Predators top Capitals, win first ever Presidents’ Trophy

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After reaching the Stanley Cup Final a year ago the Nashville Predators have come back in 2017-18 and will finish the regular season as the NHL’s top team.

The Predators officially clinched their first ever Presidents’ Trophy on Thursday night thanks to their 5-4 win over the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins’ loss to the Florida Panthers.

That also means the Predators will be the top seed in the Western Conference and will have home-ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs.

The Predators were able to win on Thursday night thanks to a Ryan Johansen goal with just under six minutes remaining in the third period. They needed a third-period rally after Jusse Saros gave up a tough goal to Evgeny Kuznetsov early in the period to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead. But a Roman Josi power play goal at the 8:19 mark of the period brought things even again, setting the stage for Johansen’s goal to secure the win.

Craig Smith also scored a pair of goals in the win for the Predators.

Obviously the Presidents’ Trophy isn’t the trophy teams are playing for, but anytime you can bring home hardware of any kind it is a big moment for a team, and there is an awful lot to be said for being the best team in the league at the end of the regular season.

Looking at the Predators on paper and on the ice and it is difficult to find a weakness anywhere on the roster. Center depth was a big problem for them in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago when Johansen and Mike Fisher were injured. The Predators addressed that by signing Nick Bonino in free agency, trading for Kyle Turris, then bringing Fisher back out of retirement. They added to the rest of their forward depth by signing Scott Hartnell in free agency, trading for Ryan Hartman, and then bringing Eeli Tolvanen over from the KHL a couple of weeks ago.

They still have the best defense in the NHL and their goalie, Pekka Rinne, might be the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy thanks to what has been a career year in the crease.

They are almost certainly going to enter the playoffs as the  favorites to win the Stanley Cup.

The NHL has been giving out the Presidents’ Trophy since the 1985-86 season. The winner has gone on to win the Stanley Cup eight times. Three other times the winner has at least reached the Stanley Cup Final. The last team to win both in the same season was the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. Before them you have to go back to the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.