While the Predators have made the playoffs every year since GM Tremblay took over since 2009, they always got beat in the first round. Even though the team improved year over year, from getting sweeped in 2009 to pushing the former Cup champions, the Flames, to a 7 game bout in 2012, the team still had a feeling of being incomplete.
Last summer, GM Tremblay wasn't sure whether the team he had assembled would be successful or not: "Since I took over, I decided to rebuild the team starting from the goalie out. While the plan has been started, it isn't close to being complete yet. Last summer, we were satisfied with the look of the team defensively but we weren't sure the offense would be enough to secure a playoff spot since we didn't have any big star."
However, new coach Michel Therrien successfully implemented a defensive team system approach where everyone contributes on all lines with hard work. That approach was met with success during the training camp and every player bought in the new system.
Over the course of the year, the team played the system perfectly and six forwards finished the year with 18 goals or more, while only one reached 25 goals. The defense stood tall all year long, contributing on both sides of the ice, which helped Varlamov finish with the best GAA and SV% among starters in the league. In the end, the Predators finished with their best season since 2006.
Starting the playoffs against the Kings, third seed in the west, the Predators were both hopeful and apprehensive of what was to come. On one hand they had a great season overall, on the other hand they were a bit tired near the end and yet they were facing former Cup champions.
Despite all the challenges, the Predators stood tall in the first round and continued their hard work to beat the Kings and advance to round 2. While Simmonds had a bit of a disappointing season compared to the hopes of the management, he was all over the ice during this first match-up putting 7 points in the four contests. Justin Faulk continued his good work with a team best +5 and 3 points on defense.
The Predators are looking ahead to round 2, where their opponent still remains unknown. They could end up playing against the Flames, the Blues, the Wild or even the Blue Jackets depending on the remaining series outcome. This second battle will likely prove even more difficult as both Mark Streit and Derick Brassard were injured in the first round. Still, this team has faced many challenges and every time put up a fight, so expect a contested second round regardless of their opponent.