The Nashville Predators have been up against some of the NHL’s toughest competition to begin the season, and the grind isn’t over yet.
The Nashville Predators were put to the test by NHL schedule makers to begin the 2016-17 season. Perhaps the competition was slated to judge just how real the team that came a game away from the Western Conference Finals is.
Sitting at an underwhelming 2-3-0, the start of the Preds campaign could be considered disappointing at a glance at the standings. A closer inspection, however, reveals that Smashville is currently five games into an opening stretch grind against the league’s most talent-stacked rosters.
The first eight games of the season for the Nashville Predators come against teams who made the playoffs last year- including the defending Stanley Cup champions, the team that ended Smashville’s postseason run, and the guys who will be looking for revenge after being eliminated by the Preds.
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The year opened up with three straight tilts against imposing division opponents. The Predators went 1-2 against the perennial Stanley Cup contender Chicago Blackhawks and the high octane Dallas Stars who, like Nashville, saw their season end in the second round last season. And while you’d like to steal points from your division rivals, losing to teams of this this caliber by no means signals a red flag this early in the year.
The third loss of the season had yet another external force at work- bad chicken soup. Food poisoning thinned the roster drastically as the Preds squared off against yet another playoff contender, the Detroit Red Wings. Despite seeing high-end forwards Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith leave the game, the Nashville Predators made the game tightly contested through an illness that would scratch many of their players for the next night’s game.
Halfway through the opening eight game grind, the Preds carried a 1-3 record into a matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Missing a litany of players due to illness including Pekka Rinne, Mike Fisher, and Craig Smith, Smashville was able dominate a Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang-less Penguin roster to the tune of a 5-1 whomping.
So if it’s possible to be sitting with a 2-3 record that isn’t really all that bad- the Nashville Predators are sitting with a 2-3 record that really isn’t that bad, all things considered.
Things don’t get easier from here, as Nashville takes a tour of the best of the West. In the next three games the Preds are slated against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks. And though all three teams competed in last year’s post season, two of these tilts hold a little something special.
Anaheim will be looking to exact some revenge Wednesday night against the Smashville squad that ended their season last year. There’s a solid likelihood that there may be a little extra scrap thrown in, considering the grinding nature of the seven-game series that ended in the firing of the Duck’s head coach. Plus, Corey Perry will be on the ice, so there’s that. Anaheim currently sits 2-3-1 on the year.
The Predators will have the chance to avenge their own game seven elimination on Saturday when they pay a visit back to the Shark Tank. The San Jose Sharks competed for Lord Stanley’s Cup in last season’s Finals, and now find themselves 3-3-0 early. These games are guaranteed to be impact-filled as each team battles to find their footing in the 2016-17 season.
Considering their current record, competition, and food catering issues- the Nashville Predators should be happy to escape the season opening stretch at the .500 mark. Remember, the Preds began last season slowly only to finish with the best postseason in franchise history. We’ve got a lot of hockey in front of us.
Following the grind against last year’s postseason competition, the Nashville Predators will see a few less-threatening rosters in the Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, and Ottawa Senators. Though a good opportunity to find some rhythm and points, no game in the NHL is a given.