When the Nashville Predators came into the season with their well-known struggles, they started to look like they were sellers. There were many factors into why they should sell, having a lot of players that could contribute to more contending teams, and then they could do a youth movement and bring guys in and develop and adjust to the end of the season. As things looked bleak, they went on an eight-game road trip that seemed to put a season of selling and looking to the future into a push to the playoffs, and the notion to be sellers started to go away, and they could actually be buyers.
However, Predators general manager David Poile didn’t make any earth-shattering moves that would move the needle, just a deal with the Ottawa Senators that brought in Erik Gudbranson, and the lack of movement raised eyebrows among Smashville, but the confidence Poile has in his team as it is should not cause worry at all and here’s why.
Improved Team Play
As the Predators returned from that road trip, they began a surge through the month of March that saw them rise from near the cellar to the fourth and final playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. Nashville was 11-16-1 after their March 13 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. After that loss, they have been 13-3 in the games since. And this is with a lot of their top players out (Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and even for a stretch, Roman Josi, and Ryan Ellis).
Guys who have been hungry for opportunities like Jeremy Davies and Alexandre Carrier have come in and stepped up with no problem, and when Juuse Saros went down with his injury, Pekka Rinne came in and played well. Saros eventually came back and has been playing the best hockey of his career, and Callie Jarnkrok has been a scoring machine in the last few games. And don’t forget, Rocco Grimaldi, had his first career hat trick and the second four-goal game in team history in a 7-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on March 25.
One of the main reasons for the surge of the Preds has been the play of Saros. After a slow start, which really was more due to a lack of support offensively, Saros has been amazing in the latter half of March and April when he returned from his injury on March 18, his record has been 10-2 with a save percentage of .957, and his goals-against average is a microscopic 1.33; he has also posted two shutouts during that stretch. His performance in the latter half of the season, has been amazing, and he has definitely entrenched himself as the starting goaltender for this team, and the support he has from Rinne also helps go a long way as well.
The worry about Saros for a while has been can he go through long stretches of playing consistently, and this stretch has shown that he can put those worries to bed and show the team and fans that he can do this for a good stretch. Now the only thing that needs to be worked on is having a much better start to the season.
Anything Can Happen In Playoffs
The Stanley Cup playoffs are not like any other playoffs. This has been proven time and time again over the years, and the Predators were one of the teams that proved this correct when they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 from the eighth seed in the West. One thing that Poile did say is, although he is happy with the way the team as it is constructed has come together to get into playoff contention, he also made it known that they need to beat teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers. They did get on the right track by trouncing the reigning champs 7-2 on Tuesday night to close out the season series, finishing 2-8 against Tampa Bay. They are 2-4 against the Panthers and 0-3-1 against the Hurricanes.
As it has shown over the years, when a team gets to the Stanley Cup playoffs, it is about how hot you are going into the playoffs and maintaining it. If the Preds can keep playing their game, and then also when the guys who are injured get healthy and can contribute to the forward momentum, there’s no reason to think that a run can be made.
Poile stood pat because he believes in his team. And the players are happy to still be playing with one another. Now they have to go out and continue to play and make a believer out of the GM. With the games remaining dwindling, only time will tell if this lack of movement is worth it, but there should not be any worry or concern about the lack of movement either way.
Nashville Predators writer. Graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and Northeastern University. Been into hockey since NHL 94 and not knowing what I was doing to having a pretty good idea of how to play. Based in Nashville since 2015. Sharks fan.