While on paper the two make perfect sense as both a border rival and southern showdown, the fact that the two teams play in different conferences have made meetings sparse.
That changed this year as the two were thrust into competition with one another for an eight-game regular season schedule which will now see them battle it out an extra four to seven times.
Let’s take a look back at how the 2021 season series went.
The Hurricanes finished the season 6-2-0 against the Preds including winning the first six straight
One might think, “Oh, well Nashville is hot going into the series having won the last two games,” but that was after Carolina had already clinched first in the division for about a week and had nothing to play for while the Predators were desperately trying to win to make it into the postseason.
So while it’s not completely fair to discount those games, you can kind of discount those games.
The Hurricanes outscored the Predators 24-17 over those eight games (23-10 in the first six), had a 34.6% power play success rate, an 88.9% penalty kill success rate, won 52.1% of faceoffs, and outshot Nashville 30.3 shots per game to 29.
In most every regard, Carolina was the better team. The only areas they trailed Nashville stat-wise were hits (185 to 162), blocks (114 to 94) and giveaways (64 to 71) which are all stats that are generally higher when you are controlling the puck less often.
Even the disparity between each team’s leading scorers was high, Nashville had three players each at four total points from the series: Ryan Johanson (2-2-4), Mattias Ekholm (1-3-4) and Dante Fabbro (0-4-4) while Carolina had seven players at four or more points and their scoring leaders doubled Nashville’s: Sebastian Aho (5-3-8) and Vincent Trocheck (3-5-8).
|Total Goals For||24||17|
|Shots For per Game||30.3||29|
|Total Goals Against||17||24|
|Shots Against per Game||29||30.3|
|Leading Scorers||Sebastian Aho (5-3-8)||Ryan Johanson (2-2-4)|
|cont.||Vincent Trocheck (3-5-8)||Mattias Ekholm (1-3-4)|
|cont.||---------------------------------------------------||Dante Fabbro (0-4-4)|
The battle in net also wasn’t even necessarily a close one either
James Reimer: 3-0-0; 1.67; 0.952
Petr Mrazek: 1-1-0; 3.01; 0.872
Alex Nedeljkovic: 2-1-0; 1.64; 0.938
Juuse Saros: 1-2-0; 2.73; 0.917
Pekka Rinne: 1-3-1; 2.69; 0.906
While Reimer — who was the best netminder stat-wise from the series — won’t be seeing the net barring any major issues, both Mrazek and Nedeljkovic were better than either Nashville netminder.
Mrazek, who will most likely be the Game 1 starter, had his numbers tanked in the final game of the regular season where he saw five goals go past him while the Hurricanes rested most of the team and put out a roster that rivaled many of the ones from the 2010s.
He won the one other game he played against the Preds, posting a 0.950 save percentage with only a single goal allowed.
While Saros had been putting together a great second half of the season, his numbers started to return towards average as the regular season came to a close and even still, Mrazek and Nedeljkovic had better numbers overall.
There is a clear reason why the Hurricanes are the favorite in this matchup even besides the dominance Carolina had in the regular season series. The Hurricanes are a top team in the league and are strong in every zone and every position with a much deeper group.
But Canes fans should be as aware as anyone that the regular season doesn’t matter once the playoffs are officially underway. As the New York Rangers quickly discovered last year in the bubble, the playoffs are a whole different game.