The NHL playoffs are always hard to predict, but multiple that by the thousands this year with the 24-team format. The Nashville Predators are the No.6 seed.
Have fun predicting this year’s NHL postseason. Momentum is gone for even the best teams in the NHL, and you have a longer road to travel if you’re coming out of the qualifying round.
This talk about putting an asterisk next to this year’s Stanley Cup winner is asinine. If anything, this eventual Stanley Cup champion is going to deserve even more praise for zeroing in on what will be a difficult challenge.
The Nashville Predators are coming in as the No.6 seed in the Western Conference and are slated to face the No.11 seeded Arizona Coyotes. After this round is concluded, the playoffs will be reseeded for the more traditional 16-team field.
Smart move by the NHL
This was a brilliant move by the NHL. The top teams from the regular season are getting rightfully rewarded for the outstanding regular seasons by getting a bye from the qualifying round, while also having their top seeds have some merit.
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When it comes to the Predators, I think it benefits them as well. If a couple major upsets happen in the qualifying round, then the Predators have a chance to draw a favorable matchup in the next round against the No.4 seeded Dallas Stars.
You also have the Vegas Golden Knights lurking as the No.3 seed and the Colorado Avalanche as the No.2 seed, which aren’t a favorable matchups in the slightest for the Predators.
The St.Louis Blues are the top seed, which ironically enough the Predators swept in the regular season.
Just going off of favorable matchups, the Predators have to hope to draw the Stars over the Golden Knights in the next round. But of course they’re nowhere close to thinking that far ahead, and have to eventually focus only on pesky Arizona team.
Choosing to go the route of reseeding after each round instead of a set bracket is creative and entertaining for the fan. The unknown element of upsets likely occurring will leave room for chaos and unexpected matchups.
Different road map
This kind of road map though the playoff field for teams like the Predators makes it really interesting. Without a doubt they’ll play one of the top-four teams in the West. But which one depends on how the round robin unfolds.
However, I think there will at least be one upset. If the Chicago Blackhawks figure out a way to defeat the Edmonton Oilers, then the Predators become the highest seed remaining out of the qualifying round and would face the No.4 seed.
I’ll take Dallas as the most favorable opponent for the Predators to draw, followed by St.Louis. I don’t want any part of Vegas or Colorado until absolutely necessary.
Upsets are expected and not that out of the ordinary in normal NHL postseasons. With the unknown element of restarting the season and playing at neutral sites, who knows how this is going to unfold.
My inkling is that the teams with more veterans and playoff experience will handle this better than the teams that lean more on raw talent and youth.
As is with ordinary NHL postseasons, the teams with the most stable goaltending will also have much greater chances of succeeding. This is a major area where the Coyotes can exploit the Predators.
The goaltender can get locked in much quicker than perhaps the rest of the team after having a week or two of training camp to get back up to speed and get their timing down.
With the Predators, that’s a big question mark regarding Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne. It was a rocky season in this department for many reasons, but Saros was finally starting to get locked in just before the stoppage.
If Saros picks up where he left off, which was winning eight of his last 11 starts, then the Predators have a really solid chance of going deep. If he stumbles out of the gate again, then it might be a brief return to action as Arizona will put them out quickly.
I’ve been really impressed with how the NHL has handled their plans to return, kept the fans informed and been very cautious when it comes to healthy for its players.
Phase Two is set to go into effect on Monday, and it’s completely voluntary. We’ll keep you updated on when the Predators plan to have players return to training facilities.