currently have the highest points percentage in the entire NHL, are second in points only to the Anaheim Ducks, and second in goal differential to only the Chicago Blackhawks. They're also tied with the New York Rangers for second fewest goals allowed, trailing only, again, the Blackhawks. They're no slouches in possession either, sitting at 7th in the league. That's a lot of impressive stats, all of which begin to form a pattern that would suggest this isn't luck. But seriously, come on. It's luck right?
J.R. Lind: Some old dead person once said "It's better to be lucky than good." I'm pretty sure it was Andrew Jackson, a great Tennessean. Or perhaps Sam Houston, a great Tennessean [Ed. note: Ahh... so that's how you spell it.] before he went crazy and became a Texan for reasons passing understanding [Ed. Note - Probably for the same reason my aforementioned great great great grandfather used his Civil War pay to escape Ohio, another favorite state of Mr. Lind... Some states just aren't worth living in. - OA]. Anyway, my standard line is that the Predators have been both lucky AND good. They are PDOing at 102.5 (which is also the frequency of the team's radio broadcaster, for what it's worth) which is best in the league, but, as you said, they are also a top-10 possession team. There's been an element of luck - Filip Forsberg being a point-per-game guy, Mike Ribeiro getting paid twice by Arizona what he's getting paid by Nashville and looking great, Pekka Rinne returning to his other-worldly form. But the underlying stuff is solid too. Now the power play is coming along after a dreadful start, so the Preds are well-positioned.
Obscene Alex: Would you best associate the tone of yellow in the Perdators jersey to ear wax, mucus, pit stains, jaundice, urine stains, or cowardice?
JR: Nashville is one of the American cities with highest rate of flu infection and viral snot is typically bright yellow, particularly at the beginning of the infection. For now, it's an homage to mucus.
DBD: Pekka Rinne has played in 34 of the Perdators 39 games. That's a higher percentage even than Kari Lehtonen for the Stars. Do y'all not trust your backup goaltenders either?
JR: No and I'm not sure there's been a back-up goalie worthy of trust since...Anders Lindback, [Ed. Note - HAHA! Oh. Wait. - OA] oddly enough. Carter Hutton hasn't won a game all season, though he's looked pretty OK most of the time. Fortunately, the schedule has worked out so that Rinne can play most of the games (even with that dodgy hip), as the Preds haven't been beset with too many back-to-backs, and Rinne played both ends of the Chicago-St. Louis double despite having made like 45 saves in the first game.
OA: Is Gnash still out with a lower body injury? Was Neal involved?
JR: Gnash is back and fully recovered. James Neal was not involved, but he's missed a few games with an LBI of his own. Gnash, as far as we know, was not involved. [Ed. Note - Jordin Tootoo's whereabouts are conveniently unknown for both events, I bet, though. - OA]
DBD: Is a statue of Barry Trotz still planned in Nashville, or has the Perds suddenly becoming good made people question the Trotz-ian years?
JR: The Caps come back here next week and I think Trotz will get a warm reception. Folks have moved on - a good season has helped, that's for sure - but I think there's still a lot of affection and appreciation for him, but people are learning there's more than one way to skin a cat.
OA: What are the native predators in the city of Nashville?
JR: Extant predators include coyotes, various birds of prey and drunken tourists from the Midwest. Extinct predators include the saber-tooth cat (a skeleton of which was found when what is now the UBS Tower was built in the early 70s and was inspiration for the Predators logo) and the late Minnie Pearl, who was a real firebrand with a pistol.
DBD: In our 'Know Thine Enemy' series this past offseason, in response to a question about how the Perds would do this season you said, and I quote: "I think they can compete for a spot. I'm not sure they are going to put a scare in anyone, but if Laviolette can figure out where to play the forwards, there's no reason why they can't compete for 7th or 8th." Does it bother you that you were so wrong?
JR: I haven't lost a minute of sleep about it.
OA: After holding down last place in the Conference III fantasy league, you are now 2 points ahead of David in 13th place [Ed. note: Oh damn. Is that still going on? I wonder where my login information went...]. What is the secret to your meteoric rise in the standings?
JR: Having completely ignored my team for a month seems to have really put a charge in the boys. [Ed. Note - Excuses, excuses. - OA]