The Central Division has easily been the toughest division in the NHL over the past few seasons. They have sent five teams to the playoffs every year since the alignment, and look to continue that trend this year.
The one thing that really makes this division great though is the rivalries within it. The Nashville Predators have definitely built up quite the rivalry with all the teams in the division. We are here to break them down.
Winnipeg, you’re up!
Record vs. Winnipeg Last Season: 3-1-1
Best Player From The Series Last Year
This was a close one for me. It came down to Craig Smith and Ryan Johansen. In the end though, I pick Johansen. Yes, I know he only played in three games against the Jets (all of them coming after the trade to Nashville), but he was dominant in all of those games.
In the three games he was a part of, Joey finished with a stat line of 3G, 3A, 6P and a plus 3 rating. That is an excellent three game stat line if you ask me. But looking at his Corsi numbers while playing with the Predators, it doesn’t surprise me that he performed so well against the Jets.
Johansen’s Corsi numbers were pretty decent against some quality opponents. Given the fact that Winnipeg ranked ninth in the league last season in Corsi Against, it really shouldn’t shock anyone that Joey put up the numbers he did.
The big question is if Johansen can keep up with that pace this season against Winnipeg. The Jets will be better this year (they can only really go up from here), but will they be able to slow Joey down? One thing is for sure, it will be a lot of fun to watch.
Best Game From Last Year
For me, it has to be the 5-4 overtime loss in Winnipeg, on January 14th. Yes, I realize the Preds lost that game, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that this was easily the best game in the series last season.
Things started out promising for the Predators as Kevin Fiala scored under a minute into the game to give Nashville a very early lead. From there, things start to go downhill, real quick.
Winnipeg would go on to score four goals over the next two periods of the game (two from Dustin Byfuglien, one from Nikolaj Ehlers, and one from Bryan Little). All hope had seemed lost for Nashville. Then a miracle began to brew. Johansen and Eric Nystrom score in the third period to bring the game to a one goal game.
The Predators were swarming the entire third period, and it paid dividends with less than fifteen seconds left to play. None other than Heel James Neal scored the tying goal to send this one into overtime.
Nashville fans everywhere rejoiced as it was believed this game was the Predators’ to lose at that point. Then Blake Wheeler happened. He crushed all the hopes and dreams of an epic comeback by scoring less than a minute into the overtime period. Oh, and yes, I do realize that I am probably bumming some of you out right now. To be honest, I got bummed out writing this. So just know, you’re not alone.
Overall, this game extremely competitive and exciting. Let’s hope for more like this in the 2016-2017 season!
Best Moment From Last Year
I have to go back to the game I listed as the best game from last year. The best moment for me was when Fiala scored (in his first game with the Preds that season) under a minute in to the game. It was also his very first NHL goal as well.
For me, it was the best moment because it was a time when the Predators were struggling to find offense. Fiala showed us a glimpse of the future with that goal. Granted, things did not progress with him as we would have expected after this game, but the future is still bright for Fiala. Not to mention, this was also one of the first few games for Joey with the Preds. So it makes it even that much sweeter. Handsomeness/60 was off the charts for that game.
Bold Prediction For The 2016-2017 Season
My bold prediction for this upcoming season is that the Nashville Predators will sweep, that’s right, sweep the
Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg Jets. Now, I’m not sure how much of a bold prediction this is considering the Jets and the Predators have both improved in the offseason, but in the NHL it’s hard to sweep any team in the regular season.
Regardless of how this series plays out this season, it will be fun to watch it all unfold. This will definitely be an exciting year for both teams, so I’m excited to see how it translates on the ice.