Winnipeg Jets 2022-23 Opponent Preview: Nashville Predators

In 2022-23, the Winnipeg Jets have 26 tilts against fellow Central Division teams — four games apiece against the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and three games apiece against the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars.

In anticipation of the campaign to come, our THW Jets team’s “Opponent Preview” Series takes a look at each Central Division foe.

In this instalment, we will be covering the Nashville Predators. They finished with a 45-30-7 record last season, which placed them fifth in the Central Division and was good enough to squeak into the playoffs in the second wildcard spot. When these teams faced each other last season, the Jets had the advantage by finishing with a head-to-head record of 2-1.

Nashville Predators vs. Winnipeg Jets 2021-22 Game Log
Oct. 23, 2021, @ Winnipeg: Jets 6, Predators 4
Jan. 20, 2022, @ Nashville: Predators 5, Jets 2
Feb. 12, 2022, @ Nashville: Jets 5, Predators 2

The most notable memory for Jets fans when facing the Predators was their victory in the second round of the 2018 NHL Playoffs. They secured a win on the road by a score of 5-2 in Game 7, cementing their longest playoff run since their return to the postseason.

Related: Winnipeg Jets 2022-23 Opponent Preview: Chicago Blackhawks

Plenty has changed since then. Although the Preds were able to make the playoffs in 2021-22, they got swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Colorado Avalanche. They kept the games close, but were ultimately no match for the best team in the NHL. Here’s a preview of how they will look in 2022-23 and how the Jets will stack up as they both chase another playoff appearance.

Predators Project to be Slightly Improved Offensively

The Predators will be bringing back a top-line that combined for 111 goals last season. Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, and Filip Forsberg all have contracts that exceed $8 million in average annual value (AAV), and will once again be asked to do the heavy lifting for their team this season.

The Predators’ biggest move of the offseason was re-signing 28-year-old Forsberg, who signed an 8-year $68 million contract that will potentially keep him in Nashville until the 2029-30 offseason when he will be 36 years old. They also improved their middle-six which was seen as a weakness to start the offseason by signing Nino Niederreiter to a two-year, $4 million AAV contract and bringing in former Jet Zach Sanford.

Filip Forsberg Nashville Predators
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When comparing the forward cores, this is where the Jets have the edge. Yes, they may run into issues in the middle-six, but their top-six stacks up extremely well and the bottom-six is similar in talent. If these teams find themselves in any high-scoring games, that would more often than not be an advantage.

Predators are Returning an Elite Goaltender with an Improved Defence Core

The strength of the Predators lies with the defence core, headlined by Norris Trophy runner-up Roman Josi. The 32-year-old compiled 96 points in 80 games last season which ranked first out of all defencemen in the NHL. He ranked eighth in time on ice (TOI) per game, and will likely be leaned on heavily yet again for a team attempting to return to the playoffs.

Their big addition on the back end was Ryan McDonagh, whom they acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Phillipe Myers and Grant Mismash. McDonagh is 33 years old and has four years remaining on his contract with an AAV of $6.75 million. This is their projected defence core for 2022-23, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:

Nashville Predators Projected Defence Core 2022-23

Roman Josi (C)Dante Fabbro
Ryan McDonaghMatthias Ekholm (A)
Jeremey LauzonAlexandre Carrier
Mark Borowiecki

Juuse Saros will be returning to the crease for the Predators after playing a career-high 67 games last season. He was arguably the main reason why they were able to make the playoffs before he, unfortunately, suffered an injury that held him out of the festivities.

Saros’ stats last season were amongst the best in the NHL, as he posted a record of 38-25-2 along with a .918 save percentage (SV%) which was good for eighth best across all goaltenders. According to MoneyPuck.com, he also finished with the sixth-best goals saved above expected with 20.7.

Juuse Saros Nashville Predators
Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

In comparison, Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck finished with 16.7 last season which was good for eighth-best. Saros is 27 years old and has just ascended into the prime of his career, and the Predators have a chance at the playoffs every season that he is anchoring the crease. He has three years remaining on his contract with an AAV of $5 million and has established himself as a franchise goaltender, making his contract one of the best in the NHL.

Jets & Predators Will Be In Direct Competition for Playoff Spot

The Jets and Predators will meet four times this season, with two of their meetings coming in the last three weeks of the regular season.

Those games could prove to be extremely important, as it’s currently projected that the Jets and Predators will be directly competing for a playoff spot at that time. They’re both not skilled enough to take down the Avalanche or Minnesota Wild, but they could possibly be in a three-way race with the St. Louis Blues for the third spot in the division.

Nashville versus Winnipeg 2022-23 Game Log
Thursday, Dec 15, 2022 @Winnipeg – 7 PM Central
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2022 @Nashville – 7 PM Central
Saturday, March 18, 2022 @Nashville – 1 PM Central
Saturday, April 8, 2022 @Winnipeg – 1 PM Central

Both Hellebuyck and Saros are elite goaltenders who could carry their respective teams to the playoffs, so there’s no real advantage for either team in the crease. Their head-to-head matchups may come down to whichever goaltender has the better showing, which is true for most of their teams’ games.

The Jets do have some advantages over the Predators although these two teams are about as close as you can get. They possess more high-end forward talent, with their top-six having more of a scoring touch. The Preds have built a stronger defence core, with Josi and Ekholm being the two players that could potentially make them an elite blue line. As such, it will be interesting to see how new head coach Rick Bowness deploys his lineup against them this season.


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