by Jack Belanger ’21
There was a buzz like no other down in Tennessee last year when the eighth-seeded Predators made a memorable run all the way to game six in the Finals. While the team was not flashy on paper, “Smashville” was led by a strong, physical core on defense and spectacular goal-tending from Pekka Rinne.
With the majority of the team’s core returning plus some new additions, the Preds will be hungry to get back to the finals.
While Nashville’s defense gets most of the glory, their top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson is as good of a first-line as you can find. With all three in their prime, you can expect around 55+ points from each.
To counteract the loss of Mike Fisher, the Predators signed Nick Bonino from Pittsburgh to give the team a veteran presence on the second line. They will be relying on young players like Colton Sissons and Pontus Aberg to continue their strong postseason play to give the team scoring options on the second and third lines.
Nashville’s defense will be the reason they win the title this year. While offensive-minded Ryan Ellis is out for six months, P.K. Subban and Roman Josi will anchor the defense.
Once Ellis comes back, the defense could look better than last year as the team added a physical player in Alexei Emelin, who will be strong fifth defender. Rinne proved he was an elite goaltender last year in the playoffs and will have a strong year as he has showed no signs of slowing down.
While teams like the Oilers, Blackhawks, and Ducks have stronger forward lines than Nashville, nobody can match-up with their defense. Their offense will be able to produce winning numbers while Rinne will make sure they have a chance to win every game.
If the Predators play to the potential we all saw last year, look for Smashville to be raising the Stanley Cup come June.