It’s actually here. The Stanley Cup playoffs begin this week. With many tasks, a plan to complete that goal is begun by preparing and mapping out a blueprint or steps to follow for success. While winning playoff hockey games isn’t comparable to building a skyscraper, the premise remains the same.
Nashville still possesses a top defense core after the Seth Jones trade. However, they are no longer the deepest. That was on full display when Ryan Ellis had to miss time a few games ago. The defense outside of Weber and Josi was a mess.
If they were to lose one of Josi, Weber, Ekholm, or Ellis to injury, the Predators likely wouldn’t be able to recover. Unlike last postseason without Weber, there isn’t enough quality depth to withstand an injury to the backend.
There should be significant confidence that Filip Forsberg and James Neal will continue to produce in the playoffs. Ryan Johansen and Mike Ribeiro are likely setting up those goals, and the offensive upside of the defense core will chip a few goals. That’s relatively easy to predict.
What Nashville needs is one player outside of the above mentioned to break through in the postseason. There’s quite a few forwards who could fit that bill. Craig Smith is probably the safest bet, but Arvidsson and Jarnkrok have shown flashes of lighting the lamp on a consistent basis during the season. Does Colin Wilson resurrect his unproductive year with a repeat performance of five goals in the first round?
The good news is Nashville has quite a few options to fill that secondary scorer role.
Notice how it reads good, not great Rinne. The reality is the construction of this season’s team doesn’t need a heroic performance by their netminder to move on in the playoffs. The Predators are good enough in all areas to not rely on Pekka putting the team on his back. The problem arises because Rinne has been all over the place this season.
The Finnish was brutal for the first half of the season, and then turned his game 180 degrees during the team’s franchise record point streak. However, he has taken a few steps back since with an under .900 save percentage in each of his last five outings.
Another overworked season showing signs of fatigue? Maybe, but he will get adequate rest before the team begins their Stanley Cup run. The Predators don’t need Superman anymore. Just good, consistent games from their workhouse.
Despite dissecting each matchup and comparing every analytical statistic, hockey is game full of randomness. A bounce here or there can decide an entire series. Look no further than last season against the Blackhawks.
Chicago didn’t make beautiful plays for their two OT winners in games 1 and 4, but the puck found a way in from the point. Those two go chances go the other way and Nashville likely moves on, but that’s hockey.
You can be the better team but still find yourself on the outside looking in if the bounces just aren’t on your side.
To conclude, these points had nothing to do with specifically winning against Anaheim or anyone else because Nashville’s A+ game is good enough to beat anyone in the Western Conference. Can they bring their best game for an entire series? That remains to be seen, but that’s why we watch.