We’ll never know how the NHL regular season would’ve finished for the Nashville Predators, which were finally starting to hit their stride in early March.
You’re going to hear many different arguments and speculations about what the final finish of the Nashville Predators would’ve been if the regular season had continued as normal.
That’s a hard hypothetical question to answer considering how inconsistent the Predators played for much of the season.
At times they looked like one of the worst teams in the division, and then other times would turn around and beat a top-tier NHL team (i.e. Washington and St.Louis).
The Predators had just got done putting together a two-game sweep of the Dallas Stars just before the pause was issued for the NHL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They also dismantled the Montreal Canadiens and were prepping for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs while closing in on third place in the division.
With the Predators finally starting to look like a playoff team, they narrowly secured a wildcard spot for the time being. But if they played their final 13 games as planned, would they have been able to hold on?
You should have your doubts
As much as the Predators were improving, we had already seen that song and dance a few times throughout the season. They would go through these impressive spurts, only to take two or three more steps back again.
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What’s the reason to think this case was any different? There were some encouraging signs, most notably being Juuse Saros giving the Predators some stellar play in net. But how long was he going to keep that up?
The question regarding Saros’ play and if he could continue that is one we’ll never know. We can speculate all we want, but we’ll just never know for sure.
I’ll say that if Saros could’ve been able to keep up his outstanding streak of quality starts going, then the Predators would’ve likely kept winning just enough to remain in a wildcard spot.
There was even an outside chance they catch the Stars for third place.
The rest of the team is where my confidence is lacking that they would’ve avoided another setback. The defense was showing some mild improvement, but nowhere near where it needed to be.
The special teams was also still sorely lacking. The Predators currently sit at 25th in power play percentage and 29th in penalty kill. Just not going to get it done against the NHL’s best teams in a seven-game series.
Where they would’ve finished
First you have to look at the remaining opponents and go from there. The Predators had very tough games left against Minnesota, Winnipeg, Colorado, Arizona and Philadelphia.
Aside from another game with Montreal and a game with Los Angeles, there were really no games left on the schedule that you would call the Predators heavy favorites in.
With the exception of the Philadelphia matchup, all of those have huge implications on the Conference wildcard race. The Predators had two games each left against Minnesota and Colorado.
If I’m being completely honest, at best the Predators may have split those four games.
Then you have likely what would’ve been a huge matchup against Winnipeg at home in Nashville. The winner of that game that would’ve been on March 24th gets a big boost in playoff odds, less than two weeks before the end of the season.
How the playoffs would look
If the playoffs were happening as scheduled right now, the Predators would already be out of it. Obviously I could be wrong on that as any team can get hot at the right time, but I just can’t see it from this team.
The Predators wouldn’t be favored in a seven-game series in any matchup with the likes of Vegas, Edmonton, St.Louis, Colorado or Dallas.
The only team I could see them maybe getting by is Arizona or Calgary, but playing them in the first round wasn’t likely.
Getting past the second round was even more of a far reach, and I would’ve been the first to say I was completely wrong about this team if they figure out a way to the Western Conference Finals.
I’d have Vegas and Colorado as my top-two teams to beat in the West, with Washington and Boston clearly in the East. The West looks way more unpredictable, while the East looks more top heavy.
Maybe there will be a modified playoff format in neutral cities later this summer. That will change things in ways we’ve never seen, and who knows which teams come out blazing in that atmosphere with no fans and no home-ice advantage.
As for how the regular season would’ve unfolded in normal circumstances, the Predators were probably going to narrowly get a wildcard spot. I’d have Edmonton and Washington in the Stanley Cup Final, with Edmonton winning it all.
The Predators’ playoff run would’ve been short-lived against superior teams in a seven-game series, and we’d already be looking towards free agency and John Hynes getting a full offseason as head coach.