The team who wins the President’s Trophy tend to fail during the playoffs. Will the same happen with the Nashville Predators?
Sports and curses go hand-in-hand. The Curse of the Bambino ruled over the Boston Red Sox until 2004. The Chicago Cubs stared down the Curse of the Billy Goat winning the World Series after 108 years. Players featured on the Madden game cover either become injured or decline in performance, as do those featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. As for hockey, there is the Curse of the President’s Trophy. And the Nashville Predators are in line to win the trophy.
Since the 2005-06 season, only two teams who won the President’s Trophy won Lord Stanley’s Cup: the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. The Washington Capitals was the NHL’s top team three times and failed to even make the Eastern Conference Finals.
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As it stands today, the Predators are four points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the President’s Trophy. While it is not a significant lead, it will not be easy to overtake Nashville. The Predators are on a four-game win streak, and won 14 of their last 15 games. Furthermore, their one loss was in overtime. Anything can happen with 10 games remaining, but the Predators look poised to earn their first Central Division crown, Western Conference regular season championship, and President’s Trophy all at once.
Should we be worried about the curse?
I know. I have said in previous articles that the Predators should not worry about the President’s Trophy. The focus should be on winning the home ice in the Western Conference. Rarely does the top regular season team in the Eastern Conference make it to the Stanley Cup. As a matter of fact, none have since the lockout. The likelihood of the Predators having home ice in the Stanley Cup Final was high whether or not they earned the President’s Trophy. Thus, my reasoning for not being focused on that level of success.
But, we are staring down the President’s Trophy as the season comes to its conclusion. The way the Predators continue to play leaves little room to doubt finishing the season as the best team in the NHL. So, what about the curse?
The Predators have all they need in order to break beliefs of the curse. Take a look at past winners.
The 2017 Washington Capitals received little scoring contribution from their defensemen, and relied heavily on Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie to drive points. When it came to the playoffs, the stout Pittsburgh Penguins goalies stopped the Capitals from scoring. The Capitals of 2016 struggled down the stretch of the season, going 11-6-4 after March 1. They did not earn more than two wins in a row and were 4-3-2 at home at that time.
Defense hurt the New York Rangers in 2015. Ryan McDonagh was ninth on the team in points with 33 and was the best defenseman on the team. The Rangers lacked depth offensively. When they faced Tampa Bay in the playoffs, the Lightning scored 3.5 goals a game forcing the Rangers out of their comfort zone.
The most comparable team to the Predators now was the 2014 Boston Bruins. That season, the Bruins had a team with nine 40+ point players, including five players with 20 or more goals. Furthermore, Tuukka Rask won the Vezina Trophy. They just happened to face the Montreal Canadiens in the second round who had P.K. Subban leading the defense and the NHL’s third-best penalty kill.
Then comes the Vancouver Canucks. Facing Jonathan Quick in 2012 did them no favors. He was outstanding in the playoffs, leading Los Angeles to the Cup title. The Canucks did reach the Cup Final in 2011, but just could not score enough. Boston won the series 4-3, outscoring the Canucks 21-3 in their four wins. Vancouver managed just over a goal per game in the Final.
Take a look at this year’s Predators team. Currently, the team possesses seven players with 40+ points, with Kyle Turris closing in. Four players have 20 or more goal, and 13 have at least ten. Colton Sisson and Ryan Ellis could reach double digits soon. Players in all positions contribute. One night, it is Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. Another game Mike Fisher and Ryan Hartman step up.
Let’s not forget about Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. While Rinne is the leading candidate for the Vezina this year, the duo is the best in the NHL. The Predators can unleash either player with full confidence, much like Pittsburgh did the last two seasons.
The Predators have won all types of games this year. They showed great defense in close games and proved they could score four or more goals when needed. The team is battle tested, going 12-3 in one-goal games and achieving several comebacks since February 1. And, there are no shootouts in the playoffs! The Nashville Predators are poised to be the team to break the President’s Trophy curse.