Last night was an evening of mixed emotions for the Nashville Predators, as they had an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot with 2 points, and would go on to lose to the Calgary Flames in overtime after giving up the game-tying goal with one second left. Even more devastating, Juuse Saros went down in the third period with an apparent non-contact injury, which has everyone around the organization fearing the worst.
That being said, the Vegas Golden Knights shootout loss ensures that the Predators will be back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.
If you would have told us before the season that the Predators would have as good of a season as they have this year, nobody would have believed it. Yes, it took them this long to even clinch a Wildcard spot, but let’s look at how they got here.
Starting off the year 1-4-0, everyone thought they were going to be a bottom dweller team after selling off pieces of the previous core in the offseason. But they clawed their way back, claiming the top seed in the Western Conference at one point, which all but secured their status as a playoff team.
For as mediocre a season as the team has had in the standings, the team has reached some notable milestones recently. They had never had a 40-goal scorer in their franchise history, but have two this year in Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene, while Roman Josi is the first 90-point defenseman in an NHL season since Bobby Orr.
This season featured the most productive top line the Predators have ever had, and if their young players develop properly, their top six might be legitimately lethal for the first time.
As mentioned in a previous article, the team has plenty of improvements to make, and a lot of those will fall on the shoulders of John Hynes. That being said, you cannot be mad at the overall season that the Predators have had.
They have significantly cooled down in the second half of the season, but that was too be expected after they overachieved in the first half of it. They are likely to go out quickly in the playoffs, but as we felt at the end of last year, we can have hope that their future is bright.
Finally having a regular full-season has seemed to benefit Hynes, and we hope that he can use this and previous years to continue to improve as a head coach.
First things first, if Saros is injured enough to miss the playoffs, the Predators can officially kiss any Cup hopes goodbye. Their chances were low to begin with, but without their Vezina-caliber goaltender who is the backbone of the team, you can almost say that they should have negative hope.
But in terms of their opponents, they will meet either the Calgary Flames or Colorado Avalanche. If the opponent is the Flames and Saros is healthy, then buckle up.
Tuesday night’s game between the two foes showed that they are more than ready for each other. Both teams were throwing punches and haymakers at each other the whole night, there were plenty of fights, and the physicality was reflective of just how much both teams are at each other’s throats. Aside from that, all three of the games that the teams have played have gone at least to overtime. If this is the first-round matchup, as is currently the case, expect it to be extremely intense.
If the Predators’ opponent is the Avalanche, then it obviously does not look good for them. You could use the argument that the Avalanche have not fared well in the playoffs recently, and this would be a prime opportunity to watch them choke against a team that can be sneaky good at times. But if we are looking at the two teams on paper and how the Predators have come back down to earth recently, you could not objectively pick them to win.
Even if they upset the Flames, which is a possibility, they will be bruised and at a serious disadvantage with teams more skilled than them coming up. The Predators are excited for playoffs for an eighth straight season but expect them to be on the golf course sooner rather than later.
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