The Nashville Predators have shocked the hockey world for a second time in two years and are showing that they should never be underestimated again. Nashville has made the playoffs the last three seasons on the heels of solid defending, youthful talent and great goaltending. After sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks, it is now two consecutive years, knocking off a No.1 seed as heavy underdogs.
4 Reasons the Nashville Predators Are Built For The Playoffs
1. Pekka Rinne
Everyone knows that for a team to go deep in the NHL playoffs, you need a goalie who can not only keep you in games, but outright win them as well. Rinne has done everything Nashville has asked of him and more. The 6’5″ Finnish netminder, has always been a huge part of the Predators ability to defend leads and win low scoring games. Through four playoff games he has: shutout the Hawks twice, and only allowed three goals. Rinne currently owns the playoffs best save percentage and GAA through four 2017 playoff games.
This not only keeps the team from playing from behind but gives the Predators overwhelming confidence in themselves. Rinne is a goalie that can make any save from almost anywhere and has the potential to stand on his head and win a game by himself.
He did this just a few nights ago.
2. The Defence
The most defining element of the Predators is their defence. Rinne’s best friends, have become the reason the Predators are able to win so many close games. Even since after the departures of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, Nashville’s front office has found ways to keep their blue line elite. P.K. Subban came over from the Montreal Canadiens and has not looked out of place. Even with a mid-season upper-body injury sidelining him for around a month, Subban still finished the year with 40 points. The number one pairing of Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi have also turned into one of the leagues best two way defensive pairings.
The defence have also helped the Predators win close games. Over the last two playoffs, seven of the Nashville’s last 12 victories have come by a single goal. The Predators have made a name for themselves as the team able to take a lead, and protect it all game.
This moment from last years playoffs shows the Predators killing about a minute and 15 seconds off the clock before a power play opportunity.
The Nashville Predators play keep away and kill off over a minute of clock time near the end of Game 7. Unreal.https://t.co/oJytJPqXev
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 28, 2016
When a team is able to find new ways to defend leads, you need to pray that they are not scoring a lot or you may run into a wall trying to find your way back.
3. Young Talent Stepping Up
Every year it seems that a new young face establishes themselves as a staple in the Predators lineup. Previously, it has been core members like Josi, Ellis and Filip Forsberg.
This year it was Viktor Arvidsson. Arvidsson took a huge step forward, moving up to the first line and drastically increasing his statistical production. In the 2016-2017 season, his average ice time per game increased by almost five minutes; including additional power play and penalty kill time. He also scored 31 goals-a 23 goal increase from the previous season-and added 30 assists. Five of his goals were shorthanded.
The mix of veteran leadership and youthful talent gives Nashville a jump and stature that can be mirrored by only a few teams in the NHL. Players like Colton Sissons and Kevin Fiala are still very young but are playing their roles perfectly and have come up in the clutch.
4. Experience at Different Levels of Competition
Playoff experience is always talked up to be one of the biggest factors when picking a ‘true’ Stanley Cup contender. A lot of the players on the Predators have NHL playoff experience from their last couple years, but only a handful of players have been past the second round. However, many players have gone deep at other major competitions.
Before coming to the NHL, players like Arvidsson, Ellis, and Austin Watson, all had success in different major competitions. Arvidsson won back to back Swedish League titles as a member of Skelleftea AIK and came third in team scoring with 16 points in 14 games. Ellis is one of the few players to represent Canada three times at the IIHF World Juniors, winning silver twice and gold once. He also captained the 2012 team. Watson in his final year of CHL hockey, was a pivotal member during the London Knights dominance of the 2012 OHL playoffs. The team only lost 3 of 19 playoff games and made it to the Memorial Cup finals.
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