Predators Can Win the Stanley Cup, but are They a Good Bet?
They said the window was pretty much closed for the Washington Capitals after several great-regular-seasons-turned-playoff-disappointment-type years. Then, when it seemed like nobody was looking, they snuck in and won their first Stanley Cup in 2018. The same can be said of the St. Louis Blues of 2019.
It is the fervent wish of every Nashville Predators fan that they can join the "You shouldn't have counted us out" Club of Last Laughs. A lot of pundits thought the Predators should have won a Cup in one of the past 3-5 years, though, and they now believe the window is closing fast.
Count me as one of them. I think the 2019-20 Nashville Predators are a team bettors should be wary of. They seem overpriced, to me, at +350 at 888Sport to win the Central Division. That currently ranks them second in the division most consider to be the toughest in the league.
Nashville is +1600 to win the Stanley Cup. On the question of "to make the playoffs or not", it is -286, and the Preds are -106 to collect over 98.5 points during the regular season. They are more of a favorite (-118), however, to get under 98.5 points.
Worries Start in Goal
Pekka Rinne will be 37 in November. He had another good regular season in 2018-19, posting a .918 saves percentage and 2.42 goals-against average. Good, solid numbers.
But, for the second year in a row, Rinne's GAA blew up in the postseason, this time to 3.09. The saves percentage got smaller, too (.905). Not without coincidence, the Predators were upset in the first round of the playoffs by the wild card Dallas Stars.
His career playoff record is 45-44, and 9-10 the last two years. There is one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on his resume, in 2017, so he's still not far removed from probably the best year of his career. But in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, Rinne's career numbers have been trending downward for a couple years now.
Backup Juuse Saros has looked very good at times, but Rinne appears to still be the No. 1 in Nashville.
Duchene a Strong Addition, But…
The biggest off-season addition for the Predators was center Matt Duchene, who signed a seven-year, $56 million free-agent contract.
No doubt about it, he'll add a lot of skill as a top-six center. He had a strong contract year with Ottawa and Columbus, so the question becomes: Can he be the leader of this team, the missing piece?
He's played on few winning teams in his career since going to Colorado in 2009. It hasn't been all his fault, of course, but Duchene still has some proving to do to doubters who wonder if he's a real winner or not.
Preds Could Still be a Strong Bet if…
If Kyle Turris could become Kyle Turris again. Acquired from Ottawa in 2017, Turris has been a total bust since, slumping to just seven goals and 23 points in 55 games last season.
If coach Peter Laviolette's words haven't gone stale. It's happened before in his career, where he leads teams to either a Cup or a Cup Final, only to see his teams fade not long afterward. Two straight playoffs in which the Preds failed to advance beyond the second round puts more pressure on him, but his win-loss record (618-410-25-116) speaks for itself.
It would also help if 2017 first-round pick Eeli Tolvanen can make the team and add more scoring depth to a team that has some good sticks already in guys like Duchene, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen.
Bottom line: If the Predators can stay hungry, even after some recent playoff disappointment, they have enough to be one of those teams that laughed last in the end at the skeptics.