Nashville Predators: Handing out awards for the First Round victory

DENVER, CO - APRIL 22: Ryan Ellis #4, Colton Sissons #10, Mattias Ekholm #14 and Austin Wilson #51 of the Nashville Predators celebrate a goal against the Colorado Avalanche in Game Six of the Western Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 22, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 22: Ryan Ellis #4, Colton Sissons #10, Mattias Ekholm #14 and Austin Wilson #51 of the Nashville Predators celebrate a goal against the Colorado Avalanche in Game Six of the Western Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center on April 22, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Best Defensive Predator: Mattias Ekholm

The Nashville Predators defensemen typically help power the offense, but were oddly uninvolved in the goal-scoring for the first five games. That changed early in Game 6.

Roman Josi & Ryan Ellis are the leaders. P.K. Subban is the star. Mattias Ekholm sometimes gets lost in the shuffle behind his fellow defensemen, but was the standout in this series. Along with his Game 6 goal, Ekholm led the Predators with five assists & had the best plus/minus of the series with nine. He doesn’t get the hype his fellow defensemen get, but there’s a reason Nashville kept him out of the expansion draft.

Most Valuable Predator: Nick Bonino

Nick Bonino‘s critics were out in full-force during the regular season. He had his lowest points total for a regular season since 2012-13, when he played twenty-seven games. This has mostly been attributed to injury by his defenders, and he seems to be playing at full-force now.

We know that the Nashville Predators didn’t sign Bonino for regular season heroics. He was one of the key contributors to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ last two Stanley Cup championships. Nashville hopes he’ll pull off a personal three-peat this season.

Bonino’s line with Austin Watson & Colton Sissons was the most effective of the first round. They typically started play in their defensive zone & were often lined up against Colorado’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog & Mikko Rantanen. They were able to limit the damage MacKinnon could cause while providing plenty of offensive punch. Bonino was lights-out in the faceoff circle, winning 65.2% of his faceoffs during the series. He won nineteen of twenty-six in the final two games of the series. That’s how you win hockey games.

Next: Now is the time to play the Jets

This new version of the Bonino Line didn’t play together much during the regular season. They could be the key to a deep playoff run for the Nashville Predators.