The Predators were able to exceed many people’s expectations last season with a playoff berth last season. Although they did ultimately lose the first series in six games to the Carolina Hurricanes, it was still seen as a successful campaign. This year, with the divisions going back to normal after a league-wide realignment due to COVID travel restrictions, the Preds still find themselves as a middling team in a rather competitive division in 2021. They have underwhelming goal scoring on this team with multiple younger guys still figuring out their role on the team.
I am not exactly breaking any news when I say that the Preds are not exactly in “win now” mode. The Predators still have holes to fill all through this roster. I already mentioned the lack of goal scoring, this team is also quite thin defensively, but the biggest change is that for the first time since 2004, Pekka Rinne will not be between the pipes for Nashville. Rinne officially retired following the end of last season, putting an end to his incredible 15-year career. So now that we’ve discovered some of the issues that Nashville currently has, let’s dive into what we can expect from this team this season.
First things first, let’s go through the Preds’ lines this season according to dailyfaceoff.com.
First line: Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Eeli Tolvanen
Second line: Mikael Granlund, Matt Duhcene, Luke Kunin
Third line: Nick Cousins, Cody Glass, Philip Tomasino
Fourth line: Yakov Trenin, Colton Sissons, Matthew Olivier
Last season, the Predators averaged 2.77 goals scored per game and were 16.76% on the power play. Both of which are below the league average. One thing that Nashville is hoping will turn these numbers around is the development of Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen played in 40 games for the Preds last season and finished with 22 points on the year. He just locked up his future with Nashville after signing a 3-year $4.35 million contract this Summer. 2020-2021 was his first full season with the Predators after being drafted in 2017, but Nashville is putting their faith in him to produce. He is poised to be the first-line left winger who can use these next few years to continue to grow while Nashville builds around the 22-year old.
Eeli Tolvanen is poised to pick up right where Viktor Arvidsson left off. Arvidsson was one of Nashville’s best goal-scorers for the past few years and even holds the franchise record for goals in a single season with 34. He was traded to the LA Kings this offseason in exchange for a 2nd-round pick. Nashville made it clear that they are to look toward the future and get younger. The first month of this season is essentially an extended evaluation period for the entire roster. The front office has seemingly accepted that the window has closed from a few years ago, and it’s time to build towards that success again.
Roman Josi and Phillipe Meyers
Mattias Ekholm and Alexandre Carrier
Mark Borowiecki and Dante Fabbro
Goalies: Juuse Saros and David Rittich
Roman Josi and Phillipe Meyers are one of the best backend pairs in the entire league, but they can only be on the ice for so long. If one of those guys goes down with an injury, this team becomes extremely vulnerable to being exposed defensively. The Predators were very solid defensively last season. That was partially a result of having a Pekka Rinne/Juuse Saros goalie tandem, but they still have their cornerstone pieces. The Predators allowed just 2.84 goals per game on 30.11 shot attempts.
The exciting thing about the defense is that they are super young. Considering the contract issues they had to solve and the expansion draft earlier this year, the Predators made the right moves for where they are as a team right now. They are building for the future and have a good leader in Roman Josi. He is the guy that the rest of the defense can follow and look to. They are still a few years from making noise in the Central Division, but it is clear this team has a sense of direction Juuse Saros is now “the guy” in the net and even signed for four more seasons on a $20 million contract, but they may struggle on his nights off. David Rittich is a tremendous drop-off from Pekka Rinne, but goalies can’t play forever, unfortunately.
All in all, the Nashville Predators will be mildly competitive in the Central. I do not see them returning to the playoffs this year, but they certainly are on the right path. Nashville has developed an extremely passionate fan base and has things to look forward to this year, and they will be back in no time if they stay the course.
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