Nashville Predators: Clinch Playoffs With Inspired 3-1 Win

May 8, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators players celebrate after a win to clinch a spot in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators players celebrate after a win to clinch a spot in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Hey, Nashville Predators fans. Are you ready for some playoff hockey?  Good because you are about to get it.

The Predators are headed back to the postseason after earning a 3-1 win at home against the Carolina Hurricanes.  It was their first win against the Canes this year, and the Predators could not have deserved it more.

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To put it bluntly, the Predators played some of the best hockey they have played all year.  They were hungry, desperate, relentless, and got rewarded for their hard work.

Credit the Smashville faithful for the ramped-up energy in this one as well.  The now 40 percent capacity crowd at Bridgestone Arena was absolutely raucous.

The game’s first goal came just after a standing ovation that lasted the entirety of a television timeout.

For as aggressive as the Predators were in the offensive zone, they managed to stay relatively stingy in the defensive zone, giving up only 22 shots to a team that was in first place in the league standings.

The Predators’ aggressive play coupled with another tremendous effort from Juuse Saros was enough for the Predators to secure the win and head back to the postseason for the seventh straight year.

Here are some other takeaways from what was a tremendous night in Smashville.

Luke Kunin Continues To Shine

What a tremendous pickup Luke Kunin has been for the Predators.  Surprisingly, he had been kept off the scoreboard in the past three games but bounced back with a great outing on Saturday night, managing to light the lamp twice.

Gorgeous feeds from Mikael Granlund set up both goals, and Kunin would not be denied on either breakaway he had.

For all of the questionable moves GM David Poile has made over the years, the Kunin trade has been a huge win.

Kunin has been able to do a little bit of everything, such as score goals in transition, shoot the puck, and most notably, be a tremendous physical and net-front presence.

Kunin has been everything the Predators have wanted in him, as he is young and fits the team’s new identity of being a tenacious squad that is tough to play against.

It is only one season, but by the day, Kunin is asserting himself as an important player for the future of the Predators. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a must-protect in the expansion draft later this offseason.

Nashville Predators Maintain Discipline In A Critical Area

The Predators took a penalty in the first ten minutes of the game, allowing the 2nd ranked power-play in the league to go to work early on.  You would not have known about that fact with how much trouble the Hurricanes had in that sequence.

The Hurricanes were stifled at every turn on the man advantage, as every time they tried to get set up, there was a gold jersey right there to break it up.  The Predators were dialed in with the man down and turned in one of the best penalty kills of the season.

This would be the only time that the Predators were on the penalty kill the entire game, which is outstanding given how aggressive they were playing.

When teams play with ramped-up physicality and throw bodies at the opposing team’s net, they are bound to take multiple trips to the penalty box, but not last night.  The Predators managed to stay out of the box and disallow one of the best power plays from getting chances to strike, which is extremely admirable.

Nashville Predators Cap Off A Wild Turnaround

Coming into March 15, the Predators were 11-16-1 and, at one point, had just a 0.34 percent chance of making the playoffs.  Their efforts to turn the season around have finally been rewarded, and you cannot give them enough credit.

Please make no mistake. The Predators were doomed early on but made some key adjustments that paid off.  They unleashed the youth, played harder and smarter, and of course, none of this would have been possible without Saros turning in a Vezina-caliber performance down the stretch.

And yes, before you ask, Saros should be in the final three for voting on the Vezina trophy.

It was not just that the Predators started playing much better, but in games that would be looked at as must-wins for them, they came out on top.  They went 4-1-0 against the Dallas Stars, including winning the game on May 1 that all but clinched the playoffs, and could not have looked better last night.

Were we completely wrong about Head Coach John Hynes early in the season?  I would not say that yet.  He still made a few questionable lineup calls late in the season, and of course, the true test for him will come in the playoffs, where it really matters.

But let’s give him credit where credit is due.  Even with the injuries the team suffered, Hynes still managed to keep the lines as stable as possible, and you could notice that there was chemistry and that everyone on the team was playing for each other.

The Predators did not start winning because Matt Duchene or anyone else was not in the lineup.  It was a full organizational effort to revive the season, and everyone bought in.

The Predators’ chances of winning in the playoffs are not very high, but the way they came back to make the dance is an accomplishment on its own and has set up a bright future for this team.  And honestly, it is playoff hockey. You never know what is going to happen.

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