Rejoice Nashville Predators fans as the opening of the 2019-20 regular season is less than a month away. Here are the biggest October matchups to watch.
The last two seasons have ended well-short of preseason expectations for the Nashville Predators. They have the roster to go deep in the playoffs and return to the Stanley Cup Final, a place they were in 2017. There may be a belief that the early games aren’t that important, but that’s simply not the case.
Building yourself a nice cushion in the standings early on gives you a safety net in case of a rash injuries or an inevitable slump that seems to plague almost every team at some point. The Predators don’t win the Central Division last season if they didn’t get off to a 13-3 start. Training camp open today, and there’s a lot of competition to be had to sort out this lineup.
The Nashville Predators need another fast start, but it may be tricky with some new pieces in the mix. These pieces include Matt Duchene and Dante Fabbro. We’re not sure how the preseason is going to unfold and if someone else can crack the opening-night lineup. Possibly Eeli Tolvanen? The preseason doubleheader against the Florida Panthers is almost here. Here’s a rundown of the biggest matchups you won’t want to miss in October.
October 8th vs. San Jose
There are four-straight home games to open the regular season for the Predators. They open against Minnesota, but the first really intriguing matchup comes against San Jose on a Tuesday night. The Sharks have one of the best rosters on paper, including an outstanding group of defensemen led by Brent Burns.
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I always enjoy watching these two teams play. There’s bad blood with the Sharks since the days they knocked the Predators out of the playoffs in the early years of making the playoffs. I’ve never lost that disdain for this franchise. However, there’s no denying that this team has to be considered one of the top contenders in the Western Conference. The Predators want to join them in that elite group of teams.
The Sharks have a lot of star power with Evander Kane, Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson. They did take a tough loss in the offseason by losing one of their long-time superstars Joe Pavelski. They’re still loaded and have quality depth, but they are shaky in the net with Martin Jones. There’s usually fireworks when these two teams meet, and this game should be a fun one with the regular season still in its infancy.
October 10th vs. Washington
Quickly after their clash with San Jose, the Predators will host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals to wrap up their four-game homestand to open the season. You only get one chance per season to see Ovechkin play in Nashville. Take advantage of that chance.
According to NHL.com’s offseason power rankings, the Capitals should be in store for another strong season. This is an early-season chance for the Predators to get a statement win at home against a quality opponent, and end the homestand on a strong note. Starting the season off with four-straight home games is something you don’t see very often. The Predators need to take advantage of that.
The Capitals are loaded with stars outside of Ovechkin. This is a must-watch team in person. The likes of T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlso and some other new pieces makes them another solid contender out east.
October 15th @ Las Vegas
How about a trip to Sin City for the team’s second road game of the young season? Hopefully by this time some of the new pieces will be starting to gel, and Laviolette will have his new line combinations organized. They played Vegas last year in October and got the win 4-1 as part of their 13-3 start to the season. Not sure if the Predators can get off to that hot of a start again, but Vegas will be one of the toughest opponents early on.
Vegas is led by a talented group of wingers in Reilly Smith, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. They still have the 34-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury going strong in net and also have a respectable defensive core. They should be another lock for a playoff spot for a third-straight year.
I can’t think of a more fun trip to make for a Predators road game than going out to Vegas. The atmosphere seems right up to par with Bridgestone Arena, and it would be a blast to see another team’s arena live up to the hype that the Predators home crowd brings basically every game. Circle this one on the calendar and go if you can rocking your Predators sweater. I’ve seen a strong contingent of Predators fans in the past at Vegas games.
October 26th @ Tampa Bay
Probably the best team the Predators will play in October is the Tampa Bay Lightning. They always seem to enter the regular season with tons of hype, and lately they haven’t lived up to it. Despite that, there’s still no denying how lethal they are on paper. Yet somehow the Predators have owned them in recent memory.
The Predators beat Tampa Bay 4-1 on the road last season to get to a 10-3 record. Believe it or not, Kyle Turris actually scored a goal in that game. They played a couple weeks after that and the Predators won again, this time at home with a 3-2 score. Ironically enough, Turris scored in that game too, and on the power play. Crazy things do happen.
You’ll see a lot of offseason power rankings that have the Lightning at the top their list, including NHL.com’s Super 16. I know they’re going to be good again, but I don’t understand how they’re considered the top team in the NHL with where we sit right now. There’s a couple teams I would put ahead of them, including the Nashville Predators. They’ve become more of a regular season team that never translates it to the playoffs.
With that said, I always love seeing the Predators make a statement against Tampa Bay. We don’t get to see them on a regular basis since they’re in the Eastern Conference, so making the most out of those opportunities with wins over the other conference’s top team is pleasing to see. That’s another fun atmosphere to see a game, and Tampa Bay is obviously a fun city to check out.