The season is still young, yet tonight’s game is important. How the Nashville Predators play tonight will set the tone for the season.
It is only the fourth game on the season, but the implications are high. No, it will not keep the Nashville Predators out of the playoffs if they lose. Nor will it mean the Winnipeg Jets are winning the division. Still, the anxiety and excitement for tonight’s game is palpable.
Let’s face it. After the seven-game playoff series that was the second-round, last season still haunts the memories of Predators’ nation. The season series itself was a high-scoring affair. In five games, 42 goals were scored. Add to this the 46 goals tallied in the playoff series. So, 88 goals in 12 games. That comes out to 7.33 goals per game between the teams.
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Both teams return most of their roster from last season. For the Predators, Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin are gone, and the team is missing a bit of physicality. Nashville added Dan Hamhuis, a veteran defenseman who can lay the wood to opponents when needed. And, Zac Rinaldo plays with speedy and aggression as well. However, between him and Ryan Hartman, there is a risk for penalties.
For the Jets, Paul Stastny will no longer be a thorn in the Predators’ side in the series. After coming to the Jets last season, Stastny scored 2 points against the Predators in the regular season. Ten (5g, 5a) of his 15 points in the playoffs came during the second round. Stastny is now with the Vegas Golden Knights, and the Jets are looking for his replacement from within.
Also missing from last year’s roster are Toby Enstrom, Matt Hendricks, Joel Armia, and Steve Mason. Most notably is Armia, who had 29 points last season, including 4 assists against Nashville. It was the most points he had against one team on the season.
The early season tilt at Bridgestone Arena feels as important as Game 1 of a playoff series. To be the best, you have to beat the best. And these are the two best teams in the division. A win certainly sets the tone for what is to come.