The first month of the season is already concluded as the Nashville Predators are off to a solid start and right where they should be.
We would love for the Nashville Predators to win every game, but that’s obviously not going to happen in the NHL. Even with a solid 9-3-0 start, the Predators have let some games slip away. They could be even better than 9-3-0. The minor red flags aside, the Predators are leading the league in points and well on their way to being in the mix for consecutive Presidents’ Trophies.
I highlighted the month of October as a favorable portion of the schedule for the Predators to rack up a lot wins. They’re performing right about where I expected them to in terms of record. They’re beating teams they’re clearly better than on paper, while also getting wins within the division.
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The schedule gets tougher in November with more divisional games and a five-game Western road trip. To put it into perspective, Nashville already had six losses at this point last season. Winning nine of 12 is an awesome way to start, but you have four other Central Division teams that also have a solid opening month to their credit.
A few blunders, but mostly solid
It’s been a relatively easy-going opening month. The big exception is the debacle against the San Jose Sharks that saw a two-goal lead evaporate with less than nine minutes remaining. Those losses always sting more, especially against a team like the Sharks. A team that figures to be right in the middle of the hunt for the top seed in the West.
Outside of that, the Predators have taken care of business. They especially looked strong against teams they’re expected to beat. It’s not always easy to avoid playing down to your competition. The Predators haven’t fallen victim to that. You can say that the Edmonton loss falls into that category, but I think the Oilers will end up much better than how they have started.
The Predators have some impressive wins over the Jets, Devils and Golden Knights already to their credit. They’re also having no trouble scoring goals in their wins with at least three goals in all of their wins so far. Remember when they had to grind out 2-1 wins every game? The Predators only have one game with less than three goals. That’s a reliable recipe for winning a lot of games and being near the top of the standings when April gets here.
Who stood out in October
Filip Forsberg stands out more than anyone coming out of October. He’s reaffirming many peoples’ beliefs that he’s ready to ascend onto another level. An elite level that will put him among some of the best scorers in the game. He already has ten goals and is making a big impact in more ways than just scoring. I fully expected him to surpass 40 goals this season, but he may shatter my lofty expectations and push 50 goals.
It’s not just Forsberg that’s shining on the top line. Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen are continuing the chemistry and production that carried this team to the league’s best record and a Central Division title. That’s all greats news, but we don’t want to see Nashville become a top-heavy team.
An outlier that has caught my eye early on is Mattias Ekholm. His offensive game seems to be getting better. He’s always been a solid defenseman, but now he’s getting more involved in the offense. He already has eight points and his shooting percentage is higher than it’s ever been in his career.
The goaltender balancing act between Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros will be an ongoing story throughout the year. Saros has done well enough in Rinne’s absence to win games and his numbers are serviceable. However, it’s a big relief to see Rinne coming off of injured reserve so quickly. The Predators have weathered their share of storms early on to get to nine wins. Aside from the power play struggling, we have to be very pleased by how the Predators are playing with November here.