The final game of the season is tonight at Bridgestone Arena. With nothing on the line, the Nashville Predators look to celebrate history and fans.
Could a more perfect script be written? After reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators have accomplished more in one season than any other previous year. There was drama, tension. Moments of heartache were followed by triumph and celebration. More story is to be scripted, with hope and anticipation filling the team and its fans.
Regardless of what comes next, think about all that we witnessed in 2017-18. The Predators witnessed a franchise-best 10-game win streak, which helped propel them to the top of the Central Division. They also achieved a point in 15 straight games. Goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros built extensive shutout streaks, with Rinne setting the record for shutouts by a Finnish goalie all time. He also reached 300 wins for his career. The offense presents five players with 50 or more points, with Kevin Fiala two points away from reaching that mark. And, of course, David Poile is the winningest General Manager in the 100-year history of the NHL.
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It was not all sunshine and rainbows, however. Controversy presented itself several times. The disallowed goal against the Florida Panthers or the hit leading to a Filip Forsberg suspension are just a couple moments leaving questions of what could have been this season. Still, look at the accomplishments.
It is the first-ever Central Division Championship for the Predators. And, the first time they are the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. And, let’s not forget earning the Presidents’ Trophy. All of these are historic moments.
More to come
Tonight, the Nashville Predators finish the season versus a surging Columbus Blue Jackets club. While they are third in the Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets are 7-1-2 in their last ten games. In their last 16 games, the Blue Jackets scored less than 4 goals only three times. They only lost one of those games. It is obvious this team can score, or so says their recent play.
Artemi Panarin leads Columbus with 82 points, including 27 goals. Cam Atkinson is second on the team with 24 goals, followed by Pierre-Luc Dubois with 20. Former Predator Seth Jones leads the defensive unit with 57 points. Their goaltending unit is anchored by Sergei Bobrovsky, who is 37-22-6 on the season.
Columbus has qualified for the Stanley Cup playoff, but positioning is a bit in doubt. While they are third in their division, it is possible they drop to the second wild card position. Lossing tonight in Nashville means Columbus relies on other teams in order to stay in place. It could mean the difference between facing Pittsburg or Tampa Bay in the opening round.
As for the Predators, there is only one thing left to play for: the fans. Win or lose, Nashville has home ice throughout the playoffs. But, given the accomplishments of the season, winning their last home game would be a great way to celebrate with the fans. The Presidents’ Trophy will be presented to the Predators as well.
Rinne looks to get the final start, preparing him for the playoff run to start. Scott Hartnell staked with the first line this morning, and it appears Viktor Arvidsson will get a night off to rest. After being injured a couple games ago, a healthy Arvidsson is key to playoff success.
Scott Hartnell – Ryan Johansen – Filip Forsberg
Where to watch
Tonight’s game from Nashville comes with a 7:00 p.m. CT, with Predators Live Pregame beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Tennessee. The game can also be heard on 102.5 The Game and streamed on the Fox Sports Go app.