The Nashville Predators followed up an improbable Stanley Cup last year with their best season in franchise history. A season that saw the Preds win the Presidents’ Trophy for most points (117).
Historically, winning the President’s Trophy means almost nothing in regards to capturing a Stanley Cup. Since its inception during the 1985-1986 season, only eight of the previous 31 President’s Trophy winners won the Stanley Cup. In fact, since the 1999-2000 season, more President’s Trophy winners have lost in the opening round (5) than won the Stanley Cup (4).
The good news for Nashville, though, is that these eye-opening statistics are irrelevant, as each season is an independent case that has no bearing on the next season.
This doesn’t mean Colorado couldn’t potentially upset Nashville in the first round, but given what we know about the 2017-2018 Nashville Predators, it’s highly unlikely.
What makes Nashville’s sudden ascension to the top of the NHL so surprising is their lack of “star” power. While P.K. Subban is a star, he’s a defenseman who doesn’t score a lot of goals. In fact, nobody on the Preds roster scores at a high rate. Viktor Arvidsson leads the team with 29 goals, while Filip Forsberg leads the team in total points with 64.
Yet, Nashville is tied for 7th in goals scored and tied for third in goal differential.
In total, 13 Preds are in double figures in goals, with two other players nearly reaching that threshold at nine goals. Furthermore, 14 players have collected at least 20 points, with one additional player recording 19 points.
Matchup History with Colorado
Nashville had zero issues with the Avalanche all season, sweeping the season series 4-0 and outscoring Colorado 17-8.
The Preds’ dominance over the Avalanche during the regular season doesn’t matter as much as how effective both teams are playing heading into the postseason. Colorado is 4-5-1 over its last 10 games, and while Nashville hasn’t faired much better (5-4-1), they have quality wins over playoff teams such as Tampa Bay, Washington, and Columbus recently.
Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last year as a No. 8 seed was as a big a curveball as there is in sports. But the Preds are no longer a Cinderella story. They are the top dog, and by all accounts, they’re okay with the target on their back.
Because of what transpired last season, Nashville enters this 1 vs. 8 matchup with an understanding of what can happen during the Stanley Cup playoffs, which is anything.
He’s been the best goalie in hockey since April of 2017 and is long overdue the Vezina Trophy.
Pekka Rinne is the heart and soul of this club. Yes, Nashville has depth, experience, and a clear matchup advantage against Colorado, but the Preds only go as far as Pekka Rinne can take them.
This season, Rinne ranked in the top 10 in wins (42), goals against average (2.31), and save percentage (.927). He’s accomplished this at the ripe age of 35.
If he continues to play at the pace he’s played all season long, then not only will Nashville not have to fear about a potential first-round exit, but a second consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance might be a virtual certainty.
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com