Stanley Cup Playoff Guide for Predators Fans
It feels weird to not watch #Smashville in the NHL playoffs, so we've got a playoff rooting guide for you because hockey fan season is still going strong!
Nashville fans may be a little disappointed this offseason - the Predators have missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-2014 season. It can be a little tough to see end-of-season interviews and "season in review" articles this early in the year, but it's not like the Predators don't have a lot of good things going for them as an organization. However, that's an article for a different time.
How should YOU, as a Nashville fan, choose your team for the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs? That's not an easy question to answer - there are often as many reasons to hate a team as there are to love a team. Here's some ideas:
Colorado Avalanche - Are you rooting for the Avs to repeat as Cup champs? We've seen monster seasons from Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar (again), and even though they've fought the injury bug, the Avalanche are the top team in the Central and look to charge past the Kraken in Round 1. Team Sammy Girard?
Dallas Stars - I find it really hard to cheer for the Stars, and that's largely because their goal song annoys the living hell out of me. On the other hand, they boast incredible underrated talents like Miro Heiskanen, Jason Robertson, and Jake Oettinger. The Stars are my vote to get into Round 2, and I think they could be a "no one is talking about these guys" team that plows their way into the Conference Final. They have a little bit of "Old Guy Without a Cup" points with Joe Pavelski and Jamie Benn and...ugh...Ryan Suter.
Minnesota Wild - You can't help but support Freddy Gaudreau.
Edmonton Oilers - The Oilers are probably the second-best team in the west. They have absolute studs in their lineup, and Mattias Ekholm is wearing copper and blue this spring. Will you support #14?
Vegas Golden Knights - I still find it really hard to support the Golden Knights since they're so new, but there's no real logic behind my feelings. Jack Eichel will more tastes of the playoffs, and Logan Thompson will show his chops in net. Phil Kessel has played approximately 394 playoff games, but he's an afterthought on the powerhouse Knights.
LA Kings - Can you still find it in your heart to support Viktor Arvidsson? I can. It'll be weird seeing the youth-veteran combination in LA compete for a Cup once more, especially after they traded off Cup-winning goalie Jonathan Quick. You can't forget about Kevin Fiala, either. The Kings have a rematch series with Edmonton in the first round, so I'm a little bullish on their potential.
Winnipeg Jets - The only player I can support on the Jets is Nino Neiderreiter.
Seattle Kraken - Wouldn't it be like rubbing salt in a wound if Eeli Tolvanen led his team through a playoff series as a lethal sniper? The Kraken are fun, unpredictable, and surprisingly solid. If there's any team in the west than can upset the Avalanche, I think it's the Kraken.
Boston Bruins - I really don't know that there's a better team in the NHL right now. They have stellar goaltending, reliable defense, and outstanding offense. The only question is whether they'll get too relaxed and be surprised by the Panthers in the first round.
Toronto Maple Leafs - Should I go counterculture and actually cheer for the Leafs to make it out of the first round? Will they? It's more fun to support the team they're facing off against (the Lightning) and then watch the meltdown in Toronto. Mitch Marner is incredibly fun to watch, and Ryan O'Reilly should be back for the playoffs. Will Auston Matthews lead the way? Will the goaltending be enough?
Carolina Hurricanes - The Canes are like the Stars. They don't get enough attention and are perenially a solid team. Brent Burns in the playoffs, too. He's a beast.
New York Rangers - I cannot bear for Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Jimmy Vesey to win a Cup. I just can't.
New Jersey Devils - These kids are FUN. The Hughes Bros. should lead the way through the first round and match up nicely against the Hurricanes in Round 2. I look forward to seeing what former Pred Erik Haula can do for the Devils.
New York Islanders - The Islanders, like Nashville, remain relevant because of excellent goaltending. They're quietly very dangerous, but I don't know that they will win 4 against the Hurricanes. How many people obsess over Brock Nelson? Here's a reason to support them: Ilya Sorokin. Goaltending will be a big reason to keep an eye on their series.
Tampa Bay Lightning - The Lightning are going for their third cup in four seasons. That's crazy, right? Hopefully trade acquisition Tanner Jeannot is healed up and ready for the postseason push in Tampa. I'd love to see him laying hits through 2-3 rounds.
Florida Panthers - The Panthers are my "least likely to make a splash" team in the East. They're underwhelming and not very exciting...even though they have Matthew Tkachuk, I'm not really able to dig up many reasons to cheer for the Panthers.
Tell me, Preds fans. Who are you supporting? Who's going to flop in the first round?