Nashville Predators Clinch 16th Playoff Berth: 3 Reasons They're Playoff Bound

The Predators are heading back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after storming back against the Jets to manage a point and officially eliminate the Blues from contention.
Apr 9, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Ryan O'Reilly (90) celebrates
Apr 9, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators center Ryan O'Reilly (90) celebrates / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Gustav Nyquist, Filip Forsberg
Nashville Predators v Los Angeles Kings / Harry How/GettyImages

The Veterans Stepped Up and Led the Way

There were no disappearing acts this season from the veterans of the Nashville Predators. Let's start with Filip Forsberg in this regard. He has stayed full engaged and not satisfied even with all of his individual success. He has the look of a man on a mission hungry to bring the first Stanley Cup to Nashville.

Forsberg realizes his story nearly came to an end with the Predators in free agency, but he stayed with the team and then had to battle back from a midseason concussion. I wasn't sure how long it would take for him to shake off some rust, but that time was pretty much instantaneous. I've never seen Forsberg play this consistently on an elite level.

Then you go to O'Reilly. We already talked about the top line being one of the most reliable in the NHL, but how about O'Reilly coming to a new team now at age 33 and proceeding to have his second-highest point total in his illustrious NHL career?

If Barry Trotz doesn't go out and get O'Reilly in 2023 offseason free agency, then the Predators aren't in the playoffs this year. That's not to take away from any other player who may have stepped in at top line center, but it wouldn't have clicked as fast and the Predators would be muc more a work-in-progress.

Nyquist, another offseason free agency acquisition by Trotz, is an even bigger surprise. He came in with very little buzz and was even looked at more as a second or third liners possibly. He completely revived his NHL career this past season.

Roman Josi is having another Norris Trophy caliber season. He probably won't win it over Quinn Hughes or Cale Makar, but he should be a finalist at the very least along with those two. Josi's 80 points in all 79 games to this point is his second-highest season total, only behind the 96 points in 2021-22.

Finally in terms of veteran leadership, let's look at Ryan McDonagh. Always the unsung hero who does the vital things that can get overlooked in the box score.

With a minimum of 200 minutes of ice time together, McDonagh's pairing with Alexandre Carrier has allowed an average of 2.06 Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes, which is 11th in the NHL. He's also second on the team in blocks with 137, only trailing Josi.

McDonagh is that leader on the ice that basically gives the Predators two captains at one position. Josi is the true captain, but McDonagh plays like a captain as well.

Fans were very cautious and nervous when the Predators front office added so many veterans that could disrupt the development of the young talent. There's still some qualms about Cody Glass being healthy scratched which is understood, but you cannot deny the fact that the veterans have stepped up to put the Predators in this situation to return to the playoffs and actually make some noise.

These three factors just covered are why the Predators will be a very difficult out for any team in the first round. They're not going to be confused with a team that backed their wan into the playoffs by default.