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Are the Predators the new Islanders? They're a feisty bunch

January 12, 2022, 7:22 PM ET [1 Comments]
Kevin Allen
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Have the New York Islanders and Nashville Predators switched places? Seriously, are the Predators the new Islanders?

The Islanders were considered contenders coming into this season because we watched them be an impressive playoff team for a couple of years.

Exceptional coaching. Tight defense. Elite goaltending. Difficult to play against. Timely scoring. That was the Islanders.

Meanwhile, the Predators did make the playoffs last season as the fourth-place team in the Central. But coming into the season they looked like they might take a step back. They didn’t look like they were going anywhere this season.

But as the season approaches the halfway point, the Predators are the team that looks like a team going places and the last-place Islanders look like they are going nowhere.

Nashville is the team with exceptional coaching, stingy defense, splendid goaltending and they are definitely challenging to play against.

Their 5-4 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche seemed like proof that the Predators can run with the big dogs. The Predators and Avalanche are both 8-1-1 in their last 10. The Predators, however, have won five in a row.

Just like coach Barry Trotz played a big role in helping the Islanders play at a higher level last season, coach John Hynes has persuaded his players to buy into his relentless defensive system.

That includes Matt Duchene who might be the symbol of the Predators transformation.

Duchene scored 19 goals in his first 100 games after signing a lucrative contract with the Predators. This season, he has netted 16 goals in 33 games. He is playing like the player the Predators thought they acquired when they agreed to give him $8 million per season through 2025-26.

But the real story in Nashville is goalie Juuse Saros who took over the No. 1 job from the now-retired Pekka Rinne.

Saros has won 10 of his last 11 starts. Over his past five wins, he has never made fewer than 37 saves or had a save percentage worse than .909. In his past 66 starts over two seasons, he has 41 wins and a .928 save percentage.

He should be a Vezina candidate and Hynes should be a Jack Adams candidate. And while we are at it, let’s nominate Tanner Jeannot as a Calder candidate. His 12 goals are two more than Detroit sensation Lucas Raymond has scored. Plus, Jeannot is sixth in the NHL with 115 hits.

Jeannot is a primary reason why this team is difficult to play against, plus the fact that they give you little space to run your offense. They are all over you, much like the Islanders were last season.

The Predators have plenty of other reasons why they are playing well, including, but not limited to, Roman Josi having another Norris-caliber season and Alexandre Carrier playing like the new Ryan Ellis.

Speaking of the Islanders, they are 5-2-3 in their last 10. But covid, injuries, an ugly long road trip dug them a hole that they probably get out of. Filip Forsberg. Luke Kunin. Yakov Trenin. They have plenty of players contributing.

For a while, we thought it was just a slump. But after a while, your record does become who you are. That’s a bad thing for the Islanders.

For a while, we thought the Predators were just a hot team. But this may be who they really are. And for them, it’s a good thing.
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