SportsPulse: NHL columnist Kevin Allen discusses if the Islanders’ recent success is enough to keep star John Tavares around long term and what other big names could be on the move before the trade deadline.
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The hockey world underestimated the Nashville Predators in their march to the Stanley Cup Final last season and it may be happening again.
With the recognition the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues are receiving for their strong starts and the attention on the Vegas Golden Knights’ rise and the Edmonton Oilers’ fall, are we failing to notice the Predators now own a stronger team than the one they took to the Final last June?
Although they lost 5-3 to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, the Predators are now 10-2-1 in their last 13 games. They are 15-7-3 this season.
Here are five reasons why the Predators were dominant in November:
1. Kyle Turris’ arrival: The Predators hope Turris was the final piece to their puzzle, and he has been performing as if that is true. He has two goals and five assists in 10 games since being traded from Ottawa. The Predators are 7-2-1 in those 10 games.
2. Mattias Ekholm’s rise: Anyone watching him play over the past month can appreciate why general manager David Poile said he won’t move any of his top four defensemen.
With five goals and three assists in nine games, Ekholm has added an expanded offensive presence to his repertoire. Imagine how strong this defensive group will be when Ryan Ellis returns from injury. There aren’t many defense groups better than Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Ellis and Ekholm. Ellis is a few weeks from returning.
3. Pekka Rinne looks youthful: Scoring is up around the NHL, but Rinne’s .925 save percentage would be the best he’s had in seven seasons.
At 14-4-2, Rinne, 35, is playing at the same confidence level he showed during his strong playoff run. He hasn’t been pulled from a game this season, holding the opposition to two or fewer goals in 11 of 20 starts.
4. Stronger power play: After finishing in the middle of the pack last season in power play percentage, the Predators rank third this season at 25.8%.
In their past seven games, the Predators are 9-for-21 on…