The Nashville Predators‘ season begins tonight, and the team is in some fairly uncharted territory. Several franchise faces have parted with the organization, and expectations are about as low as they have been in years.
That being said, it is time to embrace a new era of Predators’ hockey, including relying on Juuse Saros to start after his new contract, and five particular games stand out as ones that should excite the fans.
The season opener against the new guys
Did you want a can’t-miss contest early in the season? Try the very first night.
The Predators open their season against the brand new Seattle Kraken in their second game ever, and there is so much to look out for in this matchup.
First and foremost, it is going to be interesting to see how youngsters and newcomers such as Philip Tomasino, Cody Glass, and Philippe Myers mesh with the team and get a sense of where they stand as a whole right now. Fans will also be eager to see how the Kraken will perform, as anyone, no matter who they support, would like to know how the expansion team will fare in their inaugural season.
The storyline for this game is intriguing as well. How will the Kraken respond from their devastating failed comeback of a loss against a Predators team that has won seven of their last eight home openers? Get ready, this is going to be a fun one.
The playoff rematch
Oh, you want another pivotal game in the first week of the year? No problem, you will get one two days later.
On Saturday night, the Predators will host the Carolina Hurricanes: their opponent in the 2021 playoffs. On paper, the Predators should not have much of a chance in this contest but look past the surface.
The playoff series between these two was just under five months ago, and it was a gruelling affair to the end. You could imagine that it is fresh in the minds of both teams, and there could be some bad blood left over for this meeting.
And just knowing that the Predators are a physical, defensive team that has Juuse Saros in goal, generally speaking, it is going to be tough to beat them easily any night. the Hurricanes are the better team and could run away with this one, but the Predators took them to four consecutive overtime games in the playoffs, so chances are they know what they have to do to keep this one close.
A rivalry renewed
The NHL is back to usual conferences and divisions this year, and several rivalry matchups that did not happen last year are going to be back in action. One of those is that between the Predators and the St. Louis Blues.
Yes, this is far from the most notable rivalry in the NHL, but fans on both sides will tell you they missed getting to play each other last year. On November 11, the wait will be over.
The Predators travel to St. Louis to take on the Blues as the second half of a back-to-back set that includes the Dallas Stars, and as is generally the case between the two teams, you should expect this to be a close one. The fact that this is their first matchup in two years only intensifies it.
Another big question is how will the Predators’ performance be affected by the fact that they played another one of their bigger rivals the night prior? Their games against the Stars are usually gritty affairs, so we may get a good idea of the Predators’ resiliency after this game against the Blues.
A New Year’s Day rivalry clash
It is not the Winter Classic, but getting to play Saturday afternoon hockey on the holidays will always be fun for fans. Add that it is at home against another hated rival and you will get many Predators fans excited for this one.
The Chicago Blackhawks come to town for this one, and if recent trends continue, this will be a very fun day for the Smashville faithful. The Predators went 7-0-1 against them last year and have had more and more success against them since the sweep back in 2017.
Anything can happen, but Predators fans are going to come into this day just having celebrated the new year, expecting a win at home, and then spending the rest of the day downtown. This one will be marked on the calendars for sure.
Outdoor hockey comes to Nashville
The moment Predators fans have wanted for years has finally become a reality. At least it will on February 26.
For the first time in their franchise history, the Predators will host an outdoor game. Nissan Stadium will be the place to be for this one as they welcome the defending Stanley Cup champions in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It is too bad that this does not seem like a more winnable game, but it is impossible for Predators fans to not get super excited for this game. No matter the result, this is going to be a special day for the team, fans, and city, and it shows just how much hockey has grown in Nashville.
main image credit