With their 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on March 16, the Nashville Predators became the first team to clinch a playoff berth in the 2018 season. This is the fourth year in a row that the Predators have made it to the playoffs under head coach Peter Laviolette. After last season’s Stanley Cup bid, Nashville has some unfinished business in the postseason and they’re off to a good start with their berth.
The Predators are 47-14-10 in 71 games this season and currently sit atop their division and the NHL with 104 points. The 69 games that it took the Predators to hit the 100-point mark is the shortest amount of games in their history that it has taken to hit that milestone. Their all-time record, set in the 2006-07 season, is 110 points and with 11 games left, it’s likely they will break that record.
Their 104 points put them two points in front of the Tampa Bay Lightning who dominated the NHL all season and still have a game in hand on their southern rivals. The Winnipeg Jets sit in second in the Central Division behind Nashville, but with a 10-point margin and an even number of games played, it seems Nashville has run away from the rest of the Central teams.
If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, their last 14 games boast a 13-0-1 record and their 14 consecutive points ties the longest point streak record for the franchise which was set in 2016. It’s clear the Predators have had a stellar season and have worked for this berth with an admirable work ethic and goaltender Pekka Rinne is a huge piece of their winning puzzle.
Rinne, a clear contender for the Vezina, currently possesses a 39-9-4 record with a 2.25 goals against average, a .929 save percentage, and seven shutouts which is tied for the league lead with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. His numbers speak volumes to his talent, but the praise goes further as Laviolette used the word “consistency” when describing Rinne. Now, to the non-hockey fan that may seem insignificant, but when talking goaltending consistency is key.
Laviolette also spoke of Rinne’s character off the ice saying “What you see on the ice is incredible, the person that he is, is even better than that. We’re fortunate to have a guy like that here.”
Another piece of the puzzle is the Predator’s consistently lethal offense up and down the lineup. The Predator’s seven players with at least 40 points, led by Viktor Arvidsson with 53 points, has contributed to their average 3.2 goals per game. Their center depth is also huge as the Predators have five players who can fill the position with Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, newly un-retired Mike Fisher, and Austin Watson.
The final piece of the puzzle is team chemistry on and off the ice. Laviolette’s comments on Rinne’s character and Fisher’s statement after the win over Colorado sum it up for the Predators: “I think we’re all pulling for each other, regardless of who’s in and who’s out. I think everyone knows that we’re just here to help… We’re all cheering each other on. We just want to win.” Congrats to the Nashville Predators; everyone is eagerly awaiting this year’s performance, especially with how thrilling last year’s was.