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Delayed-Action Predation

Preds fans had to wait until overtime to see their team take Game 1 on Friday night. No problem, really–they should be used to the waiting by now.

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Good times keep coming for the Nashville Predators; maybe another team can learn something from them?

Not only did Nashville wait until OT against the Ducks, and the playoffs in general, to turn it on and start taking it out on other teams, but they’ve been running a slow burn towards success for years now. Though they may be a surprise team this postseason, you can’t say you didn’t see them coming, because The DFR made note of their development a couple of years ago–back when the idea of the Predators in the Conference Final seemed a tad premature.

I noted back in February of 2015 that Nashville somehow had snuck up on everyone and taken over the points lead in the league. The Predators had been a good team–but hardly a serious contender–for several years leading up to that point. That’s why that post sounded a note of caution despite the success Nashville was having in the moment. They had not proved anything at that point; they had simply shown some regular season success, and seemed primed to come back to the middle of the muddle in short order.

And they did. The Preds finished second in the Central Division in ’15, behind the St. Louis Blues rather than the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks, who were two points behind Nashville. All three teams exceeded 100 points for the season, so perhaps it’s splitting hairs to say the Predators fell back in the standings. What’s nice and thick, no splitting required, is the fact that the Blackhawks dispatched the upstart Predators in the first round on their way to the Stanley Cup immediately after the Preds’ apparent breakthrough regular season.

And here is Nashville, having turned the tables on Chicago–with a sweep no less–and now they’re up 1-0 after having taken Game 1 on Anaheim’s home ice. Good work if you can get it.

What interests me here is this: was the success the Predators are having now heralded by that brief fling at the top of the standings two years ago? And what does it mean if it was?

I doubt there’s a general rule that says that the team leading the league in points two Februarys ago is a shoo-in to make the Conference Final a couple of season later, but if that early taste of success is indeed a sign of things to come, then hockey fans in St. Paul might want to get excited now–because the Minnesota Wild of today are an almost-mirror-image of the Predators of yester-season.

The Wild were atop the Central standings in February of this season, when they were just a smidge behind the Capitals for the best record (by points) in the league. And then, just like Nashville two years ago, they finished second in the division, and wound up getting bounced in the first round (albeit by the Blues, not an eventual Cup champion).

The parallels are pretty close. Like the Predators, the Wild have been “on the come” for several seasons now. Yours truly even foolishly expected them to go far a few years ago (in that very same 2015 playoff season). The Wild have looked like one step up, two steps back ever since–but maybe the lesson of Nashville should be kept in mind for Minnesota.

It certainly will be interesting to see future results, not just for Nashville in the here and now, but also for their doppelgangers in Minnesota a year or two hence.


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