A hot start to the season is always desired, and the Nashville Predators have a favorable schedule to open up 2018-19 season.
Hockey is almost back as the Nashville Predators are ready for their 20th season in the NHL. They’re once again considered one of the top teams in the NHL as they return the core of their roster from last season that won the Presidents’ Trophy and the Central Division title. Both were firsts for the franchise.
The Predators have accomplished pretty much everything you can hope for as a fan, with the exception of the most important prize of all, the Stanley Cup. We all should be in agreement that they’re among the most elite teams in the league to compete for the Stanley Cup again this year. Outside of Eeli Tolvanen‘s growth as a rookie, we pretty much know what to expect from this group of players.
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I’ve always had the belief that it’s more important to get your inevitable rough patches of the 82-game schedule out of the way early on. Finishing strong and playing your best brand of hockey is more desirable as your heading into the playoffs. However, hot starts are important to take some pressure off of the team down stretch. Let’s see what the Predators are up against in the opening month of the season and their chances of piling up the wins to open up the 2018-19 season.
Four-game homestand in October
The Predators will play seven of twelve October games at Bridgestone Arena. We all know how tough the Predators are at home. They’re 103-38-23 over the last four regular seasons in Nashville. No reason to think that changes anytime soon. The home-opener comes against the Calgary Flames, a team that took two of three from the Predators last season. An opponent the Predators should be able to handle with relative ease after opening the 2018-19 season on the road against the New York teams. Hopefully, they’re not coming in still searching for their first win.
The much-anticipated rematch with the Winnipeg Jets comes next, also in Nashville. It may be an early-season matchup, but this game is huge for the mental psyche. The Predators ran into a buzzsaw in their second-round meeting with Winnipeg. Many agree that Winnipeg is the biggest hurdle between the Predators and a return to the Stanley Cup Final. To get them at home early in the season to get some revenge works out nicely.
Two more home games on this home-stand come with the New York Islanders and a divisional foe in Minnesota Wild. I strongly like the chances of the Predators winning three of these four at home, bolstering up their hot start to the season. The home slate in October will conclude with the Vegas Golden Knights rolling into town for a clash of two of the best in the Western Conference. This offers another opportunity for the Predators to get a big win against a top contender, and at home.
Only two divisional games
It’s hard to make game-by-game predictions, but the month of October looks very welcoming heading in. The Predators open the season with two road games in New York against the Rangers and Islanders. Last season the Predators opened up with two road games, losing both of them. It’s always tough battling an opposing crowd that’s welcoming in a new season, but I like the Predators’ chances of at least earning a split here against two non-playoff teams from last season.
The aforementioned four-straight home games should allow the Predators to rack up a few more wins quickly. The Jets game looms large and might end up as the first loss. This game will be a measuring stick of where the Predators stand in the hierarchy of the division. Even so, the Predators have a lot of favorable matchups in this stretch. I can easily see them going 9-3 or 10-2 to open things up. The schedule gets much more difficult after October.
There are only two divisional games in October to worry about. Along with the Jets, the Predators will welcome the Wild to Bridgestone Arena. The Wild should be in store for another successful regular season. They have great goaltending with Devan Dubnyk and a formidable defense.
It’s hard to not feel comfortable about where the Predators stand as the season approaches. They made very few changes to the roster, bringing back plenty of proven players who have provided all of the success over the last two seasons. I love the opening month of schedule and the Predators’ chances of busting out of the gate with a lot of wins.