If the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a battle of attrition, then the Nashville Predators are the side that always makes sure everyone has rations and a good place to sleep.
OK, that’s an esoteric way of saying that the Predators have managed to get rest while other teams work deep into playoff series. Consider the gaps that Nashville has seen during this postseason:
April 20: Nashville sweeps the Blackhawks with 4-1 win
April 26: Preds beat the Blues in Game 1 4-3. The Blues eliminated the Wild on April 22.
May 7: Predators eliminated the Blues with a 3-1 verdict in a Game 6.
May 12: They managed a 3-2 overtime win against the Ducks. Anaheim finished off the Oilers on May 10, generating such a quick turnaround that Randy Carlyle couldn’t resist grumbling about it after the series concluded.
May 22: Predators bounce the Ducks with a 6-3 win in Game 6.
May 29: They’ll face either the Penguins or Senators in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Eastern Conference Final will end tomorrow (May 25).
People often debate about “rest vs. rust,” but those discussions sometimes gloss over the invisible benefits of merely not playing a game. If the Predators played a Game 7 against the Ducks, they may have suffered another injury. Not sweeping the Blackhawks could have made for a very different series.
Setting the table while others miss opportunities
In no way is this a dismissal of the Predators’ accomplishments. Instead, it’s praise for their mascot-appropriate “killer instinct.”
The Penguins, for instance, needed three tries to eliminate the Washington Capitals and now must face another Game 7 against a pesky Senators team. If Ottawa advances, they will have three more playoff contests under their belt, a highly relevant consideration when you consider how taxing this run has been for Erik Karlsson.
Now, the Predators won’t begin the Stanley Cup Final 100 percent. Ryan Johansen won’t magically get to play just because they get a week of rest rather than a few days.
Still, the Predators’ legs will be as fresh as they can be, which is a rare luxury for games played into June.
They’ve earned these breaks by eliminating teams in unflinching ways and by winning road games in tough situations. If they win it all, that reduced fatigue has to at least be considered one of the advantages that they leveraged to victory.