Nashville Predators: Bold Predictions for the Play-In Round

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 30: Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators helps defend the net against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. The Predators defeated the Devils 6-5 in the shoot-out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 30: Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators helps defend the net against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2020 in Newark, New Jersey. The Predators defeated the Devils 6-5 in the shoot-out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Now that we know the opponent for the play-in round we can make some predictions about what the Nashville Predators need to do to advance past the Coyotes.

We have no way of knowing how well the Nashville Predators will do when they return, but we can speculate.

When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league’s Return To Play plan, several questions were answered. After the plan began to sink in for a bit, several more questions arose, one of which is how the Nashville Predators will perform in that play-in series against Arizona?

Until there are some reports of how things are going in the voluntary workouts and the shortened training camp, we won’t have any idea of how well the players may perform.

The good news is that GM David Poile announced in a Facebook Live interview with local media that all of the players are 100 percent healthy.

That’s good news for the team as a whole. There were a few players that were injured this season that could benefit from some more time off,  with Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Ellis coming to mind first.

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Hopefully the season pause has also given some of the Predators some time to assess their games and help them get back on track.

The struggles of some of the key players are well documented. This pause should help them focus on the task that lies ahead, the playoffs.

There are a few key factors that are emerging as we hopefully inch closer to the Predators play-in matchup. Goaltending, the starting line, and the power-play are all issues that affect the Predators. Here are my predictions regarding those factors

Saros vs. Rinne

GM David Poile raised a few eyebrows when he suggested that Juuse Saros will have to win his starting role back when training camps start sometime in July.

In an interview with104.5 The Zone’s Midday 180, GM David Poile said that training camp is a fresh start and that he thinks that Pekka Rinne still has some fight in him. There is no doubt about that, but Saros was the man in March.

If everyone will remember, Saros had the hot hand before the season was paused. He wracked up two shutouts in a row against Dallas and had the team on a three-game win streak when the season was stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the play-in round against Arizona starts, Saros has to be the starting goaltender. I think that he is going to come into training camp ready to go and prepared to take over that starting job permanently.

If Saros is genuinely the future starting goaltender when Rinne retires, his time has to be now. He has to step up and prove that he is ready to lead this team.

There is an old saying, to be the man, you have to beat the man. Saros is capable of taking that starting role, and no one will be prouder of him than Pekka Rinne.

The Predators’ First Line

The Arizona Coyotes are a strong defensive team with great goaltending. If the Predators are going to be successful, they are going to have to get more production out of their star players.

The first line needs to come out firing. This first line needs to consist of Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and Mikael Granlund.

Forsberg scored three goals combined in his last three games. This was a big lift for him as he had a rough February.

Those three goals hopefully helped Forsberg clear his head and will enable this playoff veteran to be ready for this brand new playoff experience.

Granlund seems to have benefited the most from the hiring of John Hynes as head coach. He had an exceptional February, including a memorable game-tying goal and the overtime goal against Calgary. He will need to reclaim the fire that he had when the playoffs start.

This brings us to Duchene. Has he had a horrible season? Absolutely not. Has he played up to the expectations that everyone had for him? Absolutely not. Duchene must find that next gear to help carry this team. The playoffs will see a new Matt Duchene.

What’s A Power Play?

The Predators will have to get their power play going if they are going to be successful against Arizona. The special teams are near the bottom of the NHL this year.

The power play will be re-energized, starting with this series, and the reason is this. Special teams will benefit from the Predators’ renewed energy and focus.

To beat a defensive team like Arizona, every facet of the power play has to be better. Obviously, a power-play scoring chance has to be capitalized on as much as possible-a tall order considering the Predators’ history and Arizona’s defense.

On paper, the Predators are more than capable of making the necessary changes to special teams and stepping up their all-around game.

Next. Predators Players Who Need To Come Back Refreshed. dark

The Predators who aren’t producing and need to step up their games have to realize that they have found a golden ticket of which there are only twenty-four.

As we have stated before, there was no guarantee that the Predators could have held on to that final wildcard spot and gotten into the playoffs, to begin with.

This playoff scenario is, hopefully, a once in a lifetime situation. The Predators need to treat it as such because this team may look a little different next year.

My prediction is that the Predators take the Coyotes in four games, and move into the 16-team field in their quest for their first Stanley Cup.