The Nashville Predators are quietly having one of their best seasons in franchise history. But with last week’s unexpected return of Preds’ prodigal son Alexander Radulov, are they really primed to be Cup contenders?
Well, let’s look at the facts. A-Rad has put up one point in each of the three games he’s played in Predators sweater since his return last Wednesday. He managed to score the only goal in his first game of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but his return was overshadowed by Evegeni Mallkin and his two points in a 5-1 win for the Pens.
However, Nashville bounced back with a 3-1 victory over Winnipeg their following game, with Radulov chipping in with an assist and over 20 minutes of ice time. Radulov had another assist and was a plus-two in the Preds’ 6-1 thumping of the Blackhawks the very next day.
Not exactly a Crosby-like return, but impressive nonetheless. The biggest thing to notice is that the Predators put up 10 goals in three games. Even a year ago, that would have been unheard of. This is a team that has made its mark in the league by relying on solid defense led by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and steady goaltending from Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback.
Not only are the Predators getting that this season, but they are currently eighth in the league in the NHL in goals (215). Furthermore, they nine players with at least 10 goals, and based on the way Radulov has performed thus far, you could bet that, had he been around for a full season, he would be in that category is well.
This team is already built to be a competitive playoff team. Now with the addition of Radulov to an already well-balanced offense, teams in the Western Conference would be wise not to overlook the Preds when the postseason begins.