It was only a matter of time but, on Friday night, the Nashville Predators clinched a berth into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Washington Capitals beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 in the nation’s capital therefore making it mathematically impossible for the Avs to catch the Preds in the Western Conference standings. As a result, Nashville punched their ninth ticket to the playoffs in franchise history.
Peter Laviolette has now guided the Predators to a playoff appearance in each of his two seasons at the helm.
With four games remaining, Nashville can max out at 99 points putting them no higher than third in the Central Division. Overwhelming odds have them finishing where they currently sit, with the “Wild Card 1” spot. According to SportsClubStats.com, their most likely opponent is the Los Angeles Kings (67.9 percent) but the Anaheim Ducks (21.1%) are also a good possibility. Essentially, whoever wins the Pacific will head to lower Broadway for at least games three and four of the opening round series. It is still possible for Nashville to finish third in the division and play either the St. Louis Blues or Dallas Stars (whoever doesn’t win the Central) but that would take a 4-0-0 finish by the Predators and no better than a 0-3-1 finish by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Nashville has four games left on their regular season schedule. They’ll host San Jose tonight, Colorado on Tuesday and Arizona on Thursday before heading to Dallas for the finale on Saturday.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to start Wednesday, April 13 but it is unclear when Nashville’s series will start. A lot will depend on the opponent and that may not be settled until late next week.
Since February 12, the Predators have been on fire, going 14-5-5, thrusting themselves into a virtual lock for the playoffs. The Colorado loss to Washington on Friday night just made it official.
Nashville is 1-0-2 this season against the Kings. They’re also 2-1-0 against the Ducks but haven’t played them since November 17, well before they found their groove and started challenging for the top spot in the Pacific.
LA would be a brand new playoff opponent for the Preds.