Nashville Predators: Playing series with Jets now a blessing in disguise

(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators will face the second-best team in the NHL in Round 2. It may be the best timing for the series.

It is a dream match-up worth of the largest stage possible; however, it is being played too early in most pundits’ opinions. Include me in that category. The series between the Nashville Predators and the team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers is worthy of a Western Conference Finals series. Yet, because of the way the NHL set the playoff brackets in 2014, the Predators and the Winnipeg Jets will face off in the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoff.

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It doesn’t seem fair to either team. The Predators finished the NHL season with a league-best 117 points, earning home-ice advantage for as long as they remain in the Stanley Cup hunt. Winnipeg was just three measly points behind the Predators, a 27-point improvement over last season. Both teams are top-10 in goals for and goals allowed in the NHL. They are each loaded with young talent surrounded by veteran skill. Two of the Vezina Finalist will be featured. The storylines and energy will be the highlight of the second round.

Now may be the best time for this series to be played. While it certainly is worthy of a large scene, there are major advantages to facing each other now.

Hear me out.

The series between the Predators and Jets is the most balanced of any match-up left. Both teams possess great groups of forwards. Each team features physical play defensively. Just watching Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck is worth the tickets. We are lucky to see this series at all. Playing it now only benefits both teams, especially the Predators.

Nashville is loaded with playoff experience, totaling the fourth most minutes played of all teams in the tournament. After sweeping the Blackhawks last year, the Predators played six games in each of their following series. They were the road team for each. They are tested. The Jets are not. Winning the opening round series against a depleted Minnesota Wild team is the only experience they possess. Winnipeg is enjoying the momentum gained from the series, but that is all they have.

What if this series was the Western Conference Finals? Both clubs have identical records against Vegas (1-1-1) and San Jose (2-1-0). In a normal playoff world, the Jets would be facing Vegas in the second round. Their depth and offensive ability would likely dominate the series and they would win in five or six games. Talk about a confidence boost.

Nashville would face a more physical San Jose squad before playing Winnipeg. Injuries could happen, forcing Peter Laviolette to use his depth. It may work against the Sharks, but not against the Jets.

Whichever team wins this series will have time before the Stanley Cup Final to get healthier. Losing a player in round two give them at least two weeks to recuperate. You want to be as healthy as possible when the cup is on the line. While the Golden Knights and Sharks are quality opponents, the Jets are better. Period.

Other considerations

After playing physical games, rest is important. For some reason, travel just takes it out of us. A non-stop flight to Winnipeg from Nashville is approximately three hours. To San Jose, it is four and a half. It may not seem like much, but less time in the airport or on a plane give players more time to rest at home. Say the series goes six games. The Nashville Predators would spend six fewer hours in the air travel in a series against the Jets versus the Sharks.

We know Game 1 of the new series will be played in Friday night at 7:00 p.m. Central Time. This gives the Jets eight days of rest and practice. There is already some concern about injuries for Winnipeg, including Hellebuyck.

Playing the series now also provides a chance to the Predators to right the ship on some of their play. While Rinne pulled off a shutout in Game 6, he was not his stellar self the rest of the series. The talented second line of Kyle Turris, Kevin Fiala, and Craig Smith get a chance to regain their offensive form. During the five games this season, Turris’s line accumulated 15 points, including 6 goals during 5v5 situations and two more power-play goals. Getting on track now, gaining some momentum, will benefit the Predators moving forward.

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These may be the best two teams in the NHL, but now is the time for the Nashville Predators to face the Jets. A series later may be too late.