Going into the last five games of the regular season, I’ve identified five pressing questions for the Nashville Predators:
- What will Filip Forsberg’s goal total be at the end of the regular season?
- Will Roman Josi score 100 points?
- Will secondary scorers step up?
- Does Juuse Saros get a break?
- How will Nashville fare in the first round (assuming they make, which they’re very likely though not guaranteed to do at this point)?
Let’s dive in.
Filip Forsberg Scores 40 Goals
Filip Forsberg has 39 goals (and 37 assists) and would be Nashville’s second 40-goal scorer behind Matt Duchene. Duchene broke the franchise goal-scoring record on Tuesday night, and Forsberg is reasonably within distance.
Here’s my prediction: Forsberg hits 43 goals.
Forsberg’s monster of a season and lingering contract questions make Nashville fans a little apprehensive, though. Will #9 get re-signed by Nashville? It’d be hard to imagine Forsberg in another jersey. Forsberg signing with another team over the summer as a UFA would be the end of David Poile’s career.
Roman Josi 100-Point Watch
Will Josi somehow collect 11 points in the next five games to break 100 points? It’s possible. Multi-point nights from the captain could result in a 100-point season...but against stiff competition like Tampa Bay and Calgary, Nashville will be fighting for every inch of ice.
It’s in game situations like these where we see Josi elevate his game, though. The captain tends to throw the team on his back and “YOLO” his way to goals or assists, seemingly out of thin air.
A final thought: Roman Josi is certainly going to win this season’s Norris Trophy. I mean, dang:
The Stanley Cup is won by teams who get scoring from big-name players as well as secondary scorers. Tampa Bay won two Cups with scoring from guys like Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point.
Cody Glass, Colton Sissons, and Luke Kunin are players who have shown us flashes in the past. Guys like these step up when the stakes are high—who remembers a young hotrod named Viktor Arvidsson in 2017?
You can’t minimize the efforts made by guys like Granlund and Sissons, though. Check this out:
Colton Sissons on the roster card tonight. Sissons is having the best year of his career as far as assists go and only needs 4 more points to set a new career high. He also leads the team in % of faceoffs won. Underrated and integral part of the #Preds this season. pic.twitter.com/Ni7t7zBKoP— Shaun C Smith (@SCSOTF) April 19, 2022
While Mikael Granlund is an assist machine, guys like Tanner Jeannot, Phil Tomasino, and Yakov Trenin have largely been adding secondary scoring for the Preds. Aside from Josi, no defender has scored more than five goals. The focus in the playoffs is sometimes placed on hitting or being hard to play against, but teams can’t win games without putting pucks in nets. Depth scoring must be a point of emphasis in practices and team meetings over the next few weeks.
Rest for Saros
There’s not really a lot to say here that hasn’t already been explored by other writers. However, Saros has started the bulk of this season’s games and one can’t help but wonder whether he’s struggling. It’s good that there are about four days off between Tuesday night’s shootout win and Saturday’s tilt against the Lightning.
It’s not that Saros hasn’t looked good...it’s just that Nashville is famous for riding a strong (or hot) goalie to the playoffs and then watching that goalie struggle for a variety of reasons.
David Rittich hasn’t been great, but I’d like to se him start at least one of the remaining five games, maybe even two. That’s largely dependent on whether Nashville has their wild-card seeding locked up or whether they need to fight off the Dallas Stars or Vegas Golden Knights or even the Vancouver Canucks.
Or...maybe we’re all wrong and perhaps Saros would rather see more pucks in game settings than sit on the bench in a baseball cap. We don’t know what Saros is communicating to the coaching staff, but it’s very clear that goaltending will make or break the Predators in the 2022 playoffs.
It’s fairly likely (about 59% based on the Preds Playoff Primer) that Nashville will face the Flames in the first round (1st in Pacific Division vs. 1st Western Conference Wild Card). Nashville has come away the victors in two games against Calgary this season, although both games required extra time/a shootout to determine the victor. If anything, the Predators are able to hang with the Flames, but the Flames, when rested, certainly have an advantage with guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm putting up 90-100–point seasons. We’ll have another look at Calgary next week.
The Predators could also square up against the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche would be a formidable first-round series. The Avs haven’t had great luck in the playoffs, failing to get past the second round in 2021 and 2020. They’re dangerous, talented, and chock-full of depth.