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Nashville Predators

Mid-Season Adversity Prepped Predators For Second Go-Around With Canucks



Photo of Cole Smith, right, by John Russell/Nashville Predators

It’s been 123 days since the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks have played one another.

And in that time, their records (Nashville 29-16-5, Vancouver 28-14-7), offensive output (Nashville 3.29 goals per game, Vancouver 3.18) and defensive proficiency (Nashville 3.02 goals allowed per game, Vancouver 2.86) are nearly undifferentiated.

Though the Canucks swept the regular-season series, these two teams are more evenly matched than they were in any of their three early season meetings. In fact, this series may be the most neck-and-neck matchup of any in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I see ourselves in the Vancouver Canucks in a lot of ways,” Predators GM Barry Trotz told 102.5 The Game. “They play fast, they’ve got a great goaltender, they rely on all four lines to contribute not only on the scoreboard but in the way they play. And one thing they have is they’ve got real strong special teams, and that’s something that makes a difference in the playoffs.”

Since their last meeting on Dec. 10, the Predators and Canucks took divergent paths to the postseason.

Vancouver was a whirlwind right out of the gate, winning 10 of its first 13 games and staying seven games or more above .500 the rest of the season while cruising into the playoffs as the Pacific Division champion.

[READ: 4 Potential X-factors For Predators’ Playoff Matchup vs. Canucks]

Aside from one hot streak from mid-November to mid-December, Nashville labored through the following two months hovering around .500 before it flipped a switch in mid-February and reeled off a franchise-record 18-game point streak that propelled the team to the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

“There was a lot of changes early in the year — new coach, new GM, new system, a lot of new guys — and I think it took some time for everyone to trust a little bit,” Roman Josi said. “I felt like we had some really good games early in the year, it was just too inconsistent. I think just getting that consistency and trust in that system and trusting the way we play. We really found that in the second half.”

Since the All-Star break, the Predators have played like a Stanley Cup front-runner.

They have the fifth-most wins (21), they’ve scored the second-most goals per game (3.71), they have the second-best power play (27.2%) and they’ve averaged the second-most shots on goal per game (34.4).

Over that same span, the Canucks rank 16th, 24th, 24th and 24th, respectively, in those same categories and they played more like a .500 hockey team than at any other point in the season.

To put it in layman’s terms, the Predators have been playing playoff hockey for the last two months while the Canucks have seemingly been on autopilot.

[READ: The Canucks May Be Favored, But Don’t Write The Predators Off]

“We did have a lot of [adversity] early in the season,” Colton Sissons told Nashville Hockey Now. “Our play in general was a little inconsistent. … We had some struggles there before that [point] streak and our game really started to come together, and a couple games in to that we started to feel really confident. I thought our game was in a pretty good place and we started knocking off some really good teams.”

One could argue there’s more pressure on the Canucks in this series.

They haven’t played in front of their home fans in the playoffs in nine seasons, and of the two teams, they have significantly less experience playing in the postseason (477 combined games to Nashville’s 814).

Additionally, Vancouver has just four players who’ve played 40 or more games in the postseason while Nashville has 10, including three former Stanley Cup winners.

The Canucks may be the betting favorites in this matchup, but the odds (Canucks -145, Predators +120) are negligible.

At this point, the Predators are playing with house money. They’ve been the underdog all season, they’re the underdog heading into Game 1, and that’s just fine with them.

“We really have nothing to lose,” head coach Andrew Brunette said. “We weren’t supposed to be here. I think guys are ready to go, chomping at the bit. We haven’t played since Monday, didn’t know who we were playing, been here a couple of days, so I think there’s excitement to…looking for practice to get over and let’s play some hockey.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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