The NHL’s toughest division continues to build more elite teams while the Chicago Blackhawks struggle to regain their footing. Headed into the 2018-19 season, the Blackhawks could be in trouble.
The NHL Central Division
As the regular season creeps closer, this series reaches its close. With only two teams left to dive in to, the top of the NHL Central Division is within striking distance. Circling all the way back to the first post, 17 analysts for NHL.com submitted their picks prior to the 2017-18 season. To sum it up, the results were way off.
The NHL Central Division was no issue for the President’s Trophy winners. Scoring a dominant 117 points, they were among other teams hungry to finish on top. Winnipeg would finish second with 114 points and Minnesota in third with 101.
This coming season will most likely be no different.
Nashville Predators (Blackhawks 2-2 against last season)
Many will claim that there is a curse that accompanies the President’s Trophy. The trophy locks in home-ice advantage for the winner. Hardly a curse and more of a gift, if you ask me.
However, only eight President’s Trophy winners have gone onto win the Stanley Cup that same year. The most recent being the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 against the Boston Bruins. Maybe there is a curse after all.
This season could be a shot at redemption.
Da Windy City
The Nashville Predators have no shortage of offensive talent. The productivity is shown in their numbers from last season. Six of their forwards scored 40-plus points in 2017-18. On top of point production, the centers in Nashville know how to win faceoffs.
The Predators played nine different centers throughout 2017-18. Seven played more than 20 games, and of those seven, four finished the season winning above 50 percent of their faceoffs — Nick Bonino, Ryan Johansen, Colle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons.
Four lines with successful centers slotted throughout is going to make this Predators offense tough to cage.
With names like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and, of course, P.K. Subban, how could this defensive core not be intimidating? Three of these defenders cracked the top-10 point scorers for the Predators last season.
This might be one of the best defensive cores in the NHL Central Division. Possibly the entire league.
Showing no shortage of firepower in the offensive zone, this defense knows exactly how to lock down its own zone. Each of the four mentioned blueliners finished with at least a plus/minus of 18.
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No one is more appreciative of this defensive ability than veteran goaltender Pekka Rinne. The guy continues to get better with age. Since his first start back in 2005-06, Rinne has never fallen below a .900 save percentage.
Last season, Rinne tied for first with eight shutouts and finished third in wins with 42. At the age of 35, Rinne has shown no signs of slowing down. This coming season could be the year he finally raises the Stanley Cup over his head. He certainly has a capable squad in front of him.
Coaching and conclusion
Since taking over behind the Predators bench in 2014-15, Peter Laviolette has reached the playoffs each season. This includes a Stanley Cup appearance in 2016-17. However, Laviolette is no stranger to the Stanley Cup Final, as he won it back in 2005-06 with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Nashville Predators and their fans have a lot to look forward to this coming season. They definitely hold an elite title in the NHL Central Division. Talent on every line, a goaltender with as many skills as he is tall and a determined coach looking to raise the Stanley Cup once again.
The Nashville Predators are a serious threat to the NHL Central Division as well as any other team they faceoff against. They are a potential Stanley Cup champion.
We are almost there. The top of the NHL Central Division in our sights. By now you can draw your own conclusion and figure out who the toughest team will be. Still, no reason we shouldn’t dive in. So stay tuned.