*Welcome to the first edition of the All In Hockey Roundtable, where we gather together writers from All In Hockey and all over the Internet to give their thoughts on current topics*
With the Predators having defeated both the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs, many people have been surprised at how successful they’ve been this postseason. Finishing in the last wildcard spot with the lowest point totals out of all qualifying teams, many expected the Chicago Blackhawks to easily defeat the Preds in the first round. But here the Predators are, advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history. So the question is, just how surprising is the Predators playoff success?
*I’d also like to welcome Jordan DiRisio and JJ Seward to the All In Hockey writing team! As a huge Avalanche fan, JJ also writes for Mile High Hockey, covering all things Avalanche while Jordan is a Devils fan from upstate NY*
I’ve heard from a lot of people that they were surprised the Blackhawks were so easily beaten by the Preds. While I didn’t think Nashville would be able to sweep the Hawks, I definitely didn’t underestimate them and knew the Predators would be a tough opponent. Even though they underperformed a bit in the regular season, they’re a very dangerous team with talent at all positions. Rinne can be a bit overrated at times but the club still has one of, if not the best, defensive groups in the league. Combine that with the scoring of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, James Neal and more and you have a team who’s built for a good run it the postseason. They also had very good underlying numbers throughout the regular season, with the fifth highest CF% and eighth highest xGF% in the league. I’m not at all surprised that the Predators were able to get past the first two rounds and hope to see them further advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
I’m not at all surprised. As a Montreal Canadiens fan I witnessed the development and fostering of P.K Subban for many years. All personal things aside, he is a player that I believe, not just statistically speaking, but spirit and leadership wise, is a guy that can take a team to the next level of contention. I also think, however, that the stars are in fact aligning for Nashville, as they have a core that has steadily held the fort for this franchise the past few seasons, and now the new young wave of players such as Forsberg, Johansson, Arvidsson and Josi are coming in their own at the perfect time to complete the pieces of the puzzle. The first round sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks on paper, in the face of the below average and uniformed hockey fan, is indeed shocking, but if you look a little closer, dig a little deeper and really look inside, goal by goal, game by game, the Nashville Predators looked more and more confident, and that first round series they won, the team looked like they had struck gold within themselves. Every single person on that team found within each other, the perfect formula, they believe, to win the Stanley Cup, and as the past weeks have shown, their formula may in fact be correct.
Coming in as a wildcard team, I am extremely surprised with the Nashville Predators playoff run. However, they got hot at the perfect time. They were feeling it when they beat the mighty Chicago Blackhawks on the road twice, and just fed off that momentum when they completed the sweep in Nashville. The additions of Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban are leading the charge for the Preds, and Rinne is playing at the top of his level.
As an Avs fan for life, I love seeing McLeod have success with the Preds. After not playing in the first round, he came in and fit his role perfectly for the Preds as they went on to beat the St. Louis Blues. Another guy who is starting to stick out for me is Ryan Ellis. His glorious ginger beard is one of the best playoff beards I have seen in a while, but he is just another vitally important reason as to why this Preds teams has been able to find success in the postseason.
There are two pieces about the Predators’ postseason I’ve found surprising.
The first is the timing. Going into October, I thought the Predators would win the Central. On paper, they had a deep group of forwards; Ryan Johansen as a number one center was the one thing that gave me some doubts up front, but he has really looked comfortable as a permanent fixture on that JOFA line. In goal, they had a former Vezina finalist and a promising goalie prospect and on the backend, they had a deep group of versatile defensemen, though I don’t think anyone was expecting this level of play from Ryan Ellis. I drafted Pekka Rinne in two fantasy leagues and expected a lot from him. I was largely disappointed watching Nashville’s games for most of the season. They were always competitive and showed impressive flashes but didn’t string solid play together consistently and ultimately were fighting for a playoff spot. Going into the postseason they were playing well but I didn’t see that as enough indication that they were poised for a deep run.
Second is The Blackhawks. I thought they had enough star power to make up for their scoring imbalance in their bottom six. I don’t think I realized how much the age factor has set in on that Hawks’ defense either. Trevor Van Riemsdyk is the only one dressing under 30. And I picked St. Louis to beat them in the first-round last year; no part of me thought the Blackhawks would be exiting in the first again, let alone in a sweep.
Nashville deserves all the accolades they’re receiving. They are in no way a fluke; their roster is a shining example of how you would like to have scoring balance on any team. David Poile may have put a pause in the idea that you can only build your roster through the draft.
Carl Landra (from The 4th Line Podcast)
On a scale of “Meh” to “Jaw-dropping”, the Predators success has been a “Wow, really?” What makes them so surprising? The ability to keep pucks out of the net is something that Nashville has been known for for quite some time. However, the last two seasons, their goal against per 60 minutes has increased. At the end of the 2016-17 season they had a 2.65 GA/60. In the playoffs? 1.36. How have they done this?
Pekka Rinne has essentially been as perfect as needed. With a 100 save percentage on all low danger shots, Pekka is literally making every save that he should. He is also stopping the close shots with a 85% save percentage on higher risk shots. Comparatively, he had a 98% on low danger shots and 78% on high danger shots in the regular season, near the bottom of the league in this regard. Rinne’s dramatic turn around could be attributed to a hot stretch of a goaltender or an improved ability (it’s the former), but either way, there was no way to see this coming from Rinne and the Predators, but it sure has been fun to watch.