by Jackson Walsh
The Nashville Predators come in to a new season still riding high off a President’s Trophy winning season. Sadly, they are simultaneously trying to get the sour taste of a Western Conference Semifinals series loss to Central Division rival Winnipeg Jets. Nevertheless, the Nashville Predators are sharpening the skates and hitting the ice for another thrilling season in Smashville. They will do so starting off in New York, New York itself (if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere, right?) hosted by the New York Rangers on October 4, 2018 at Madison Square Garden then head across town to face the Islanders at Barclays Center on October 6.
Not much on paper has changed for the Predators, signing big contracts and still having the same core group of guys. The retirement of Scott Hartnell and suspension of Austin Watson will be a bit different. While the Hartnell retirement will be relatively easy to overcome, the jury is still out on how Watson’s absence will affect the physical play of the Preds. One upside is that the two combined for 205 penalty minutes last season, which did nothing to help the Predators’ league-leading time in the sin bin.
The Predators looks to repeat as a playoff team and possibly again a cup contender as they start out their campaign against two big name hockey clubs with small and somewhat confusing game plans for the upcoming season of play.
Their first opponent, the Rangers, come in as a new look hockey team under first-year head coach David Quinn. The Thursday night opener will be his first NHL game he has ever been the head coach, though, while a long time college coach, he has spent a year on the Colorado Avalanche staff, and he will attempt to revive the Blueshirts from being the Metro Division cellar dweller they were last season. Rotating five alternate captains between home and road games, and a team that failed to produce much offensive production last season (only scoring 231 goals), this looks to be a rebuilding season for the Rangers. Coach Quinn said that the Thursday night game will tell where they are, so we’ll see how Nashville can start out, hopefully not by giving the team a boost of confidence. The Preds split the season series with the Rangers last year, losing on October 21, 2017 4-2 at Madison Square Garden and later defeating them 5-2 at Bridgestone Arena on February 3, 2018.
Then come the Islanders, who recently hired reigning Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz as their head coach this offseason. Trotz will always hold a place in our hearts, and will continue to improve an Isles team hungry to turn decades of mostly moribund, clumsy hockey back into championship prowess. Unlike their bitter Manhattan rival, they scored a lot of goals last season. 264, which put them at 8th in the league, though the loss of John Tavares will certainly hurt those numbers, but they were also dead last in letting in goals as well at 296. The Islanders decidedly thrashed our Predators on October 28, 2017 6-2 at Bridgestone Arena before the Preds got revenge in Brooklyn in a 5-4 Overtime victory. So it can be said that you never know what to expect from the Islanders. And 2018-19 proves to be more of the same.
On the road against two middling, mediocre teams striving to get back in the spotlight might be the ideal start for our boys before opening in Smashville against the Flames next Tuesday, but the goal is not to overlook either one of these teams and play our best aggressive hockey.
Man, it’s great to be back.