Nashville Predators: Examining the Road Ahead for the Playoffs

Mar 27, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) shoots the puck during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 27, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) shoots the puck during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Many, including myself, thought that this year’s Nashville Predators would already be well out of playoff contention in what was considering more of a “rebuild” or “retooling” type of a season.

While the Predators have definitely gone through with some changes and brought a fresh look to the ice, the team itself has really benefited from its superstars having career-best seasons to propel this team to the cusp of an eighth-straight playoff appearance.

With that said, there’s still a lot that has to be accomplished with just 16 games left, and the Predators just five points from being on the outside looking in. To the same degree, the Predators are also just four points behind the Minnesota Wild for second place in a crowded division race for spots two through six.

Nashville Predators in the middle of a crowded race

Ten points sepearate the sixth place Winnipeg Jets and the second place Minnesota Wild in the Central Division. The Colorado Avalanche have completely ran away with the division crown at 98 points, and a 14-point cushion over the next team.

When it comes to the Predators, it will be heartbreaking to say the least if they spent almost the entire season overachieving, only to narrowly miss the playoffs anyway. That is still very much possible.

The Predators’ remaining schedule is full of challening matchups that will test this team, including two against the Calgary Flames, two against the Minnesota Wild, and one each against the St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

This makes it all the more important that the Predators handle their business against lesser opponents, starting off on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators. You can’t leave any points at the wasteside in these types of games, which is why it was so critical that they snuck out with two points against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.

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Getting two points against the Senators is a must. The Predators can jump back ahead of the Blues for third place, and keep their five-point cushion over Dallas from falling out of the playoffs altogether.

The potential season-changing games ahead will be those two games against Minnesota, two against Calgary and one against the Blues. If you don’t at least win three of those five matchups, then you’re really going to fade back.

Ideally you’d like to see the Predators sweep the Wild in what can be an eight-point swing one way or the other for a top-three division spot.

Bad trends can derail everything

One concerning trend for the Nashville Predators as of late that threatens to derail their entire season is the downfall of their defense, and also to a degree a struggling stretch for Juuse Saros as well. They go hand-in-hand, and it has to be fixed quickly or those aformentioned difficult opponents coming up will run them right out of a playoff spot.

I’ve worried all season that eventually their downfall will be marked by not being able to avoid taking bad penalties in critical moments of a game. You can get away with it on some nights when Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and Matt Duchene are playing out of their minds. Even so, it’s still a season-long problem that might be the ultimate undoing for the Predators’ fate.

Next. Predators Need Their Second Line to Show More Consistency. dark

This team has shown all season that they’re capable of responding when their backs are against the wall, and that’s certainly where they’re at right now along with several other teams near the playoff bubble. Which of these teams hold it together and don’t fold will be interesting to watch.

Another area that needs to continue to show consistency is the forward lines holding strong. The Predators have shot up to 11th in the NHL in goals per game at 3.26, which is a noticeable improvement from last season when they finished 22nd at 2.70 per game.

If the Nashville Predators can continue to score at a high pace while Saros and company get back on track, then this team can absolutely make some noise in the playoffs. They have to get in first, and of course that’s not a foregone conclusion.

It would be a real shame of epic proportions if the Nashville Predators spoil the spectacular seasons of Forsberg and Josi by missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Buckle in because it’s going to be an intense ride to the finish line of the 2021-22 season which hasn’t dissappointed.