We’re still very early into the 2019-20 season, but how satisfied should we be with how the Nashville Predators have started?
I’m not going to get too optimistic or too overly-critical about where the Predators sit right now. If anything, they’re performing right on par with where the vast majority probably expected them to be. But is there any reason to be disappointed or concerned right now?
The Predators are right in the thick of the early race in a stacked Central Division. The expected top competition of St.Louis and Colorado are the biggest obstacles. Sitting at 18 points, the Predators are tied with Colorado and trailing the defending Stanley Cup champions who have 21 points.
There’s never been a real concern that the Predators wouldn’t at the very least finish in the top three in the division and get an automatic playoff berth. The bigger question is can they keep pace to win a third-straight division title? That matter is up for a lot of debate, but I think that race will come down to the last handful of games to decide.
Deeper dive into how the Predators look
A big focus was if the power play would show any improvement. Quite frankly they needed drastic improvement after finishing dead last on the power play last season, converting just 12.9 percent. Back to current times, the Predators are converting 18.5 percent. A much smaller sample size, but it looks like there’s at least modest improvement in this important area.
More from Predlines
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Kiefer Sherwood
- Captain Candidates if Nashville Predators Didn’t Have Roman Josi
- The All-Time 25 Games or Less Nashville Predators Lineup
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Cody Glass
- Joakim Kemell Flashes his Offense in Nashville Predators Loss to Tampa
They’re sliding backwards in another special teams department, and that’s the penalty kill. An area the Predators have always been very strong in. They’re 23rd currently, after being in the top-ten last season and having the best penalty kill in 2017-18. I didn’t expect to see this dip, but there is plenty of time to turn that around.
Going in I was a little concerned with the uncertainty with their depth. I wasn’t sure if Nick Bonino or Kyle Turris were going to respond well to trade rumors and lackluster showings last season. That doubt has been somewhat erased with both of them.
Starting with Turris, he came out of the gates blazing. He looked refreshed and fully ready to erase the doubts that were surrounding him. He had points in seven of his first nine games of the season, but hasn’t registered a point in his last five.
Many are upset that Turris is being buried on the fourth line, keeping his maximum potential down. He’s playing alongside the likes of Miikka Salomaki and Colton Sissons recently. Seeing him on the second line with Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg is a thought I’ve seen floated around. But then where do you put Mikael Granlund, who also shouldn’t be sent down to fourth line minutes.
Bonino was also facing scrutiny heading into the season. He’s been the subject of trade rumors, and seems like the most likely player to be moved if a trade comes up. He’s shockingly leading the team in goals right now with seven thanks to his hat trick last week against Chicago.
The shuffling of this roster before each game has been interesting to witness. Hopefully Laviolette starts getting some concrete answers so that the team can start building more chemistry on each line. You don’t want revolving doors up and down the roster. We could be in store for a big lineup change for tonight’s game against Detroit:
Have my expectations changed?
Judging off of what’s already happened, my expectations remain the same for this team. They need to at least make the Western Conference Finals for me to feel they will have reached their full potential. I’ll still be disappointed, but at least I’ll be able to say they made the final four and improved upon the last two seasons.
The slight improvement in the power play, the depth scoring showing up and Pekka Rinne‘s astounding start in net has me feeling that the Predators have as good of a chance as anyone to hoist the Stanley Cup next summer. Rinne hasn’t been beaten in regulation yet (7-0-2) and has some great offensive firepower backing him up with the NHL’s second-most efficient offenses at 3.86 goals per game. They just recently surrendered the top spot to the Capitals.
As for reasons to be a little anxious, they’re erratic at times when it comes to protecting leads and coming out strong when the puck drops. A few times we’ve seen this team have flashes of really great periods, only to fall apart in the last ten minutes. I want to see more complete 60-minutes performances like we saw in wins over Washington, Vegas, Chicago and Anaheim.
As for where they finish in the division, I really don’t care as long as they finish in the top-three. A third-straight division title would be impressive, but who they draw in the first round is what matters most. A lot will change between now and then, but the current makeup of the Predators has me confident that they can beat pretty much anyone in a seven-game series with the exception of the Colorado Avalanche.
If by some catastrophic event the Predators get ousted again in the first round, it will seriously be time to consider moving on from Laviolette. It will mark a third season in a row that the Predators have come up well-short of expectations despite having a Stanley Cup caliber roster. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but right now I’m pretty pleased with the start that the Predators have gotten off to.