The time has finally come for the Nashville Predators to travel to their hub city of Edmonton and get settled for what should be a long stay.
This time felt like it never was going to come for the Nashville Predators and the other 23 NHL teams that are heading to their respective hub cities to play for the 2020 Stanley Cup.
Phase 4 of the NHL’s Return to Play plan is set to begin, which means actual games are just days away. The Predators get just one exhibition game, against the Dallas Stars, to see how far they’ve come from a brief training camp period.
The Predators departed for Edmonton earlier today for what should be a long stay if you ask me:
Restored hope and energy
My confidence level has definitely increased for the Predators after seeing what occurred in training camp. The team looks focused more than ever, everyone appears to be healthy and working on the things that held this team back were at the forefront.
If this was a younger team that was leaning on raw talent alone, I wouldn’t have near the confidence level that I have with this veteran group. A group that’s led by guys like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Nick Bonino and Craig Smith.
All of these players are fully aware of what it takes to win in the playoffs and handle the pressure that comes with it.
Head Coach John Hynes was putting a lot of the training camp focus on trapping teams into the offensive zone to keep possession, getting power play work in and even running intense drills without the net to shoot at. Just purely focused on puck movement and setting up the right shot.
Hynes has been extremely positive regarding how the team has looked and their energy level in training camp, per Brooks Bratten:
"“The most important thing is, more than the tactics and the X’s and O’s and those things, is just the looks in the guys’ eyes, the energy level that they have, the focus level that they have”.-Head Coach John Hynes"
I love the makeup of this team, despite the fact that at times they were stuck in neutral during the regular season. Maybe this group doesn’t close the deal in an 82-games regular season and make the playoffs. However, they’re getting a second chance, which is very different than other teams who were on cruise control at the top of their divisions.
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Fabbro has gradually been improving his game playing alongside Mattias Ekholm on the second defensive pairing, and I’m looking for him to make that next jump a solidify the Predators’ defensive front.
Bonino had a resurgence of a season, and now the hope is he can pick up where he left off. He was a consistent leader on the team’s third line, and that line is staying intact with Rocco Grimaldi and Craig Smith.
We’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out from Hynes on who will start in net. It’s a coin flip for me, but I’ve remained on the side of starting Rinne as he still has that ability to steal games in the playoffs and take the Predators deep.
Details regarding the bubble
Players have departed for the “playoff bubble” where they’ll be in a secure zone. It’s got to feel odd going into a situation like this, but it will also serve as a way to block out the noise and just focus on what’s at stake.
The NHL has done an extraordinary job at building this complex plan. A plan that hasn’t really ran into any major hurdles that’s disrupted this aggressive timeline. There’s just no time to waste in this situation, especially considering that the plan remains to have an 82-game 2020-21 season to start in December.
The Predators are staying at the JW Marriot and will have numerous amenities to keep them entertained when not focusing on hockey. There are plenty of options regarding restaurants, lounges, movie theaters and fitness centers to stay active within the bubble.
Security protocols are in full effect as well to keep players and personnel safe, and COVID-19 testing will occur daily.
There are many more outside distractions in normal times of the playoffs. With the team being in this bubble environment, the focus for a team like the Predators should benefit them.