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Why They Will Win

Why the Predators will win the Stanley Cup

Rinne and Forsberg will bring title to Music City

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

The Nashville Predators enjoyed being the center of attention as host of the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game during the final weekend of January.

Now they are ready for a return engagement in the national spotlight, this time as Stanley Cup champion for the first time.

It will be their four All-Stars, plus some help from other corners of the roster, that not only will deliver Nashville to its first Western Conference Final, but to a championship in its first trip to the Final.

It all starts on defense. That's the way general manager David Poile has built the Predators from Day One and it is how he believes it will win consistently.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne, when on, is among the best in the game. He had 34 wins and earned a spot in the 2016 All-Star Game.

Video: COL@NSH: Rinne holds Predators' lead in final minute

In 2011-12 he was spectacular with a .929 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average in 10 games as the Predators advanced to the second round. There they lost to the Arizona Coyotes in five games despite Rinne allowing 12 goals. The Predators lost because they scored nine.

Last season he was ordinary at best and the Predators lost in six games in the first round to the Chicago Blackhawks, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Rinne is surrounded by one of the deepest and most effective groups of defensemen in the League, headlined by Shea Weber and Roman Josi, two other two All-Star selections.

Each averaged more than 25 minutes of ice time per game and had more than 50 points. Those numbers only start to paint the picture of how dominant they can be, defining how Nashville plays at each end of the ice.

But the Nashville blue line is not a two-man show. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm form a second pair that virtually any team in the playoffs would be pleased to deploy.

The Predators also are much better offensively than in the past.

Video: NSH@PIT: Neal goes top-shelf for his 31st goal

Right wing James Neal, a late addition to the All-Star Game as an injury replacement, had his second 30-goal NHL season, including 10 goals in March. He enters the postseason as one of the League's most dangerous scorers.

Left wing Filip Forsberg, 21, had his first 30-goal season and is among the most creative scorers in the League, adept at finding ways to beat 1-on-1 coverage on a consistent basis.

That one-two punch is a dynamic the Predators rarely have had. The franchise never has had a 40-goal scorer and prior to this season never had two players score more than 30 goals in the same season.

Coach Peter Laviolette knows how to put these high-end pieces to the best use possible. A decade ago he coached a similarly built team, the Carolina Hurricanes, to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship.

He can, and will, do the same this spring with the Predators.

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