The Nashville Predators and the NHL have announced their 2021 schedule, and it’s shaping up to be a different, but exciting season.
On Wednesday, the NHL and subsequently the Nashville Predators announced the schedule for the 2020-2021 (really, just 2021 for most) hockey season. It was long-awaited to say the least.
After what’s been a very different kind of offseason, the Predators will finally return to Bridgestone Arena to “play that hockey”, opening the season on January 14 in their first of 28 two-game series (56 games total). They’ll open things up against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The top-four teams in each division will make the playoffs. It’s simple as that.
Check out the Predators official release per Brooks Bratten, here. There are some notable aspects to the schedule that will contribute to what will be an interesting season as a whole.
Hostile Travel Tests Early
While the Predators may have gotten a bit of a break avoiding having teams like the Colorado Avalanche in the division, their path is made no easier having not one, but both of the Stanley Cup finalists now in the division.
This matchup will play out early, and in difficult road tests. The Predators first two away trips are against the Dallas Stars (1/22 and 1/24) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (1/30 and 2/1). These matchups will be potentially telling, but should also be taken with a grain of salt, as the team will still be figuring itself out.
Expect some tough hockey in this early road stretch, as the team follows up these two matchups against an upstart Florida Panthers team.
Division Rivals, Still
In spite of the divisional realignment, the Predators still get to maintain their rivalry with the much maligned Chicago Blackhawks, as they will play in their third home series, back-to-back, on January 26 and 27.
While the Blackhawks haven’t been nearly what they were a decade ago, they always manage to play the Predators tough. The team won’t face them again, however, for two months, this time in in Chicago on another back-to-back.
The third matchup will be a quicker turnaround, in another back-to-back on April 3 and 4 in Nashville.
Unlike the 2020 Stanley Cup finalists (Lightning and Stars) who the Predators will be playing eight times each, they will only get Chicago six times for the regular season.
The Gang Reignites the Rivalry
Who doesn’t love a good It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia reference? With division realignment comes the reigniting of an old rivalry: the Detroit Red Wings.
Like the Blackhawks, the Red Wings haven’t been nearly the franchise they were a decade ago. All that considered, records sometimes need to be thrown out when these two clubs get together. The Predators get their first crack at the squid-throwers on February 11 and 13 at home, then again on February 23 and 25 at Detroit, and a third time on March 23 and 25 at home.
The Predators and Red Wings will meet a final time on April 6 and 8 at Detroit. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing this regular matchup again.
Grudge Matches and Barometers
This season will play out unlike any other due to the Predators only playing their divisional opponents, and no teams outside the division until the playoffs. That being said, these series will be grudge matches where teams can trade haymakers.
Every night is a night where you can climb in the standings, or take a tumble, due to the nature of the competition. It gives teams more control over their fate, and at the same time, very little room for error on a given night.
That being said, should the Predators make the playoffs, they could face teams in which it is difficult to measure them against as they won’t see them in the regular season – that, at the least, could make for some very interesting playoff hockey.
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Grading Out the Opponents
As mentioned before, being in the same division as two Stanley Cup Finalists (the Lightning and Stars) doesn’t make things easy, but with four teams from the division making the playoffs, the Predators could and should compete for the third or fourth spot.
The Carolina Hurricanes will prove difficult as a young team that’s gotten some invaluable playoff experience these recent years.
The Florida Panthers have also been on the come-up recently. Historically, the Predators have absolutely dominated the Columbus Blue Jackets (59 wins all-time), but their franchise has made some moves to improve as well.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings have question marks as to where they are in their rebuilds, but being that they’re rivals, nothing will come easy. This season will be different, but it will be fun, that much is certain.