Nashville Predators: Should Our Fears Suddenly Be Washed Away Now?

Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

My oh my what a ten-day stretch can do during an NHL season. It’s a night and day difference in feelings for the Nashville Predators going into Christmas day.

After the lopsided and ugly loss to the Dallas Stars just ten days ago, I’ll be the first to admit I was left feeling a little hopeless. Not because I thought they had no chance at making the playoffs, but because I didn’t like where they were trending.

That was an ugly loss where they showed little resistance against a division rival, and they had a challenging four-game road trip up next. It was hard to find faith that this team was suddenly going to start clicking.

Now at the Christmas break, the Predators are just a single point behind the Calgary Flames for the final wildcard spot, and two points behind the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets for a top-three spot in the division. Which begs the question of if we were overreacting all along?

Who is the real Nashville Predators?

What the past ten days, and really the entire season, has proved is that this team is wildly unpredictable. We can say that they’ve worked everything out and now they’re going to keep pushing up the standing, but how confident can we really be in that proclamation? I’m not so sure about that.

Nashville Predators
Nashville Predators /

Nashville Predators

The Predators have just three division games in January. They’ll play the Stars in the Winter Classic, and then have road games at Chicago and Winnipeg. January is filled with mostly road games, with the Predators only having four home games. The predators are 8-6-2 on the road and just had a very successful four-game road trip where they took seven of eight possible points.

The real Nashville Predators for me is a team that can beat anyone in the league when they’re playing up to max potential. Problem is the inconsistent goaltending and the defensive lapses. I’m worried that it’ll return at some point, and doom this team in the playoffs.

There’s no disputing the talent on the roster, and the depth. When the pieces are assembled properly, they’re tough for any team to handle from a defensive standpoint has the Predators as having two of their top three forward lines this season:

What’s odd about this is Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene have played just 19 games together despite having so much success. Perhaps now that the team is fully healthy and available, Peter Laviolette will reunite these two on the second line.

The Predators are going to make the playoffs, and honestly I was never too worried about that. My concern has always been focused on winning a grueling seven-game series. The trends I was seeing in November had me feeling like this team was destine for another first round exit.

We’re starting to see the superstars of this roster take over and carry this team. Roman Josi stands out the most, but Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Mattias Ekholm and others are stepping up as well.

Then you have surprises up and down the roster that are helping this team get back on track. Most notably Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok and Rocco Grimaldi. Then you have the slew of guys called up from the Milwaukee Admirals who have stepped up when called upon and delivered positive results for the most part.

Where’s the ceiling at now?

After this recent hot streak for the Predators, which they’re still in the midst of, I have the Predators right where I had them going into the season. I lock to make the playoffs, but how far after that is a tough question.

For Laviolette’s job to secure going into the offseason, this team needs to get past the first round at the bare minimum. Their ability to pile on the goals and get hot offensively has me thinking they can do that in a first round and avoid another early exit.

The reason why I can’t confidently put this team past the second round is due to the goaltending. Until I see Juuse Saros or Pekka Rinne string together multiple strong starts, I’m going to be nervous how far this team can actually go.

Furthermore, the special teams leaves a lot to be desired. They don’t take advantage of being on the power play enough. They’ve shown modest improvement over last season’s power play, but it’s no where it needs to be.

The Predators are 6th in the NHL in penalties drawn per 60 minutes. That’s a great stat as it shows they create a lot of offensive pressure on opponent’s, but they have to start making teams pay more on the power play for me to get more confident about how far they can go in the playoffs.

The penalty kill has gradually getting better as well after being a huge eyesore in the early going. I’ve been seeing welcomed improvement in this area as they’re blocking more shots and making life a little easier on their goaltenders.

Until I see more improvement in these areas, I’m going to leave the Predators right where I had them before they played the first game of the regular season. A lock to make the playoffs, and possibly getting past the first round depending on the matchup.

I need more from this team before I feel confident in them going deep in the playoffs. They undeniably have the talent, but they have plenty of room for improvement. There’s more than half a season left to change my mind and max out my confidence level.