Nashville Predators: Three Things to Change Fan Confidence This Season

Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) and center Matt Duchene (95) celebrate the win over the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Predators won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen (92) and center Matt Duchene (95) celebrate the win over the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Predators won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports /

The overall confidence surrounding the Nashville Predators from a fan perspective is as bleak as it’s been in quite a while. How can it quickly change?

You really can’t blame fans of the Nashville Predators for entering the upcoming season with considerable doubt and reservations. Three-straight seasons of going in reverse will do that.

As most diehard sports fans know, this negative vibe can shift dramatically after just a few games.

For Predators fans, many have to see more consistency from the team’s top players before they have high confidence like they did entering the 2017-18 season, fresh off their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Here’s three easy fixed for the Predators that will result in better results on the ice this season, and in return will return that high-energy confidence that “Smashville” is known for.

1. Fix the penalty kill and return to ” grit and grind”

There’s just sugarcoating how big of a liability the Predators were when they went to the penalty box. It was a huge momentum killer for the team.

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I can remember numerous games when the Predators were either dominating or taking back the momentum, only to fall apart on a crucial penalty kill.

Last season the Predators were 29th in the NHL on the penalty kill after finishing sixth on the penalty kill the season before. A huge drop-off from what this team has been known for in the past.

It looks like Predators GM David Poile saw the writing on the wall on how bad his team was defensively and went out and made some key moves in free agency to address.

Both Mark Borowiecki and Nick Cousins should see time on the penalty kill in 2021. Both players are hard-hitters and players who will do the dirty work.

The Predators might not return to being a top-ten penalty kill instantly, but they can realistically be much better than they were last season. If they do that, then you’ll start seeing more consistent results on the scoreboard, and better goaltending numbers, too.

2. Reliable goaltending

Speaking of goaltending, there’s an overall lack of confidence in both Juuse Saros in Pekka Rinne right now. The fanbase seems split on who to believe in.

You have that support for Saros to be the guy and give him the torch over Rinne, but there’s also that segment of fans that are sticking with Rinne for one more year.

As it was referenced earlier in fixing the penalty kill, it wasn’t all on Saros or Rinne last season as to why the Predators would fall apart in net. There was shaky defense in front of them, and also a lack of team chemistry.

You expect there to be some growing pains at the start of the 2021 season with so many new player and younger players. With that said, both Saros and Rinne are going to have to be at the top of their games.

Saros should unquestionably be the opening night starter. He’s earned that right to be the guy going forward, and the Predators should see if he’s indeed the future of the franchise.

On the other hand, Rinne could very well end up being one of the best backups in the league. The Predators have the chance to have an outstanding one-two punch in net, and that will certainly change fan confidence for the better if both guys are shutting down opponents again.

3. JoFA Line finds that old chemistry

We really need domination from the top line like they were doing in the season leading up to the Stanley Cup Final of 2017. Even the following season, which saw the Predators get the Presidents Trophy, the “JoFA” line was dominant.

That wasn’t the case last season, and it wasn’t all on them. Initially they were broken up for the combination of Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene. Early on it brought promising results, but eventually it faded and injuries also forced lineup changes.

The Daily Faceoff, which predicts every team’s line combinations and does outstanding work ranking them, has the Predators’ top line ranked as the 28th top line in the league.

You can look at that ranking as blatant disrespect, or you can look at it as an indictment on how much of a non-factor they were last season.

A lot of this rests on Ryan Johansen having a resurgence this season. He managed a putrid 22 assists in 68 games despite being a top-line center. It just can’t happen, and he’d be the first to tell you that.

Viktor Arvidsson was never the same after the unfortunate and infuriating injury he suffered in the 2020 Winter Classic. With so much time to get refreshed and ready to go, expect him to really ramp up his level of play.

This line has to return to being dominant, again. You can’t be a top-tier team in the NHL if your top line isn’t taking control of games and leading the charge.

If the “JoFA” line finds that old chemistry and starts taking control of games, then absolutely the confidence in the team will start soaring.

We need to see those dominant shifts where Forsberg is imposing his will, Arvidsson is flashing up the ice for backdoor shots and Johansen is finding both of them for high-danger scoring chances.

There just wasn’t much of that last season, with the exception of early on in October. Even at that time, they weren’t really on the same line. Now they should be back together to lead the Predators.

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All three things just mentioned are in no way far-fetched. They’re very attainable goals for this team that can shift the confidence back in a positive way and make the playoffs yet again.