Any time a team gets eliminated, there’s usually not much to celebrate. However, the Nashville Predators did have some positives in their first round-exit from the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Many (myself included) picked the Chicago Blackhawks to advance over the Predators in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Preds surprised people by how they dealt with a lot of issues. Let’s take a look at some of the positives.
Getting to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer. Some thought it was going to be a transition year in Nashville as the Predators had to deal with a new coach in Peter Laviolette, Pekka Rinne’s return from injury and how the roster would do in the coach’s new system.
Nashville is also in one of the toughest divisions in all of hockey in the Central. Some experts though the Predators would be a sleeper team that would make the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. Others thought that the Predators would miss the postseason or the third straight year.
However, Nashville got out to a great first half and made the postseason. The team actually limped into the final two months and had a shot taking the division title before another late slump did them in.
I know many Smashvillians would’ve loved to see the team parlay a strong regular season into a deep playoff run, but one step at a time.
Filip Forsberg Takes Out Frustration
The postseason wasn’t kind to the Predators, and it was even more irritating to Filip Forsberg. Despite a great first half, the young Swede was not among the final three candidates for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
Many Predators fans complained about the snub, but Forsberg did something about it. The rookie marksman took out his frustrations on the Blackhawks with a hat trick in Nashville’s 5-2 win in game five.
Forsberg showed the Calder voters what they missed with goals like this.
Forsbeg finished with four goals and two assists to finish as the Predators’ leading point-getter. He may not have finished in the top three for the Calder, but he’s on track for a very productive career.
Colin Wilson’s Coming Out Party
While the offense came from Forsberg in the later games, it came from Colin Wilson in the opening two games.
Wilson tallied 20 goals this season, but this was his first playoff action. The young forward did not disappoint as he was the spark for the Nashville offense in the first two games.
He had struggled last season with five goals, but this year was big for him. Wilson will be a restricted free agent on July 1, and the team does need help scoring. If he keeps this up, he’ll be worth the long-term investment.
Seth Jones Takes His Share
The loss of Shea Weber after game two for the rest of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs left a huge void in the defense. The team does boast a versatile D, but there wasn’t much playoff experience in the group.
Roman Josi needed someone to join him on the top pair and that man was Seth Jones. The American defenseman was already rounding into a top blueliner, but it’s always hard in replacing the captain.
It was a patchwork defense, but Jones logged a considerable amount of ice time. He was on ice for 43 minutes and 40 seconds.
Jones may have been a -6 for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, but this is the first series for him and it was against a tough Chicago team. He’ll start figuring things out.
The loss of Weber and lengthy injury woes of assistant captain Mike Fisher put a series dent into the Predators chances to win in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. Wilson and others also were dinged up during the postseason.
However, the team did not roll over and let the Blackhawks run roughshod in the series. The Predators gave the Hawks all they could handle. Chicago needed a two-OT, a 3-OT game and a late-goal in game six to dispose of Nashville.
A lot of other clubs would’ve packed it in, but Nashville didn’t.
There may be some debate on who the better team was, but there’s no debate the Predators can build on their appearance in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
There’s hope in Smashville and that’s something they might not have had last year.
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Dan Mount is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanMountSports.