With a new schedule comes new opportunities, and the Nashville Predators have announced their schedule for 2018-19. They start off on the road, again.
We’re just over a month removed from the Nashville Predators’ season prematurely ending, sending us all into a frenzy. It was hard to swallow due to the expectations gained from the previous season, but now we officially have a clean slate announced.
For comparison, last season the Predators had a challenging start having to go on the road against two very strong Eastern Conference teams, Boston and Pittsburgh. The lost both of those games, and some fans were already worried. With an 82-game season, panicking after your first two games is wasting time, but starting on a hot streak is always welcomed.
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The Nashville Predators followed up their Stanley Cup run with another respectable season, but one that fell short of expectations. Coming within one win of the Western Conference Finals is considered a successful season for a lot of franchises, but not with the where the Predators currently are. They have a Stanley Cup window that won’t stay open forever. Let’s take a look at the highlights of next season’s schedule.
Starting in the Big Apple
Last season the Nashville Predators opened up their Western Conference title defense with two losses on the road. They face a tough test this season with two road games against the New York City teams. Their season-opener comes against the New York Rangers, a playoff team from 2017-18. It will be a difficult road environment against a Rangers teams that’s full of talent and promise for next season.
It gets even more interesting for the Predators’ second game of the season against the New York Islanders. Barry Trotz is the new head coach of Islanders, and the Predators will get to see his new team early on. The on-going contract negotiations with the highly-coveted John Tavares are also surrounding the Islanders’ offseason.
Starting 0-2 is never ideal, but also isn’t the end of the world. The Predators get a difficult task early on. They’ll be mainly the same team at the top of the roster, and hopefully they can get two big road wins to open up the season.
Predators raise the banners against Calgary
The home-opener will bring the Flames into Bridgestone Arena. This will be part of a four-game home stand, and will be a special night. Hopefully the Predators won’t be digging themselves out of an 0-2 start like the beginning of 2017-18. This home stretch will feature three divisional opponents, including the Winnipeg Jets.
We all have a bad taste in our mouth from coming up well short of expectations. That’s thanks to a Jets team that simply outplayed the Predators in a brutal seven-game series. As much as I can’t wait to get revenge on the Jets, you have to tip your cap to how they outlasted the Predators to reach the Western Conference Finals. This first matchup with them may come early in the season, but it’s important to get some momentum back in this series.
The Predators will also see the Wild as part of this home stretch, and wrap up their season series with Trotz and the Islanders. These four games offer the Predators a chance to start off strong in the division, instead of falling behind. I realize it’s an 82-game season, but racking up the division wins at the onset is important. At first glance, the first month of the schedule offers an opportunity for the Predators to start strong.
Predators host Vegas in opening month
We can’t get enough about Vegas’ “Cinderella” expansion season. I use that term loosely due to Vegas not being a true expansion team in my eyes. I’m very interested to see how they look in their second season as a franchise. The expectations are for them to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.
The Predators have a handful of teams out West that can keep them from returning to the Stanley Cup. The Golden Knights are one of them, and the Predators will get to see them fairly early in the season. Out of the 41 home games, this one stands out the most. The one that you should want to attend more than any other.
I believe the Predators’ window to winning a Stanley Cup is going to open for a couple more years, but they have to keep up with teams like the Golden Knights. This will be a fun atmosphere in the early going of the season. Mark this one as a must-watch, and get tickets early if you can.
Bringing in 2019 at home
The Predators will be one of six teams playing on New Year’s Day 2019. They’ll face the Philadelphia Flyers, another playoff team from last season. With the Golden Knights also playing that evening, I’m not sure that the Predators will be featured on national television.
This game will be the second game of a back-to-back, as the Predators will face the Capitals on New Year’s Eve. By this point, we should know if the Predators are remaining one of the top teams in the NHL, or regressing backward. We’ll know more about whether it’s Pekka Rinne‘s net full-time, or if Juuse Saros is taking over.
This game will also come before the Predators embark on a six-game road trip that won’t bring the team back home until mid-January. You don’t see road trips of that length very often. Only two of those teams were playoff teams last year, with Toronto being the toughest opponent on paper. January was a strong month for the Predators in 2018 as they got points in all but two games, and surged them toward a division title.