Nashville Predators: Looking To Set Tone Against Hurricanes

Apr 15, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Nashville Predators center Mikael Granlund (64) send the puck wide against Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek (34) during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 15, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Nashville Predators center Mikael Granlund (64) send the puck wide against Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek (34) during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are officially upon us, and as improbable as it may have seemed just two months ago, the Nashville Predators are here and ready to do battle.

The Predators are the heavy underdogs in this series.  They made it to the postseason by the skin of their teeth and against the Carolina Hurricanes, who are a full-fledged contender. The Predators would be lucky to steal even two games.

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Not to mention that they will have little to no wiggle room from the first puck drop.  They have never won a playoff series after losing Game 1, so you can call them all but finished if they do not come out on top in this game.

The importance of this game cannot be overstated, and the odds are stacked against the Predators.  That being said, I think they have a chance to put up a real fight in this game and series.

Maybe my optimism is due to my bias as a fan of the team, but the way the Predators have played over the past two months has given me hope that just maybe, they can upset the Hurricanes.

Here is how they can get off on the right track.

Be Physical, Forecheck Hard, And Take Some Chances

There is no doubt that the Predators are the inferior team coming into this series, and they absolutely will not win with talent alone.  How can they emerge victoriously?  By frustrating the daylights out of the Hurricanes.

They will have to hit, hit some more, and keep on hitting throughout the night.  They will also have to throw bodies in front of the opposing net and score some dirty goals.

The “Herd” line, especially, will have to make an impact as they have done since their inception.

When you play a physical game, you run the risk of taking penalties, but it does not matter.  You do not pull off a major upset without taking some chances. Throwing bodies around is something the Predators must do regardless of how many penalties they commit.

Create Chances In Transition

In the Predators’ first win against the Hurricanes last Saturday, the game’s first two goals came when Mikael Granlund set up Luke Kunin, who scored on breakaways.  Two nights later, Rocco Grimaldi’s opening goal resulted from a good defensive play that put him on a breakaway.

Both of these goals are textbook ways for the Predators to win this game and series.  Even after the season turnaround, they are not a team that will regularly light up the scoreboard, and goals will be even tougher to come by against a defensive juggernaut in the Hurricanes.

To maximize prime scoring chances, the Predators will have to catch the Hurricanes napping and be one step ahead of them when they are.  I really hope Head Coach John Hynes emphasizes stretch passing at practice because that is how they will create transition chances and execute them.

It also would not hurt to be aggressive on the puck carrier because that is how transition begins in the first place.

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I could write nothing in this section, and I think people would still get the message.  Juuse Saros has put up absolutely mind-blowing stats since the Predators turned their season around. As far-fetched as this may seem, they will need all of that and more from Saros to win.

As I mentioned, the Predators are not the team to regularly give their opponents fits defensively. No matter how dialed in they are in their own zone, they will surely allow some chances to a Hurricanes team that has a perfect blend of offensive talent and chemistry.

This is not to say that I would blame Saros if he were to start allowing more goals.  I anticipate him playing his heart out but fear he may get burnt out after having to make save after save.

Nonetheless, the Predators will need nothing short of his absolute best if they are to come out on top.  Make no mistake, for all of the adjustments the Predators have made, Saros has been the backbone of this team and x-factor behind their resurgence, and he will have to continue to be if they want to have success.

Stick To Identity

I feel like I end every preview or recap lately by mentioning this, and I will again.  The Predators must not overthink it. They have played admirably as the season progressed and must continue to play the brand of hockey they have played.

They laid out the perfect blueprint to beating the Hurricanes on May 8 and continued to build on it in the regular-season finale.  When you grind hard and have a goaltender that is playing lights out, you will be tough to beat, and that is how the Predators will continue to win games.

I am hesitant to make statements like this, but tonight’s game could make or break the team’s season, and anything less than a 110 percent effort will not be acceptable.  Get ready for an absolute battle.

The puck drops at 7:00 PM CDT with Bally Sports South and CNBC televising the game.  Follow along with us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute game commentary.

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