Nashville Predators: Who Should They Play?

Feb 15, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators center Paul Gaustad (28) exchange punches with Dallas Stars center Vernon Fiddler (38) during a fight in the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 15, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators center Paul Gaustad (28) exchange punches with Dallas Stars center Vernon Fiddler (38) during a fight in the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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If the Nashville Predators make the playoffs as a Wild Card team, who would they like to play?

That is starting to look like a valid question as the Preds are currently the first Wild Card in the West. They are tied with the Colorado Avalanche but with two games in hand.  They are 13 points behind St. Louis for the third spot in the Central so for all intents and purposes are in a battle for the Wild Card right now. Minnesota and Arizona are within four points and Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg are all within 10 points.

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It looks like if they are going to make the playoffs, it will be as the Wild Card. So it’s really not to early to take a look at who they would rather play in the first round of the playoffs. We know it would be on the road as the Wild Card team wouldn’t recieve home ice.  The second Wild Card team plays the division winner with the best record and the first Wild Card team plays the other division winner.

Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis are all fighting for first in the Central and it appears that they would have the top spot as Chicago is currently 11 points ahead of Los Angeles in the Pacific.  They are all within six points. That means the bottom Wild Card team would play one of those Central foes.  Here is how the Preds have fared against those three teams:

[table id=25 /]

As it stands right now, we haven’t done too well against these teams.  One win in 10 games.  We’ve played all three tough but haven’t fared well.  In most cases, you would think you would prefer to play Dallas for a few reasons.  They haven’t been as playoff tested as the other two and are more offensive oriented which doesn’t transfer as well in the playoffs. They have a real depth of scoring though and are always dangerous.

Feb 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing
Feb 15, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing /

We’ve played the worst this season against St. Louis but they certainly have a history of laying an egg in the playoffs. They have a nice balance of offense and defense and their goaltending seems better than ever this year. It’s a short trip for home and home games and we don’t carry the emotion with this team as we do the other two. We’ve actually outplayed them a couple times this year but didn’t get the “W”.

Chicago is probably our biggest rival right now and another playoff series against them would just cement that. We don’t like their fans at all and even Patrick Kane was amazed how he got booed in Nashville at the All-Star game. It would be the most fun series and we seem to play them even in every way except the final score. In some ways we wonder if we don’t somehow match up best with them.

That being said, we would rather face the Blackhawks in a second series.  Our best bet would probably be the Stars and hope that it becomes a huge defensive series and we can shut down that Tyler SeguinJamie Benn duo. Their goaltending can get a little sketchy as it showed in their recent schedule where they’ve been kind of up and down.

Now let’s look at the Pacific Division.  Los Angeles leads with 70 points, Anaheim is right behind with 68, followed by San Jose with 67. They are seven points ahead of Arizona for those three spots. Here’s how we’ve done against them this season:

[table id=26 /]

As you can see, we’ve done much better against the Pacific Division with a record of 4-1-1.  All the more reason to hang on to that top spot in the Wild Card race. Of course, that would mean those late night West Coast games for the viewers but that is a small price to pay if you want to go deep in the playoffs!

Los Angeles comes into Smashville tonight looking better all the time and rumored to be making some moves before the Trade Deadline to solidify their team. We don’t have a lot of history with them, playoff-wise as we’ve never faced them.  They are a dangerous team with a goalie in Jonathan Quick that can steal any series. They are playoff hardened as they’ve won two of the past four Stanley Cups. We will know more about how we stack up after tonights game.

Anaheim was everyone’s choice to get to this years Stanley Cup Finals before they won only seven of their first 21 games.  But recently they’ve played themselves back into contention.  The Preds beat them two of three this season and had their very first playoff series win against them back in 2011.  They are a good team but have some holes and are probably a better choice than LA.

San Jose has a playoff history with the Predators as they beat us both in 2006 and 2007 in the first round.  They are an aging team that has surprised many by being in the playoff hunt this year.  The Predators haven’t lost to them yet this season and we could probably do worse than to hope they pass the other two teams to face the Preds in the first round.

Next: Predators Trade Deadline Options

There you have it.  All you have to do now is root for the Predators to win that first Wild Card slot and hope the Sharks can squeeze by the Southern California teams.  Sounds like a piece of cake!