Nashville Predators: Playoff Pressure Enormous Compared To 2017

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 10: The Nashville Predators starting line hold hands with Children's Hospital patients during the National Anthem on Hockey Fights Cancer night prior an NHL game against the New Jersey Devils at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 10: The Nashville Predators starting line hold hands with Children's Hospital patients during the National Anthem on Hockey Fights Cancer night prior an NHL game against the New Jersey Devils at Bridgestone Arena on March 10, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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With great success comes extraordinary pressure for the Nashville Predators. They’re not going to be flying “under the radar” in this year’s playoffs.

A franchise-record 10-game winning streak just came to an end for the Nashville Predators, but their point streak continues. They’re cruising towards their first division title in franchise history, and are in a two-way battle with Tampa Bay for the Presidents’ Trophy. On a national level, the Predators are finally starting to get some respect and be considered a legitimately elite team.

Now that the Predators are achieving elite status, the pressure mounts as the playoffs near. It’s a clean slate for every playoff team, including the Predators. All of these thrilling wins and regular season awards won’t mean much. The Predators now have to back it up, and that brings an enormous amount of pressure.

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It’s no coincidence that the Presidents Trophy winner rarely wins the Stanley Cup. The Washington Capitals are winners of the Presidents Trophy the last two years, and just look where that has got them. The Stanley Cup playoffs are the most grueling in all of sports. The mental makeup of an insanely talented Predators team will be tested more so than ever.

Comparing 2018 and 2017 Preds

The die-hard fans remember that last year’s Predators had to make a late push to even make the playoffs. The Predators didn’t even clinch their playoff spot until the final week of the season. A stark contrast from what we’re seeing now. The 2017 Predators crept through the back door, and weren’t detected until a shocking sweep of the Blackhawks.

As for this year, the target is square on their back. It will provide a new set of challenges mentally and physically as they’ll get their first-round opponent’s best shot, looking for the upset equal in magnitude what the 2017 Predators pulled on Chicago.

What has me less worried about the Predators dealing with this enormous pressure is the mental makeup they have. This squad is full of leaders. The pressure isn’t squarely on the back of one or two players.

From top to bottom, any given player on any given night can give the Predators the spark to win a playoff game. The JoFA line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson need to rise up in the playoffs. However, if they have an off night, you have a plethora of other players who can pick up the slack.

It starts with Kyle Turris‘ line, but the return of Mike Fisher and the addition of Ryan Hartman has given this team all of the weapons they need to win the Cup.  Some unlikely contributors arose in last season’s playoff run, but they have even more guys like that this time around.

Why they can handle the pressure

As I just eluded to, the Predators are stacked from top to bottom. They rival Tampa Bay’s roster as being the best, so it’s no mistake that they’re battling for the most points in the NHL. Check out this nugget that illustrates the depth of the Predators via Jeremy Gover of the Predators Radio Network:

Depth scoring is one of the most important factors to a deep playoff run. If they were relying on a couple superstars to carry them, I’d be much more paranoid about their chances of flopping in the first round.

The wildcard battle in the West is coming down to five teams all within four points of each other. You can’t overlook any of these teams as being worthy adversaries to the Predators. The two teams that worry me the most are Colorado and Anaheim as first-round matchups.  Anaheim will treat a first-round series with Nashville like their Stanley Cup, and Colorado is getting hot at the right time being led by an MVP candidate, Nathan MacKinnon.

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Obviously, I see the Nashville Predators handling the pressure and making it to the conference finals to likely clash with Vegas. If they make it that far, the early pressure of being the top seed will be gone. Surviving their first-round matchup might be their toughest obstacle to returning to the Stanley Cup Final.