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VOL. 43 | NO. 40 | Friday, October 4, 2019

More bang for your puck: Preds tickets worth scoring

Talented squad welcoming great teams, hated rivals in 2019-20

By Mike Hopey

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Nashville Predators celebrate after a preseason win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Bridgestone Arena. The Preds should once again challenge for the NHL’s Western Conference championship.

-- Photo By Steve Roberts/Csm

The Predators are the hottest ticket in Nashville. Don’t believe me? Last season I paid $150 a seat for near back-row spots to see the Preds play the Bruins.

By comparison, I paid less than $150 for two seats at the Winter Classic in South Bend.

Those tickets are probably only going to get more expensive because the Predators are good, maybe better than at any other point in this six-year playoff stretch. Nashville already sported the NHL’s best defensive core and goaltending tandem. Now, Matt Duchene is here to potentially solve the team’s depth problem at forward.

Duchene will center the top line with Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund. That will take the pressure off Ryan Johanssen and the rest of the forwards, so they will all slot into their best roles. Duchene should help this team improve their abysmal power play from a season ago.

A team that will be among the NHL’s very best will drive ticket prices higher, so it will be useful to know what games will be worth the money this coming season. Some of the games are against the best teams in the league and will be worth the money while others might be against bad teams that still provide some value to fans shopping for deals.

Hot Buys

Jan. 1 at Dallas: OK, this is the Winter Classic. It is in Dallas and not Nashville, however I would be remiss if I didn’t say that this is the hottest ticket of the season.

The game sold out quickly earlier this year, so getting in will be expensive on the third-party market. It’ll be worth it, though, since the Winter Classic is special. I attended last year’s game between Boston and Chicago at Notre Dame Stadium and still have trouble processing the how great that trip was.

Nov. 25 vs. St. Louis: The defending Stanley Cup champs make the first of two visits to Nashville for this Monday night tilt (the other game is Feb. 16). The Blues are one of two teams that have a better chance of reaching the Cup Final and will be the first test to see how well this Predators team will stack up against the West’s best.

Nov. 27 vs. Las Vegas: With the Blues in town two nights prior, this will be the most important week for the Preds in the first half of the season.

The Knights’ top two lines are among the league’s top 10. No other team can claim that. Despite being a new franchise, Las Vegas has acquired top talent, including winger Mark Stone, and sports one of the deepest rosters in the league.

The Knights, benefiting from being in the weak Pacific Division, have the easiest path to winning the Western Conference. Vegas will make a second trip to Nashville on Feb. 1.

Dec. 3 vs. Tampa Bay: The Bolts are the NHL’s best team. Despite an embarrassing playoff exit last season, Tampa is primed to finish with the league’s best record again. This Tuesday night game is a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.

Dec. 7 vs. New Jersey: PK Subban is the best. He’s fun to watch on the ice, follow on social media and really cares about the communities in which he plays. His exit was only about clearing enough money from a position where the Preds were deep so they could add a piece they desperately needed in the forward group.

Had Subban not had a relatively down year last season, general manager David Poille might have found a different way to acquire free agent Matt Duchene. This will be Subban’s only visit in 2019-20. As an added bonus, the Devils also sport 2018 MVP Taylor Hall and 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes.

Jan. 7 vs. Boston: The Bruins’ annual visit to Nashville always seems like a bit of a bigger deal than that of any other Eastern Conference team. Nashville is a popular spot for New Englanders to move to and visit (your writer included).

The Bruins were in last season’s Cup Final and fell only one agonizing win short of besting the Blues. The team returns most of that same roster, which is typical, and are among the league’s three best teams with Toronto and Tampa Bay. This is another game that could be a Stanley Cup Final preview.

Jan. 27 vs. Toronto: Talent-rich Toronto has some of the best odds to reach the Cup Final. This Monday night game is the only one against the Leafs in Nashville and one of only a handful of games against teams that are on the same level as the Preds.

Value Picks

Oct. 8 vs. San Jose: If you were to rank the teams in the Western Conference, the Sharks are close behind Nashville, Las Vegas and St. Louis. They are a well-built team that will frustrate the Preds when they visit Oct. 8 and Dec. 16.

Oct. 10 vs. Washington: A season removed from winning the Stanley Cup, the Capitals still have many of the same pieces that took them to the Cup. Alex Ovechkin remains a high-skill goal scorer who ranks with all-time greats Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Oct. 29 vs. Chicago: On paper, Winnipeg has been Nashville’s biggest rival. But in the hearts of Preds fans, Chicago will always be the No. 1 team to hate.

So even though the ’Hawks have a very bad defense and an aging core of players, the game, along with their Nov. 16 visit, offers a great value to fans.

Dec. 27 vs. Pittsburgh: This Penguins are a shadow of the team that beat the Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, but any amount of revenge is worth seeing in person.

This game will also be the first in a two-night, home-and-home series between the teams. Home and homes are always fun because the short turnaround between games mean tempers don’t get a chance to cool down.

Bargain Bin

Nov. 2 vs. New York: The Rangers picked the best goal scorer in the draft in Kaapo Kakko and signed the best free-agent goal scorer in Artemi Panarin. They also have the venerable Henrik Lundqvist in goal, but a defense that ranks among the league’s worst will see them struggle to contend for an Eastern Conference wild card spot. Still, the offensive firepower the Broadway Blueshirts sport make this Saturday matinee game a good buy.

Nov. 19 vs. Winnipeg: The Jets have been the Preds’ chief rival the past three years – sorry Chicago. These games are always physical, mean and fun. It’s clear these teams don’t like each other, which makes any visit by the Jets a good take.

This game is only a bargain because the Jets and Preds are headed in opposite directions. The Jets will also make a visit to Bridgestone on March 24, in case you miss out in November.

Jan. 18 vs. Buffalo: The Sabres’ rebuild can never seem to take the next step forward, but Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner are joys to watch. Fans would not be disappointed to see these players in action.

March 2 vs. Edmonton: Speaking of struggling rebuilds, the Oilers have enjoyed a spoil of top picks over the past decade unrivaled in the history of the sport. Despite this, the Oilers are still not a contender. Connor McDavid, however, is the best pure skater and playmaker on the planet. A chance to see McDavid should not be passed up – even though his team isn’t very good.

March 1 vs. Montreal: It’s been three seasons since the Preds sent captain Shea Weber to Montreal for PK Subban, but if seeing Weber return to Nashville – if not hurt – is your thing, then take in this end of the season interconference game.

Mike Hopey is the art director for The Ledger and has previously written about hockey for U.S. College Hockey Online and The Bolts Independent, a Tampa Bay Lightning blog. He can be reached at mhopey@tnledger.com.

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