Nashville Predators: Winning Division Title Isn’t All That Critical

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 1: Goalie Juuse Saros
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 1: Goalie Juuse Saros /

We all want that elusive division title and top overall seed in the playoffs, but the Nashville Predators have to stay focused on the top prize.

The dust still hasn’t really settled after Tuesday night’s horrendous call that could cost the Nashville Predators a division title. It took a goal off the board for the Predators with less than a second remaining, allowing the Panthers to sneak out with a win.

I can’t help but think that the outrage from fans, players and celebrities is multiplied greatly by the implications of a division title and home-ice advantage. It’s another milestone the Predators franchise wants and has never obtained. Check out what’s on the line in their next game against Washington:

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With the controversial Florida loss, the Predators have just a three-point lead over the Jets in the division race, with two games remaining. The Predators still control their own destiny, but they have two very tough opponents to get through. As for the Jets, they need to win their last two to jump past the Predators. I’m here to tell the fans to take a deep breath because this won’t affect what the Predators do in the playoffs.

Why it really doesn’t matter

I understand the desire for the division title and the Presidents Trophy. It will be another couple of milestones for the Predators franchise that’s rapidly trending upward over the last few years. It didn’t matter last season what seed they were, and it certainly doesn’t matter this season.

The Predators are a more complete team than the 2017 team. The additions of Kyle Turris, Ryan Hartman, Mike Fisher, Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino has made them a team built for the playoffs. I can argue that the Turris line – which lines up behind the heralded JoFA line – is just as strong as any other line combination on the team.

A major reason why the top seed isn’t as important as we may think is that they’re fully capable of winning games on the road. They’ve got 24 road wins this year. Tough road environments aren’t going to keep this talented roster from advancing. If they were a team that was overachieving, I’d be much more worried about getting the best seed possible.

The Predators remain in a favorable position to wrap this regular season up with the top spot in the conference. You would have taken that scenario a year ago from today. If the Jets or Golden Knights move ahead of them, tip your cap and focus on the ultimate prize.

My prediction for playoff positioning

We’re getting extremely emotional over the chase for the top seed, and rightfully so. We’ve never seen this franchise accomplish that in the two decades of its existence. The Predators have Washington and Columbus remaining, which are two formidable foes.  However, Washington doesn’t have anything to play for as they’re locked into where they’re at in the standings. It’s Columbus that has important playoff positioning at stake.

Columbus is teetering around staying in the top three of their division, or falling back into a wildcard spot. That will force them to play either Boston or Tampa Bay in the first round. The season finale with Columbus could end up being a game with high implications in regards to playoff seeding.

It might send us into a psychotic episode, but the Predators will need a win in the finale to secure the division. I don’t see Winnipeg losing another game, and the same goes for Vegas. Unfortunately, they have two non-playoff opponents on their schedules. You never hope for a loss, but even an overtime loss against Washington will remove Vegas from the scenario.

The tiebreaker procedure could ultimately undo the Predators as it’s not based off head-to-head, but the total number of wins excluding the shootout. The Jets have one more win than the Predators in this regard. That means the Predators need either one more win or two overtime losses to win the division.

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With all of that said, the Predators finish one point ahead of the Jets to win the division. That will give them the top seed as well. Regardless of how it shakes out, the Predators are built to win games on the road or at home in the playoffs.