Smile big hockey fans, the 2016-2017 NHL regular season is finally upon us. The Nashville Predators do not open their season for another two days but fans can still get excited now that meaningful hockey is finally here.
Expectations could not be greater for the Predators this season as many feel that this team has what it takes to contend for the coveted Stanley Cup. The high expectations are well-warranted considering that Nashville’s roster is as attractive as it gets in the National Hockey League.
As we wait patiently for the arrival of Friday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, I felt it was only appropriate to provide you with my four predictions for the 2016-17 regular season of the Nashville Predators.
2017 Stanley Cup Champions
I know, I wasted no time whatsoever jumping to the biggest prediction of them all. The truth is, all of the other predictions will make a lot more sense now that we got Nashville hoisting the cup this spring out of the way.
Some may hesitate to actually say this but the Predators have one of these best rosters in the National Hockey League this season. The team truly has all that is needed to go all the way and that is exactly what is going to happen. It also helps that some of their biggest competition in the Western Conference took a step back this offseason, making the road to the Stanley Cup Final a little less brutal this time around.
The Dallas Stars could wind up taking the top spot in the Central Division but will not sustain its success come playoff time. Nashville will most likely finish second in the division behind Dallas and ahead of Chicago. It is never smart to bet against the Blackhawks so expect them and the San Jose Sharks to pose the biggest threats for the Predators once the postseason gets under way.
Rinne Will Have Bounceback Season
There have been some major alterations to the makeup of this Nashville hockey team recently. However, the one constant has been the Predators goaltender, Pekka Rinne. The 33-year-old netminder has experienced some bumps in the road over the past few seasons, only posting a save percentage better than .910 once in the past four years. There is some speculation that Rinne is now on the decline and his dominant years are behind him.
The fact that Rinne’s “glory days” are coming to an end might very well be true but I am going to argue that he has one or two more great seasons left in the tank. It was only two seasons ago when he went 41-17-6 with a .923 save percentage and 2.18 goals against average. Nashville has one of the most talented bluelines in the entire league which will help reduce the amount of pressure Rinne will experience this season. Plus, I have this team winning the Stanley Cup. There is no way that happens without a stellar year from their star goaltender.
Forsberg Surpasses 70 Points
At 22 years of age, Filip Forsberg has already proven that he is the most skilled scorer on the Nashville Predators. In the 182 games he has played in his young career, Forsberg has recorded an impressive 60 goals and 73 assists.
64 of the winger’s 133 career points were acquired last season. It only makes sense that Forsberg’s point total will continue to increase which makes 70-plus points this season quite realistic. Not only will the young star record over 70 points in 2016-17, his goal total could reach 40-plus as well.
Farewell Gold Helmets
The Nashville Predators are going to be wearing their “gold” helmets for the entirety of the season. This decision has already received some negative feedback due to the fact that the helmets are absolutely hideous. Have no fear though Predators’ fans, this gimmick will only last this season, if it even makes it that long. The organization will come to their senses and realize that this wardrobe change was a silly decision right from the get-go and most likely scrap the “gold” helmets altogether.