When predicting the Central Division standings back before the season started, pundits got hung up on the bubble teams. They named Colorado and Minnesota as the top two pretty consistently, and number three seemed to be Winnipeg’s to lose, but those potential wild card spots were a crap shoot. Predictions shifted back and forth between St. Louis and Dallas... or maybe it was Chicago and Nashville... or Nashville and Dallas... or maybe St. Louis and Nashville...
Who knows, right? And predictions are only as good as the teams that you’re talking about. Minnesota, Winnipeg, and St. Louis seem to be the three teams in the Central duking it out for the guaranteed playoff spots, and the wild card currently is down to... well, it’s squarely one team. It’s the Nashville Predators. They’ve taken advantage of Colorado’s troubles and they’ve kept the Dallas Stars at bay. They gave the Blackhawks just their third win this season in a shootout on Sunday, but last night they doubled up the Stars, 4-2.
Here’s hoping they’re a little tired, because out of the Central Division teams that the Blues have had to fight off, the Predators have been the toughest. They’ve given the Blues fits in recent history, and with first place see-sawing between the Wild and Blues, banking two points against Nashville (and any Central Division opponent, frankly) is key. The last time the two teams were together in the Central, the Preds went 4-0 and outscored the Blues 13-8. They haven’t beaten the Preds since February 26th, 2019.
Noted Blues killer Filip Forsberg has four goals on the season, as does captain Roman Josi. Josi is leading the team in points with 12, and Matt Duchene is leading in goals with six. Right now, three Preds are up to five or more goals - it’s not a scoring by committee situation as it is in St. Louis. Right now, just two Blues have no points, and they’re Dakota Joshua (called up) and Niko Mikkola (protocol list).
Right now, the Preds’ success is on the shoulders of starter Jusse Saros. His 6-4-0 record comes with a 2.28 GAA and a stellar .925 save percentage. The Preds are 20th in the league with SA/game at 30.8, so it’s clear that they’re performing so well thanks to the blueline on back.
The Blues blueline could tighten up their SA/game (9th in the league at 33.3) if not to just give Jordan Binnington a break. Tuesday night he snagged the Blues two points that they struggled to get against the Winnipeg Jets with a 39 save performance. His .928 save percentage is reminding people of 2018-2019, and that’s what the Blues need to see out of him if they’re going to be successful in what is shaping up to be a tough division.