Most Energetic Predator: Austin Watson
I like the branding of the fourth line as the “energy line”. Austin Watson has made his home on this line during his tenure with the Nashville Predators. He wasn’t exactly known for his shot during his first two full seasons in Nashville, but his shot percentage jumped up nine points from 5.6% to 14.6% in 2017-18. Watson’s four short-handed goals was good for second most in the NHL & made penalty kills must-see television for Predators fans.
Watson’s 123 penalty minutes was good for fourth most in the league. He pretty much made Cody McLeod an expendable piece, much to the delight of my fellow Predlines writers. How many enforcer types can also score 14 goals in a season? Austin Watson is a hockey player in every sense of the word, & will make an impact during the postseason when it’s least expected.
Best Predators Opponent: Vegas Golden Knights
The Winnipeg Jets are getting a ton of hype as Nashville’s potential foil in the second round, and rightfully so. The Jets are the hottest team in hockey at the right time, & they had a number of classics with the Predators during the regular season. That being said, Nashville did put together a 3-1-1 record against Winnipeg in the regular season. They had a much tougher time of it against the NHL’s newest team & Pacific Division Champion.
The Vegas Golden Knights are being hailed as the greatest story in sports history in some corners. Not so much by people aware of how easy Vegas had it compared to previous expansion teams. Nevertheless, you have to be impressed with their effort this season. William Karlsson & Jon Marchessault came out of nowhere to have great seasons. Now that Marc-Andre Fleury is healthy, they have the goaltending to make a playoff run.
The Predators had a very tough time against the Golden Knights, & Fleury wasn’t even around for it. Their first meeting in December resulted in a 4-3 shootout victory for the Knights in Bridgestone Arena. The Predators went to Vegas, caught the flu during New Year’s celebrations & lost 3-0 on January 2. The teams’ final meeting took place two weeks later, with the Predators eeking out a 1-0 victory in Nashville.
Vegas hasn’t kept up their ridiculous hot streak all through the season, but they haven’t gone into the tank either. Should they & Nashville make it through their sides of the West bracket, Predators fans would be right to worry.