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Nashville Predators

Predators Mailbag: Future All-Stars In The Pipeline, Best Round 1 Opponent?



Photo of Joakim Kemell courtesy of the Milwaukee Admirals

The Nashville Predators have six regular-season games left before they find out their postseason fate.

Occupying the first-wild card spot, the Predators have a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs according to Money Puck, and which team would make the best first-round opponent was one of the top questions in this week’s Nashville Hockey Now mailbag:

Question: Who would be the best Round 1 matchup for the Preds — the Stars, Avalanche, or Canucks? (@QuasimodosPants)

MG: I’ve said this several times before: you want to avoid the Canucks at all costs. Nashville lost all three games to Vancouver during the regular season and was outscored 13-6. Juuse Saros lost both of his starts against them and posted an .833 save percentage and 4.80 goals-against average. Between Dallas and Colorado I think the more favorable matchup is the Avalanche. The Predators won two of their three meetings with them this season, and the offense averaged 4.3 goals per game against them. I also think Alexandar Georgiev is a much more beatable goaltender in a playoff series than Jake Oettinger is.

Question: Given the schedule and likely playoff opponents, Preds may have almost a week off before Game 1 if they get in. Advantage or disadvantage? (@BraddPro)

MG: The Predators aren’t battling any major injuries, and they’ve shown down the stretch that when they get hot, they’re hard to beat. I know they had a three-game losing streak over the last week, but that doesn’t nullify their 18-game point streak. Andrew Brunette finally has this team playing up to the standard he expects, and if they’re in a groove, I think an extended break does more harm than good (we saw how flat they were in their first few games after the All-Star break). Nashville’s record is 13-11-1 when its gone more than two days between games, which isn’t terrible but not ideal either.

Question: In your opinion, why have the Preds enjoyed better success on the road instead of home? (@MrEd315)

MG: I believe it was a combination of a few things. First, it took the Predators a good 54 games to finally gel as a team and look comfortable in Brunette’s system, and once the home losses started piling up, it became a huge talking point. Even GM Barry Trotz pointed out the team’s poor home performances and called them out publicly for it. When you’re constantly being reminded of how bad you play in front of your home fans, I’m sure it doesn’t help alleviate any of the immense pressure they were carrying on their shoulders.

Question: Will Jeremy Lauzon beat the hits record? (@Rockets160)

MG: I think he’s got a pretty good shot at it. He needs to average 5.3 hits per game over the final seven games to do it (he’s averaged 4.8 hits per game this season), which is absolutely doable for him, especially because there’s money for charity on the line and he likely knows exactly how many hits he needs on a game-by-game basis.

Question: Do the Predators have a (non-goalie) prospect that you believe has a real chance to be an NHL All-Star one day? (@jlomas72)

MG: In my opinion they have two — Joakim Kemell and Tanner Molendyk. Kemell has all the makings of a 30- to 40-goal scorer in the NHL with a truly elite offensive skillset. His shot is NHL ready right now, but he still needs a little more seasoning in Milwaukee before he’s ready to make the jump permanently. I think Molendyk is a stud and he has all the raw tools to be a future Norris Trophy contender. He’s got speed, he can score, his puck-handling is top-tier, he has terrific edge work, he can be effective on the rush and really make a play happen in transition. Molendyk reminds me a little bit of Ryan Ellis but with much higher upside as both a scorer and as an overall defender.

Question: Who gets the call up to be a black ace and who gets left in Milwaukee to make a Calder cup run? (@OrangeRob29)

MG: Because the Admirals will likely be playing in the postseason longer than the Predators, I don’t know if you’ll see any of them up as Black Aces. But the list of players who could benefit from being a Black Ace includes Kemell, Egor Afanasyev, Fedor Svechkov, Zachary L’Heureux, Marc Del Gaizo, Ryan Ufko and Jeremy Hanzel.

Question: Where is the alumni puck wall? (@Harrison1939)

MG: South end of the Gary Force Acura level.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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