At last, we have hockey! The Predators have beaten the New York Rangers by a score of three to two and although it wasn’t pretty, a win is a win! It’s only the first game, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but the Predators looked like a very skilled team. It almost worries me because teams that can out-skill their problems in the regular season don’t usually do well once they meet an equally skilled team in a seven-game series. Nevertheless, the Predators won and I’m done being rational (till the second thought!
1. Classic First Game Overreaction
Positive: Holy smokes does Craig Smith look like a man on a mission. I could easily see him produce career-best numbers if he plays every game as he did on Thursday! Smith produced a team-best four high danger chances and four shots. Quite frankly, the Rangers were lucky Smith had to come off the ice for a minute at a time, or they would’ve been hemmed in their own zone for the entire game.
Negative: New year, same terrible defensive zone structure for the Predators. The defense surrendered 14 high danger chances at five on five and looked like chickens with their head cut off in the defensive zone. Let’s hope that changes.
2. Hockey In The Emerald City
Gary Bettman confirmed hockey will be in Seattle by the 2021-22 season, if not a year earlier. I firmly believe that they won’t expand till 2021 though, seeing as the year before will likely be a lockout. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) ends in 2020, and if you want to see how the NHL handles those, I suggest you try to remember 2012 and 2005.
Nevertheless, hockey will finally return to the original Stanley Cup winner, Seattle. I have no idea what their team name will be, but I’d be pretty happy with the Kraken or Sasquatch.
3. Forsberg to SKA?
SKA Moscow of the KHL has acquired the rights to Filip Forsberg! What could this mean? Is Forsberg on his way out of Nashville? Does he hate America?!?
No, although I guess I really have no idea how Forsberg feels about the United States. That’s beside the point, this is a smart move by SKA in preparation for the 2020-21 lockout. When Forsberg goes back overseas to play, SKA will have his KHL rights. Granted, he could go to the Swedish league or maybe somewhere else, but it’s not far fetched to think he could play in Russia.
All in all, there’s nothing to worry about, this happens with every player. We quickly forget, but Connor McDavid ended up going 77th overall in the KHL import draft. Just because rights are obtained in another league doesn’t mean that a player will bolt from North America. Players around the world grow up dreaming about playing in the NHL, not some other league.
4. The Book Gets Thrown
Tom Wilson has officially been suspended for 20 games, and the reactions are polarizing. We have one group who believes that Oskar Sundqvist should’ve kept his head up and that it was a simple hockey play. The other group saw a predatory hit that was late and unnecessary.
I won’t present my opinion, but a stone cold fact is that the NHL threw the book at Wilson. He’s made a name for himself as a power forward who crosses the line multiple times per season and, because of it, gets suspended often. This will be his fifth suspension and his longest by far. The next one, and there will likely be a next one unless something drastically changes, could reach as high as 50 games.
5. Breakout Star
I’ll come clean, I’m really high on Kevin Fiala. His numbers last season were incredible and yet he “only” scored 48 points. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him produce 60 or more points as well as lead the Predators in goal scored. Just from last season at five on five, Fiala was in the top 100 of the NHL in terms of goals per 60, shots per 60, and high danger chances per 60.
We’ll see what happens, but I think swapping him and Forsberg might be better for both lines. Fiala wouldn’t have to drive possession and scoring by himself, while Forsberg could lean even heavier into a playmakers role by supporting Craig Smith. I don’t believe we’ll see Peter Laviolette break up the JoFA line, but who knows what could happen if the second line continues on the cold streak they started in the post-season.