Nashville Predators vs. Seattle Kraken: Keys to Victory on Opening Night

Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators is announced before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena on January 14, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. Players honored members of law enforcement that participated in the Nashville Christmas bombing investigation. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators is announced before the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena on January 14, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. Players honored members of law enforcement that participated in the Nashville Christmas bombing investigation. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

The day is finally here for the new-look, and hopefully revamped, Nashville Predators. They come into tonight against the Seattle Kraken, a team that nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback win in their own season-opener on Tuesday.

Unlike past season-openers, we really have a freshness to this Nashville Predators team with some new players in the lineup, and new line combinations.

It’s already been an interesting week for the Nashville Predators as they re-signed Mattias Ekholm to a four-year deal, marking off a big item on the to-do list for the front office.

Tonight is going to take a lot of focus for the Predators as they welcome in the Seattle Kraken, which is a team still in search of their first win in franchise history after nearly completing the comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday in their inaugural game.

This matchup really looks like a toss-up on paper as both teams will look to play disciplined on defense, rely on sturdy goaltending and thrive on special teams.

Here’s the keys to victory for the Nashville Predators tonight and not be the first victim of the Seattle Kraken.

1. Disciplined play in their own zone

It’s going to take a smart gameplan tonight against the Kraken. They’re a team with plenty of veterans who will take advantage of sloppy turnovers that can hang Juuse Saros out to dry. That can’t happen tonight.

Saros is heading into is first full season as the undisputed starter in net, and there’s no Pekka Rinne to fall back on as a safety net. Although he seems fully capable of being a franchise goaltender and a top player at his position in the NHL, it’s still going to require fundamentally sound play in front of him.

The Predators and the Kraken are both teams that lack a plethora of elite offensive talent, but they’re also both blue collar type teams that will relentlessly forecheck and try to create odd man rushes.

This is why sound passing and zone exits will be key for the Predators. If everything can be kept moderately clear for Saros to do his thing and stay in position, then the Predators should have success at limiting the scoring chances for Seattle.

With that said, the Predators have some youth and inexperience in the lineup that will more than likely make some mistakes that will generate some high danger scoring opportunities. It just comes with the territory when using so many young players, and that’s when Saros will have to show he’s picking up where he left off last season, which was dominant in between the pipes.

Play a clean game while exiting the zone and making crisp passes will do wonders to limiting what Saros has to deal with tonight.

Saros is more than capable of carrying his team to victory with a 40-plus save effort, but it would be refreshing to see him only have to face half of that thanks to a disciplined overall effort in the fundamentals like passing and forechecking.

2. Revamped special teams has to be successful for Nashville Predators

The Predators have not been able to rely on the special teams in the past to be strengths for them, and thriving in this area will be a prevailing theme throughout their season.

I fully expect the Predators to take a fair amount of penalties thanks to their playing style, and once again due to some inexperienced players who will probably get caught out of position and be forced into a bad penalty.

It’s okay if that happens from time to time, but it does mean also that the penalty kill has to show vast improvement from last season. The Predators looked fairly decent in this area over the preseason, and now they’re looking to carry that into the season-opener tonight against Seattle.

The Kraken came up empty on their three power play attempts against Vegas on Tuesday, but also succeeded in all three of their penalty kills as well, and against a potent Vegas power play, no less.

The Predators can find success at 5v5 in this matchup with a top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene going up against Seattle’s top line of Jaden Schwartz, Jared McCann and Jordan Emberle. Two evenly-matched top lines going up against each other, but one that isn’t loaded with potency in their offensive capabilities.

I like the chances of the Predators keeping this a low-scoring affair if they’re successful on the penalty kill. A low-scoring game between two of the NHL top goaltenders is probably what we’re in for, as the likely starters are Saros for the Predators and Philipp Grubauer for the Kraken.

3. Play with an early lead

The Kraken are coming into Nashville already with their first game under their belt. They’re hungry for that first win after almost getting it on Tuesday against a quality Stanley Cup contender in the Golden Knights.

As for the Predators, they can’t get caught sleepwalking early in the game. There’s no reason they should as they’ll be playing in front of a packed and electric Bridgestone Arena home crowd, but if they dig themselves a hole early I hate their chances of being able to comeback in the same type of fashion that Seattle did to Vegas.

The Predators aren’t going to be one of those teams that can quickly go on these scoring waves to erase multi-goal deficits. Many top teams can get away with that because they have so many scoring weapons, but that’s just not the case with the Predators.

Seattle is going to coming out buzzing after getting that first game in franchise history under their belt, and the Predators have to be ready for that. They need to play with a lead and get into their gameplan of strong forechecking and solid play in front of Saros. Force the Kraken to once again be the ones pushing from a deficit.

151. 7 PM CT. NHL Network, Bally Sports South. Thursday, October 14. 0-0-0. . 0-1-0. 2255

Let’s try not to be the first victim of the Kraken in their franchise history. If they excel in these three areas, the Nashville Predators have a great chance of starting off 2021-22 on a high note.