After the shortest summer in Nashville Predators history, the handsomest hockey team in the world is finally ready to begin writing the next chapter in their history.
Though we would all love to re-read the last chapter a few more times, the past is behind us. Yes, we will see a banner raised in Bridgestone next Tuesday, but it does not do to dwell on the past. We must forge on! To the future!
The new season brings a host of questions, plot-lines, and potential hangups for the Predators. We’ve tackled a lot of these over the last few weeks, with our position previews, our big questions, and our preseason predictions.
Time for the first game preview of the new season.
The Boston Bruins
The Bruins had a lazy summer.
They didn’t acquire much by way of free agency—defenseman Paul Postma was their only real signing on July 1st—and they spent an awfully long time signing their major restricted free agent target, David Pastrnak.
Pastrnak finished 18th in the league in scoring with 70 points last year, including 34 goals. The combination of Pastrnak with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand formed the deadliest line in hockey last year.
When looking at expected goals—a shot quality measurement that you should go learn about over here—Boston’s top line was far and away the most consistent and effective scoring unit. Those three put up 94 goals in the regular season, mostly by combining a heavy forecheck from Pastrnak with creative playmaking from Bergeron, and an elite scoring touch from Marchand.
So it was a bit odd that, with virtually no free agents in the bag for Bruce Cassidy, Bruins management was so willing to play hardball with Pastrnak’s agent. The longer the summer went, the most confused things became, even leading to trade rumors in mid-August. It all ended, of course, when Pastrnak signed a six-year, $40 million deal about a month later.
Most of this Bruins team remains the same from last year. They still have David Backes, David Krejci, Matt Beleskey, and Ryan Spooner (who re-signed over the summer). They are apparently banking on big improvements from guys like Frank Vatrano and Noel Acciari, who are hardly household names. They lost defenseman Colin Miller to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Bruins do have one of the top contenders for the Calder Trophy this season, defenseman Charlie McAvoy. He is expected to be a huge contributor to the top four of the Bruins’ blueline, which features Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug (out with an injury until mid-October), and Brandon Carlo. I’m not sure that McAvoy will have the same type of season that Aaron Ekblad did when he won the Calder, but he will certainly have the opportunity.
In goal, Tuukka Rask will be starting his 9th season as the Bruins starting goaltender. Though his overall save percentage has been on the decline since 2014, Rask is still an above-average goalie that can win games for the Bruins.
The Nashville Predators
By now, we’ve all seen the roster the Predators have assembled. We know about the subtractions (James Neal, Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher), the additions (Nick Bonino, Scott Hartnell) and the much anticipated returns from injury (Ryan Johansen, Kevin Fiala). We all have a pretty good idea of what the opening night lineup is going to look like, save a few of the details.
But Robby Stanley makes a good point:
(This is the time where I would like to point out that the opening night roster is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of a season).— Robby Stanley (@RStanleyNHL) October 3, 2017
While it does merit discussion this week and today, the opening night lineup is rarely the same exact lineup that you’ll see at the end of the year. Or even that same lineup that regularly contributes throughout the year.
Here are a few names that were on previous opening night rosters for the Predators that, well, didn’t have much to do with anything that year:
2016: Mike Ribeiro, Matt Carle
2015: Gabriel Bourque, Cody Hodgson
2014: Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy
Could anyone on this roster turn out to be the next Hodgson? The next Roy? Carle? Probably not. But nothing is guaranteed.
The key for this team early on in the season will be developing some chemistry with the new guys, generating effective pressure in the opponents’ zone, and limiting the work for Pekka Rinne.
If the Preds do that we should see some wins.
Reasons to Watch
- FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON, BUB
- I said this on the last podcast: I am stoked to watch Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala get back out there. They’ve had a long wait. It’s time to see that magic we saw in mid-April.
- If Sam Girard plays, you will want to watch Sam Girard skate. It’s beautiful.
- This will be the first chance for the Predators to put the last game they played out of their heads. For the fans, none of us like the way it ended and we’ve had to wait almost four months for a chance to move past it. The new season gives us (and everyone else) a chance at starting fresh. Embrace it.
So I don’t know what ails the poor man in this video—stress, substance abuse, lack of purpose—but I do know that seeing talking sandwiches is probably a sign that you need more hockey in your life.
“Let It Happen” is the audacious opening to Tame Impala’s Currents, one of my top 10 favorite albums. While it’s not my favorite song on the album (“The Moment”), this line speaks to me:
all this running around
bearing down on my shoulders
I can hear an alarm
must be morning
The Important Details
Puck drop (YESSSSSS) is at 6:00 p.m. on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game.