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Predators Clinch Playoff Spot; Latest 2021 NHL Postseason Picture

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2021

Nashville Predators left wing Erik Haula (56) celebrates with Luke Kunin (11) after Haula scored the winning goal against the Dallas Stars in overtime of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. The Predators won 1-0.(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The Nashville Predators are going to the playoffs for the seventh straight season.

Nashville clinched its spot in the postseason with a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

x - Nashville Predators @PredsNHL

SEVEN STRAIGHT https://t.co/wlOVbmXJYb

The Predators are the fourth and final team to clinch their playoff spot in the new-look Central Division. The NHL changed the divisions to minimize travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2020-21 season, and the top four teams from each one will compete in the playoffs.

Here is a look at the current postseason picture of teams that have clinched:

NHL Public Relations @PR_NHL

The @PredsNHL are headed to the postseason for the seventh consecutive season and 14th time in franchise history. #NHLStats: https://t.co/3swtwPqCHX https://t.co/nYFCUd8seH

        

Central Division

1. Carolina Hurricanes (80 points)

2. Florida Panthers (77 points)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (75 points)

4. Nashville Predators (62 points)

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East Division

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (77 points)

2. Washington Capitals (75 points)

3. Boston Bruins (71 points)

4. New York Islanders (70 points)

         

North Division

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (76 points)

2. Edmonton Oilers (66 points)

3. Winnipeg Jets (59 points)

         

West Division

1. Vegas Golden Knights (78 points)

2. Colorado Avalanche (74 points)

3. Minnesota Wild (73 points)

4. St. Louis Blues (57 points)

          

While there was some familiarity for the Predators at the start of the season since they remained in the Central Division with the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars, the realignment meant some significant changes as well.

Suddenly, they were sharing a division with Eastern Conference teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. Games against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida stood out as particularly challenging contests.

It looked as if those games would prove too daunting, as Nashville fell to 11-16-1 on March 13 after a stretch that saw it lose six of seven with all six of the losses coming against the Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning.

However, the Predators caught fire from there and are an impressive 18-8-1 since as they climbed into playoff position and held off the Stars and Blackhawks.

They will have to deal with that trio of teams in Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay in the playoffs and will need strong performances from a defense led by Roman Josi, but they have some momentum given their strong play down the stretch.

Next up will be an attempt to get past the first round for the first time since 2017-18.

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