If last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs taught us anything, it was that the Nashville Predators are serious contenders to win it all. While they ultimately fell in the finals to the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the Predators came away from the loss hungrier than ever for a Cup.
The Predators now find themselves set to face the Winnipeg Jets in a second-round playoff series that begins tonight.
The Predators will win the next three series and the Cup this year because of their depth, one of the most crucial components of Stanley Cup-winning teams. Third-liners Colton Sissons and Austin Watson tallied the most points of any of the Predators’ roster through the first round of the playoffs. They, along with linemate Nick Bonino, combined for 19 points in the first round. That is just the third line of a Predators team that also boasts Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansson.
Behind the Preds’ deep offensive force is a solid blue line and an experienced goaltender. Defenseman P.K. Subban provides Nashville defense with an offensive edge, as his regular season performance of 59 points through 82 games was good enough for third-best on the team. Fellow defenseman Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are consistent and reliable as well, allowing a deep defensive line. Preds goaltender Pekka Rinne is a four-time Vezina finalist and has experience staying composed during high-intensity playoff games.
The Predators will defeat the Jets, who just won their first playoff series since 1987, and could possibly find themselves in a third-round match-up with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, if the Knights can win their second-round series.
The Preds can win the West and perhaps meet up in the finals for a rematch with the Penguins, assuming they can make it out of the East.