Despite losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, the Nashville Predators were the best team in the entire league last season.
They had the league’s best goaltender in Pekka Rinne, had the most depth of any team in the league, and were a team to be reckoned with. Unfortunately for the Predators, none of this seemed to matter in the postseason as they got knocked out in seven games by the Winnipeg Jets in the second round.
Fast forward to today and a similar script seems to be taking shape for the season. It may not be by much, but as of this writing, the Predators own the league’s best record at 11-3.
Like last season, there has been a lot to be impressed with when it comes to the Predators. One thing that jumps off the page is that this team is 6-0 on the road.
In the NHL, road games are just as important as home ones. It should be a given that a team should win a lot of their games in their own building, but the road is always a question mark.
That has not been the case for the Predators this season. On the road, they have beaten the likes of the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Once again, they have gotten quality goaltending from last year’s Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne. Rinne, who signed a two-year contract extension and then promptly shut out the Bruins later that day, has been phenomenal once again to start the year.
As of this writing, Rinne, 36, is 5-1 with a 1.63 goals against average, a .948 save percentage and two shutouts. He has been the league’s top goaltender thus far and if the Predators are lucky, he’ll be the best goaltender come playoff time, a part of the season that he has always struggled with.
As I alluded to above, this team is getting balanced scoring. Leading the way for the Predators this season is Ryan Johansen (15 points) and right behind him are guys like Filip Forsberg (14 points), Viktor Arvidsson (12 points), Kyle Turris (11 points), defensemen P.K. Subban (10 points), and Mattias Ekholm (9 points).
Speaking of defense, this team has been rock solid to start the year. They are second in the league in goals against, having allowed only 30 goals in 14 games.
Obviously, part of that great number has been the play of Rinne, but the team in front of him has been a major component. This team blocks a lot of shots, breaks up a lot of passes, is smart with the puck in their own zone, and does a good job of keeping shots to the outside, which makes a life a bit easier for their goaltenders.
Once again, things are looking good for the Predators. They are getting great goaltending, getting production from all four lines, and are playing responsibly in their own zone.
These are all the things they did last season as well, but they did not get the result they wanted. May be this season they can put it all together and give themselves another chance to win their first Cup in franchise history.