It’s a sip the Predators have been trying to savor for years. And once again, Nashville’s top sports franchise may finally get to quench its thirst.
Ever since a franchise-altering trade which sent captain Shea Weber back home to Canada for flashy defender P.K. Subban, the Predators have been growing as a powerhouse in the NHL. They have chased the chance to drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup, and this year is no different.
Two seasons removed from a visit to the Stanley Cup Final – a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins – and just a year after hoisting the Presidents' Trophy as the top points team in the league, the Predators are once again taking the league by storm.
Nashville enters Wednesday’s matchup with the Colorado Avalanche atop the Western Conference at 11-3, with its 22 points again the most in the NHL at press time Tuesday. Shockingly enough, it’s not the team’s play in Smashville that is doing the trick.
Bridgestone Arena, along with Broadway in downtown Nashville, have become legendary during the last two playoff pushes. The noise and atmosphere created by Nashville’s crazed hockey lovers have been the envy of the league.
And yet, the Predators are just 5-3 this season at home. On the road, Nashville has been unbeatable – literally. The Predators are 6-0 on the road, which will undoubtedly get snapped as soon as this column is published.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that Nashville is once again in the NHL elite. The team has been almost completely untouched across its top lines, paving way for continuity to build.
Subban is a poster boy for the NHL, but he may not be the best player at his position on his own team. Captain Roman Josi and defensive stalwarts Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm more than hold their own in front of Pekka Rinne.
Rinne is the bedrock. The towering goalie is a lock to be the first Predator to have his number hanging in the rafters. He just celebrated his 36th birthday with a two-year extension, ensuring last year’s Vezina Trophy winner will retire a Predator.
As long as Rinne is standing on his head between the pipes, Nashville will be a championship contender. The Predators may not even need him to be on top of his game.
If Filip Forsberg keeps scoring at his current pace, the Predators offense could tip the scales in close games. Forsberg, who has 10 goals, is ascending to a level unheard of by offensive players in Nashville.
All the regular-season success becomes a moot point if Nashville doesn’t win in May, but the Predators currently have the look of a team that can go all the way.