Looks like we’ll be seeing the Nashville Predators in this year’s NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Colorado Avalanche losing to the Washington Capitals has secured them a playoff berth. Nashville had three previous attempts before tonight to clinch a spot in the playoffs, but didn’t succeed on any of them.
A Washington Capitals regulation victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night ensured the Predators will play in the postseason for the second consecutive year under Head Coach Peter Laviolette. The Preds received a little help from former Head Coach Barry Trotz on Friday, with the Washington win ensuring Colorado cannot catch Nashville’s point total. The Predators’ rapid ascension up the standings since early February placed them in the position to register a postseason spot early, with the Caps win marking the final needed step.
A sizzling 14-5-5 since Feb. 12, a date that also started a franchise-record, 14-game point streak, the Predators have used the third-most points in the NHL since the aforementioned day to put a 180-degree spin on their season.
“Going into free agency [this summer], Nashville was a team that I thought not only could make the playoffs but could contend for a Stanley Cup,” said d-man Barret Jackman, who signed a two-year deal with Nashville in July. “What we’ve done the last month and a bit has been fun to be a part of, and you can feel the crowd and the city starting to feel that excitement for the playoff push.”
They look to make more of a splash this year, having lost to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 in the first round of last year. Although, Chicago was a tough team, and eventually went on to win the Stanley Cup. Nashville made a splash this year, going out and getting Ryan Johansen, a young, dynamic center, who is fitting in quite well with the team. Nashville’s offense is said to be weaker than their defense, but this move improved it quite severely.
At the conclusion of the 2015 calendar year, simply qualifying for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs seemed like an up-hill battle for the Preds. Now, a 30,000-foot view of Nashville’s season sees them clinching a postseason berth four days after the date they did a year ago, but Preds players and media agree: this time feels different.
“We were in a different situation a month and a half ago than what we’re in today,” said Ryan Johansen, who was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in January. “We were in a dogfight, and we were able to play some high-level hockey from that period of time until now, and it’s a credit to everyone in this room for how we’ve worked and how we’ve played.”
“We’ve been doing this for 70-something games, and it’s all about getting there,” winger Filip Forsberg said. “It doesn’t really matter how you get there. It doesn’t matter if you win the last 40 or lose the last 40. As long as you’re in, anyone can win it.”
Laviolette often turns philosophical when describing the lack of road map to the Stanley Cup, but he is adamant about the importance of using the regular season to make competing for a championship possible. Now, anything is possible.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Predators would be set to face off against the LA Kings, another tough opponent.
Look out for the Nashville Predators.