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Stat Chat: The Importance of Fourth Place for the Predators

Written By: Miranda Martin

With the Nashville Predators clenching their seventh playoff berth in franchise history Wednesday night, the only question remaining is the placement of the team within the playoff race.

As of Thursday, the Nashville Predators reside in fifth place in the central division-dominated Western Conference, only one point behind the fourth place Detroit Red Wings and three points ahead of the struggling sixth place Chicago Blackhawks. With only five games remaining for all three teams, the matchup between Detroit and Nashville seems the most inevitable to many. Even Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News Wednesday that he predicted a first round match against Nashville.

If his prediction is correct, this would be the third time in the Predators playoff history that the two teams met up in the Conference Quarterfinals. Both previous series (2004 and 2008) were met with a 6-game series in favor of Detroit. However, the standings are in favor for a hard fought series between fourth and fifth seed. In the past, Detroit was ranked the first seed, contrary to the eight seed of the gritty Predators. The season series between the teams is fairly balanced, with Detroit having a 3-2 advantage in the regular season record.

Since the Predators are only one point behind Detroit for fourth place and home ice advantage, it will be a fight to the finish for both teams.  Attaining home ice will be crucial for both teams, particularly home-dominating Detroit. Detroit broke the NHL record this season for consecutive home wins with 23, breaking the 20-game record established by the Boston Bruins in 1930 and repeated by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976. With 77 games in the books, the Detroit home record is a dominating 30-5-2 this season. This starkly contrasts their road record, which, after the loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Wednesday night, fell to 16-21-3.

The Predators, on the other hand, have a significantly more balanced home and away record than Detroit. The Predators also have a dominant home record of 24-9-5, accompanied by a winning record of 20-16-3 away. The Predators also established in the 2010-2011 season that they could win on the road in the playoffs. The team was able to win two games on the road against both the Anaheim Ducks and the Vancouver Canucks.

However, home ice advantage has not always been nice to the Predators. In both the 2006 and 2007 playoffs, Nashville’s home ice advantage was really a disadvantage, losing decisively in five games to the San Jose Sharks. The Predators were only able to win one game at home both times. In the 2011 Conference Semifinals, the Predators lost all three home games to the Vancouver Canucks, as well, even though the Canucks had the home ice advantage.

It is going to take a balance of home and away to succeed in the playoffs.  Nevertheless, Predatorss fans will be getting a potential preview of the playoffs in a back-to-back Central Division extravaganza this weekend. The Predators play in Detroit Friday night, followed by a showdown at Bridgestone Arena against the Chicago Blackhawks . If the Predators win the game Friday night, they will jump over Detroit for fourth place; if they lose, Detroit has a dominating 3-point lead on fourth place with only four games remaining in the season.

Friday night’s game at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit starts at 6:30 PM, CST, on FSN. Saturday night’s home game against Chicago will start at 7 PM CST. Both games will be locally televised or listen live on nashvillepredators.com.

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