Eyeing Playoffs For Fifth Straight TimeThe Columbus Blue Jackets are entering the 2020-21 campaign after reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth year in a row last season. The team finished 6th in the Metropolitan Division and 9th in the Eastern Conference (33-22-15), subsequently eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs during the qualifiers (3-2) before bowing out in the First Round at the hands of the eventual champions Tampa Bay Lightning (1-4). Pierre-Luc Dubois led the team with 49 regular-season points (18 goals, 31 assists), adding further four markers and six helpers during the postseason. Oliver Bjorkstrand (36 points), meanwhile, had netted the most strikes before the lockdown (21).
Joonas Korpisalo (19-12-5 last year with a 2.60 GAA and a .911 save percentage) and Elvis Merzlikins (13-9-8 with a 2.35 GAA and a .923 save percentage) are expected to continue working in a goalie tandem for the new season, sharing the workload equally. Korpisalo is 1-3-0 against Nashville historically with a 3.25 GAA and a .905 save percentage, while Merzlikins has gone 0-0-1 against the Predators in the past with a 2.77 GAA and a .917 save percentage. The Jackets were scoring the 4th lowest quantity of goals per game last season (2.57), while conceding the 3rd lowest amount defensively (2.61). The team was 27th in power play (16.4%) and 12th in penalty kill (81.7%).
Improvements Needed For PredsThe Nashville Predators featured in last year’s postseason, but never really made the actual playoffs after being eliminated in four games (1-3) by the Arizona Coyotes in the qualifying round. The Preds ended the regular campaign, sitting 4th in the Central Division and 6th in the Western Conference (35-26-8) after winning the last three games of the season before the coronavirus outbreak. Roman Josi led Nashville with 65 regular-season points (16 goals, 49 assists), while Filip Forsberg (48 points) had banked the most snipes (21). He also collected the most points during the postseason (5, with 3 goals).
Goalie Juuse Saros has started 12 of the last 13 games of the Predators ahead of Pekka Rinne and is expected to be Nashville’s de facto No. 1 for the new season. He went 17-12-4 last year with a 2.70 GAA and a .914 save percentage, and has registered a 2-1-0 past tally against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 3.53 GAA and a .901 save percentage. The Predators ended the 2019-20 campaign, burying the 16th highest quantity of goals per game (3.07), while giving up the 11th highest amount on the defensive end (3.10). The team was 24th in power play (17.3%) and 3rd from the bottom in penalty kill (76.1%).
- Blue Jackets are 0-4 in their last 4 vs. Central.
- Blue Jackets are 4-10 in their last 14 road games.
- Predators are 5-0 in their last 5 Thursday games.
- Predators are 6-1 in their last 7 vs. Eastern Conference.