Revenge may not taste as sweet as, say, getting it in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but beating the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night is probably the next best thing for the Nashville Predators.
Nashville certainly hasn’t forgotten about getting crushed 5-1 in Game 7 by the Jets in the second round this past spring. Pekka Rinne hasn’t erased the memory of getting chased inside the first 11 minutes of the first period. They likely haven’t forgotten that Winnipeg beat them three times in their own barn in the series.
Nashville was primed for another run at Lord Stanley and the Jets were coming off their first playoff wins in franchise history. Despite similar records in the regular season (the Predators held a three-point advantage 117 to 114 on the Jets), Nashville was pipped to take the series from their young pretenders in the Central Division.
Of course, history now shows that wasn’t the case. The high-flying Jets proved to be too much for the Predators, with their vaunted defense and Vezina-winning goaltender Rinne, who had a disastrous .848 save percentage in the series.
And so instead of challenging for the Cup, the Predators were sent off on an early summer few saw coming. Despite the Presidents’ Trophy, their season ended in utter failure.
Thursday night in Nashville is a chance to re-assert themselves, a chance to make the first statement on this young season and begin to piece together some redemption.
For Winnipeg, it’s their opportunity to establish a new pecking order in the Central (if that didn’t already happen in May) and show the Predators who the new top dogs are.
For both teams, it’s a good test to see how each other stacks up against, well, each other. If there’s a repeat of last year in the standings (a one-two finish in some fashion), there’s likely going to be that inevitable meeting in the postseason once again.
Both teams enter the game with similar lineups to the one they iced nearly five months ago. Two Vezina-caliber goalies will duke it out. Winnipeg’s mighty offense against Nashville’s envious backend.
They also have identical 2-1-0 records early in 2018-19, adding a little more to the psychological melting pot. More importantly, and forgetting about last season, the game is two points in a Central Division that appears as if it is going to be extremely tight come April.
It’s not a must win in early October, but two points now could hold significant bearing come April nonetheless. And let’s not pretend that there aren’t some bragging rights on the line. These are two very prideful teams. Egos are at stake. Competitiveness oozes.
The Preds won’t be lacking in motivation after getting blanked by the Calgary Flames 3-0 on Tuesday.
The Jets, meanwhile, are riding high after dominating the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener that same night.
Both teams are healthy.