Nashville Predators: Veterans Have Stepped Up During Playoff Push

Nashville Predators players celebrate after a goal by Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) during the first period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators players celebrate after a goal by Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) during the first period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The big topic of conversation early in the season when the Nashville Predators were struggling was centered around the youth movement and becoming sellers at the trade deadline.

Ever since the Predators have completely turned around their season and now on the cusp of another playoff appearance, it looks like keeping the roster intact may have been the smart move.

We’ve all been impressed by Juuse Saros and how he’s carried the team on many nights, while also getting to see the younger players rise up to give this team an edge both physically and with their aggressiveness.

But the main issues was seeing the veterans of this team not living up to their full abilities.  I myself was very hard on players like Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene and Erik Haula early on.

The Predators keep on winning and now are so very close to securing a playoff berth, and avoiding the scenario of “backing in” to the postseason. That’s definitely not something we want to see in the last three games.

Veterans are stepping up for the Nashville Predators

All of these veterans have improved their level of play as well through the hot streak that really began in mid-March when the Predators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1. That’s when we saw this team really shift into a team that plays with a chip on their shoulder and plays for each other.

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The Predators are by no means particularly impressive on paper when it comes to elite talent. But one thing I will say is collectively they’ve become a deep team that can beat you from many different areas on the roster. It’s what you need for the grind of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi have been the constants when it comes to the veterans. They’ve never slipped during this season and have kept the Predators pushing towards the postseason.

Just in the most recent win last night over the Columbus Blue Jackets the veterans of the team took control of the game when it was hanging in the balance. Josi ended up with the game-winning goal in overtime, while Forsberg had a two-point night and added a goal to open up the scoring.

Ryan Johansen also got in on the action with a power play goal as the Predators got one step closer to the playoffs.

Arvidsson has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, but he was also playing very well up until then by being tied four fourth on the team in points with 25. He’s also fourth on the team in assists with 15.

Contributions from all over the roster

Defensively you can’t look past Mattias Ekholm, either. Another veteran who you can always count on to be a leader on the ice and make the right decisions. He was critical in creating the game-winning goal for Haula in Saturday’s huge overtime win over the Dallas Stars.

Ekholm’s zone entry was perfectly executed and Haula, another veteran who has improved greatly as the season as wore on, finished it off.

Calle Jarnkrok is another veteran who shouldn’t be overlooked in this discussion. He’s filled into a regular role in the top-six and has delivered for the most part. He’s tied for second on the team with 12 goals and fourth on the team in power play points with eight.

Mikael Granlund might still have the prime of his career ahead of him, but he’s another player who could’ve been sold off at the deadline but has remained with the team and now leads the team in goals with 13.

Duchene is the veteran who bears most of the brunt from the fanbase, and some of it is understood. With that said, he’s still making his impact in other areas, like his possession metrics, and now just needs to translate that more to scoring.

We were hard on the veterans when the Predators were crashing and burning, but now it’s time to show them some love. There’s a lot to figure out in the offseason with many of these players, but for now it’s about riding the wave and worrying about the offseason when it gets here.

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The youth has been a pleasant surprise that has me feeling really optimistic about the future of the Predators going into 2021-22. It no longer appears that the Predators are destined for a long rebuild.

The Predators have  young talent to build around, but the key veterans of this team are still being counted on to keep the team from being just another first-round playoff casualty. This group has to continue to play on a consistent level if we have any chance at having playoff success.