The ceiling for the Nashville Predators is looking realistically like suffering another first-round playoff exit unless things drastically change in the division race and they avoid a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Nashville Predators lost to the Carolina Hurricanes once again last night to a score of 3-1, making the season series record against Carolina 0-5-1.
As the Predators try to sneak their way back into playoffs, scoreboard watching is in full effect. It’s safe to say we want no part of the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. That is, of course, if the Predators even get in.
What’s the ceiling for the Nashville Predators?
There’s always been that prevailing thought in hockey that once you get in anything can happen. The NHL playoffs are chaos, so obviously we’ll take getting in and hoping for the best against a Carolina team that was my preseason pick to win it all, and certainly hasn’t changed up to now.
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What really illustrates the domination on Carolina’s part over the Predators is every regulation loss by the Predators has come by multiple goals. It’s just a matchup nightmare for the Predators handle.
The Predators have also never scored more than two goals against the Hurricanes all season. So now we naturally have to start worrying about facing this squad in the first round of the playoffs.
My thoughts coming out of the quiet trade deadline for the Nashville Predators was the pressure was heightened to a much higher level to not only make the playoffs, but make a good showing.
Considering where the Predators were in the early goings of March, maybe making the postseason is a big win in of itself as there’s now a foundation to build on with these younger players who have stepped up.
Carolina is a matchup nightmare for Preds
If the Predators face the Hurricanes in a first round playoff series, I regret to say that I’d be surprised if the Predators even stole one win in a seven-game series.
This is more about how elite Carolina is in almost every facet of the game, and not so much about how bad I think the Predators are. I think the Predators could sneak up on the Florida Panthers or even the Tampa Bay Lightning in a first-round series, but I have almost zero confidence that the Predators could even make things interesting against Carolina.
The biggest matchup disparity I see between the Predators and Hurricanes is overall team speed. The Hurricanes can just flip a switch and suddenly strike for two or three goals after thinking you had them right where you want them.
Just take the two most recent matchups where the Predators got outscored 7-2 in the two losses. The Predators couldn’t muster up enough shots on goal to test Carolina’s goaltenders, while Carolina was opportunistic and continued to pepper Juuse Saros until he eventually cracked.
The Predators did finally get Matt Duchene back in the most recent matchup on Saturday, but he was held to under 15 minutes of ice time and two shots on goal.
And of course this is all a big if as to the Predators making the playoffs in the first place. There’s still a lot of work to do with the Dallas Stars just three points behind and the Chicago Blackhawks just two points behind.
I’m sticking to my guns that the Predators should’ve been more bold at the trade deadline and thought more about the long-term future. I’m worried that another unceremonious first round exit is the ceiling for this team.
I’ve been wrong already once this season regarding my expectations for the Predators, so let’s see if they prove me wrong again. I’d love for them to make me eat crow again and see them shock the Hurricanes, or someone else, in the first round.