The Predators have been a staple in the NHL playoffs for the last four years and this season is going to be no different. The stage is set for the 2018-19 season, and Nashville is set as well, for their biggest season yet.
The Preds are two-years removed from a Stanley Cup Final loss, and after winning the President’s trophy last year, they are hungry to finish the deal. Now as a lock in the NHL’s elite conversation the Predators have one goal, and one goal only, and that is to win the Stanley Cup Final.
Predators Hunt Together
A locker room can tell a lot about a team. A good locker room is usually reflective of success on the ice and in Nashville’s case, they take it a step further. The Preds core unit of guys have all been playing together for a long time, and to most of the players, it is now more of a family atmosphere.
Brooks Bratten asked longtime goaltender Pekka Rinne on why the Predators are so close, and he pointed to the culture of Nashville as being the reason.
“I feel like it’s the culture. I’ve been here a long time, and when I came here it was very easy for me to come in and join the team. We had great leaders at the time, and obviously since those days lots has changed, but to this day, I feel like it’s the same culture. You just be yourself. In the locker room, there’s no rookies, there’s no veterans, like everybody is on the same line, and as a young guy you can speak your mind – to a certain extent (laughs). But it’s an easy place to be and we’re a big family, so that’s the biggest thing.”
Everyone on the Nashville roster understands what it takes to win. They have been competitive for a long time and now are looking to make the final step, but they have to be careful as not to get so focused on the long-term goals of things and that is exactly what Head Coach Peter Laviolette has been preaching to his team.
“Through the core of the group being here, there’s been a lot of good things that we’ve done. We’ve yet to take the final step and certainly that’s the message, and I think they realize that, too… Our group expects to be successful, so you’ve got to get through 82 games first, and you’ve got to be one of the final 16 hanging in there. It’s going to be a long year, but our guys are excited to get going with it.”
Coach Laviolette has his work cut out for him this season. The Preds understand his system and know what he expects as a head coach. Now for them, it is all about taking that next step. This is a team that expects to be able to go four lines deep on offense and three lines deep on defense and anything short of that will not be tolerated.
Nashville has the talent to win the cup and they genuinely believe that as long as they have health, they will dominate the entire NHL.
Stars Set The Tone
One thing that has set Nashville apart from other top teams in the NHL is the way their superstars set the tone for the other players to follow. Players like P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and Ryan Johansen all hold themselves accountable and expect the best from themselves night in and night out.
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
The top line for the Predators is the fuel to their offensive firepower. The three accounted for 25 percent of the Predators roster’s 691 points; including, the top two leading scorers on the team. Last season Forsberg missed 15 games and still led the team in scoring with 64 points.
Heading into the new season, the Predators are expecting big things from their top line forwards. The first line will set the tone for the Predators offense that finished last season as the seventh best goals per game wise. Johansen and Arvidsson are expecting to have big seasons with Forsberg back in the lineup full time.
Roman Josi – Ryan Ellis – P.K. Subban – Mattias Ekholm
The Predators top two defensive lines rival all others in the NHL as being considered the best. Roman Josi and P.K. Subban both finished top-10 in Norris Trophy Award voting as the NHL’s top defensemen. In the Western Conference, defense is a must have and the Predators have built their team around this model.
The Predators defense holds themselves to very high expectations. In 2017-18 the Predators defense allowed just 2.57 goals per game which was good for the second-best total in the entire NHL. They also had the sixth-best penalty kill that was successful 81.9 percent of the time. This is a defensive unit that prides itself in locking up opposing offenses, and they are expecting to do the same this season.
A Crease Fit For Two Kings
Last season Juuse Saros looked like he could have started on some NHL teams at only 22-years of age. Lucky for the Predators, he does not have to because he is playing behind the NHL’s best goalie.
Most people consider Nashville to have the best goalie combination in the entire league and rightfully so. Rinne and Saros led the league in combined save percentage and wins last season, and they will be looking to do more of the same in 2018.
Saros is only getting better, and it is the perfect situation for Nashville. As age begins to catch up to Rinne, Saros can help add some relief and give Rinne much needed breaks more often allowing him to stay fresh.
This elite goalie combination is going to be a deciding factor for Nashville in many games. They have two goalies that can steal a game on any given night.
Closing It Out
There is no reason why this year’s Predators team can’t win the Stanley Cup Final. The only thing standing in their way is the extremely deep Western Conference. Nashville has been close, but they have never been able to win it all. They all believe that this year will be different. This team has been together for a long time and has the elite goaltending to do what they have always done. It is yet again, another boom or bust season for the Nashville Predators.