It’s not much longer until the NHL is in playoff mode, and the Nashville Predators are gearing up for the chance to win the Stanley Cup. Instead of the normal 16-team postseason, 24 teams will play. Twelve teams from the Eastern Conference will compete in Toronto and the other 12 from the Western Conference will play in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Predators are starting their fight against the Arizona Coyotes on August 2, and fans are ready to see a long-awaited Stanley Cup win. The team is having to basically start from scratch (thanks COVID-19) since all sports came to a halt in mid-March.
It all comes down to this question: Can the Predators go on a run to bring home the Stanley Cup for the first time ever?
When the season stopped, the Preds were 35-26-8. That is, to say the least, okay. At the time, though, a championship series did not look very promising.
Fans, myself included, are hoping to see the boys dominate the ice and take the Preds to a series (and Stanley Cup) win.
Lineup wise, the Preds are looking good. But, there are a few things they need to work on in order to advance against Arizona.
Pitiful Power Play
Unfortunately, the power play has never been one of the Preds’ strong suits. Looking at the ESPN website, the Predators are 25th in the league when it comes to power play percentage.
That is bad news.
Someone needs to step up and become the leader of the power play. Against Arizona, this is going to be key. Without an electrifying special teams, there’s no way the Preds will pull off any wins.
Scoresberg and Josi for the Win
Filip Forsberg had a bit of a rough start at the beginning of the season, but he is the team’s only 20-goal scorer. Plus, in the last three games of the season, he scored three goals. The Preds need him to pick up the midseason momentum.
During practice, Roman Josi has been an absolute unit. The Preds’ Norris Trophy finalist had 16 goals and 49 assists for 65 points during the season. The Preds need the Captain to give the team the leadership it needs to climb to the top.
Saros Must Start
Even though the lineup looks like it’s in shape, the real question is who John Hynes will pick as the goaltender. Before the season stopped, Juuse Saros was having a fantastic season. His .914 save percentage and 2.70 goals against average proves him a better pick over Pekka Rinne. Hynes said he will be picking the goalie who performs the best during practice.
In my mind, there is no doubt Juuse starts. Although Rinne has 89 playoff appearances and he is the Predator’s golden child, I think with Juuse stats this season, he is the better goalie to take the Preds all the way to a championship.
Here is my honest answer to the above question. The Predators were an average team before the season ended. If COVID-19 never happened, there was no way they would’ve won, much less even made it the playoffs.
Now, with this fresh start, there’s serious potential. The Preds can be the underdog that comes out and blows everyone out of the water. Or, they could easily crack under pressure and lose to Arizona.
This is a huge opportunity for the Predators. And to me, I think they absolutely can win it all.