A challenging first month of 2017-18 awaits the Nashville Predators, who now look to win that coveted Central Division title and a top playoff seed.
It’s hard to believe that the Nashville Predators stumbled out of the gate to open the regular season in 2016, losing eight of their first 11 games. A wildly fun ride to the Stanley Cup Final almost didn’t happen due to the poor start. They have to avoid flirting with disaster in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Predators will play five divisional opponents over the first month, including two dates against the Blackhawks in Chicago. A great opportunity to beat a quality opponent, and build a division lead perhaps. The schedule is littered with playoff-caliber teams, which has me hoping the Predators are already over their Stanley Cup hangover.
Starting Against the East
A road matchup with the Bruins opens up the 2017-18 season for the Nashville Predators. In other words, the young guns will face a tall order right out of the gate against a hostile crowd. Remember, the Predators finally have the attention of hockey fans everywhere, and these Boston fans will be rowdy as ever when the Predators come to town.
It won’t require much patience once the season starts for the Predators to get some revenge, and the two-time defending champs are on the docket for the opening week. The first shot at the Penguins comes just two nights after the regular season begins. This clash will be in Pittsburgh, and hopefully Pekka Rinne can exorcise some of his demons playing in that city. This is a statement game to show the NHL that the Stanley Cup run wasn’t a fluke.
They get the Flyers to round out their first three games of the season, all against the East. That date with the Flyers will be the home-opener at Bridgestone Arena, and hopefully the Predators will be bouncing off of a satisfying win over the Penguins.
A trip up to New York City to play the Rangers comes later in October, adding another big test in the early going. Figuring out a way to score on Henrik Lundqvist is never easy, and their defense is revamped.
Central Division Opponents
They get a crack at the new-look Stars in their first Western Conference clash of the season. I have the Stars taking a big step forward in 2017-18. This could even be a matchup of the two teams to beat in the Central Division, per Josh Clark of Blackout Dallas.
Two more difficult road games against the Chicago Blackhawks will come in October. This offers an opportunity to jump ahead on the Blackhawks in the division race. It’s usually the Predators chasing the Blackhawks, so let’s get two road wins in the Windy City early on.
Surviving the first month with a winning record is critical for the Predators in their hopes of getting the franchise’s first division title. They have to avoid regulation losses that leave precious points on the table. We’re going to know quickly if this team is better than last season, or have they taken a step back.
Missing the playoffs would be catastrophic, so let’s not even go there. However, their next big step is creating an easier path through the postseason landscape. This opening month will be a major test to see if they can make that happen.