Preds’ shortcomings apparent in losses to Stanley Cup finalists

By John Glennon

Only months after completing the 2019-20 season on a disappointing – but unusually optimistic – note, the Predators began this season with a sense of hope.

There was a belief in coach John Hynes’ system, a confidence that personnel changes would make for a grittier squad, and an expectation that special teams – almost by default – would be improved.

What better litmus test could the Preds have asked for then playing the defending Stanley Cup finalists – the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning – four times in the season’s first nine games?

It would be an early illustration of whether this Predators team had at least taken steps toward returning to the league’s upper echelon or whether it was still treading water in the mediocrity pool.

It might also serve as a snapshot of things to come, given this year’s unusual, COVID-19-related NHL schedule. The Predators will play only division opponents this season, meaning they’ll meet the Stars and Lightning a combined 16 times, making up nearly 30 percent of Nashville’s 56-game schedule.

The litmus test results? Not so good.

When the Predators fell 5-2 to the Lightning on Monday, it meant they’d gone 0-4 this season against last year’s two best teams, losing those games by a combined margin of 19-7. The Preds led just once in those four contests, a . . .

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