What a distinction a month made for the Predators.
At one level within the season — as late as a 6-3 loss to the Lightning on March 13 — issues regarded bleak for the Predators’ playoff hopes. Nashville was 11-16-1, and all indicators pointed to a commerce deadline firesale. But then, issues started to show round. When followers awoke the morning of April 14, the Predators had gone 13-3-0 for the reason that loss to Tampa Bay, and had been 5 video games above .500.
Even for Chris Mason, who has seen all of it in Tennessee, this was a brand new one. The ex-NHL netminder — who spent 146 video games and seven seasons of his 11-season profession sporting the saber-toothed tiger crest — has been within the broadcast sales space since 2015-16, when he joined the Bally Sports South radio staff as a colour analyst. In 2017, he joined radio accomplice Willy Daunic on the tv aspect.
The duo at the moment are set to name Predators Stanley Cup playoff motion, because the scrappy staff goes toe-to-toe with the Central Division champion Carolina Hurricanes. Sporting News not too long ago caught up with Mason to talk in regards to the Predators’ run to the postseason, their probabilities to carry Lord Stanley’s Cup and extra.
NHL PLAYOFFS 2021: Full bracket, dates, occasions, TV channels for each collection
Editor’s notice: The dialog has been edited for size and readability.
Sporting News: How would you describe this Predators staff?
Chris Mason: It nearly is mostly a story of two seasons. I believe initially of the yr, there was a lot turnover within the offseason, not solely on the roster however the teaching employees. They introduced in two new coaches into the combination. I believe they introduced in about seven or eight new gamers; It’s the most important turnover they’ve had in lots of, a few years and it actually took some time for everybody to gel.
They actually obtained off to a sluggish begin when it comes to attempting to be the staff that they stated all of them needed to be, which was bodily, hard-working, laborious staff to play towards due to their consideration to element defensively. There’s a degree the season they began getting accidents, guys weren’t taking part in as much as their potential and their capabilities and it simply appeared prefer it was going to be: alright, effectively, when the commerce deadline comes we’re gonna have to maneuver this veteran participant and begin attempting to amass property and play all of the younger gamers. But it was nearly this magical factor that occurred when all these guys obtained harm and they had been down and out and they’d this eight-game highway journey towards three of the perfect groups within the league … and it simply appears since that highway journey that their id was cast.
They grew to become a staff that you rather than type of shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘You know, what are you guys? What type of staff is that this?’ to this can be a staff that is keen to work and play the appropriate approach. … It simply type of snowballed from there and it is a staff that when they obtained that perception, they might go up towards anyone. There had been a pair bumps alongside the highway however nothing fazed them and for them to get within the playoffs, it is actually a miracle.
SN: (Predators coach) John Hynes was on our checklist of coaches on the recent seat midway by way of the season. What brought on the turnaround? Was it that gamers had been lastly shopping for into the techniques?
CM: I believe one factor that I’ve been impressed with, with John Hynes is when issues had been going unhealthy and each single sport it’s a must to reply the identical questions over and over once more and it turns into a damaged file. But he by no means wavered in his message, in his demeanor and I believe for gamers, I believe that goes a great distance in serving to the blokes say that, you recognize, what, it is unhealthy proper now, it isn’t going effectively however our coach is not going to throw us beneath the bus. He believes in us, he believes within the message. … I believe as soon as they began to essentially decide to that, as a result of generally it is laborious to get offensive gamers to essentially decide to that defensive mindset as a result of they wish to rating targets and they wish to get on the assault and they’ve a sure skill-set that generally taking part in that approach as a ahead it takes you out of your consolation zone. But as soon as they began doing that, they began profitable, and then they began scoring extra targets and they began to play extra offense as a result of they had been taking part in higher defensively. I believe when you play that approach and the outcomes comply with and you are scoring extra targets as a staff and you are profitable hockey video games, I believe that is the way you get buy-in.
SN: Juuse Saros is having a spectacular yr. What is it about him that makes him so robust in web for this staff? Is it the system in entrance of him or is that this all him? What has impressed you essentially the most about him this yr?
CM: Well it is each. Once they began turning it round, you are clearly not getting as lots of the Grade A probabilities towards you. I believe the sport turns into just a little extra predictable, there’s not as many breakdowns. You’re taking part in towards some superior groups each single evening (and) you are going to quit probabilities, you are going to quit the odd odd-man rush; however if you happen to can lower these down and make them extra predictable, it offers a goaltender a greater likelihood to make saves.
And the factor that is impressed me essentially the most with him is: He’s one of the sound technical goalies within the NHL. He’s nearly robotic. His capability to learn, anticipate performs and then course of that data and react, it is nearly instantaneous. I believe the factor that’s most spectacular about that is how lengthy he is saved that degree of play up. … And for the final two months, since they began this run and he got here again from harm, he is been lights out.
SN: Pekka Rinne is the Predators. Was final week’s sport his final in Nashville?
CM: You know what, I believe there is just one man that may reply that query if it is his final sport and I do know from being in that scenario, that is often not a choice that is made till the offseason. I do know that he loves the sport. I’ve a sense he is gonna play. I’ve a sense he’ll take into consideration this lengthy and laborious after the season. I really feel he desires to play that is simply me. I simply know the way a lot he loves the sport. I performed with him. He’s such a competitor and he is all the time pushing himself and I do know he might nonetheless play, and play effectively at this degree.
STANLEY CUP PREDICTIONS: Sporting News’ 2021 NHL playoff picks
SN: In the final two video games of the common season, the Predators performed the Hurricanes and received each. How essential was it to get these wins and set the tone for his or her first-round collection?
CM: I believe it was extraordinarily essential. I believe if you happen to ask Carolina as a result of they did not play effectively and they sat a variety of guys. … I believe if you happen to hear the message out of their dressing room: Eh, would not matter, it was a nothing sport, we’re simply glad no one obtained harm. That’s the spin that they’re going to placed on it.
But I believe for the Predators, the final time they performed them earlier than this two-game stretch, they had been a totally completely different staff. For Nashville to get that confidence and that perception which you can beat a staff within the dressing room and to type of let Carolina know that — ‘Hey, we’re a distinct staff than you noticed earlier within the season and we play a distinct type of hockey and, if you are going to play us you are going to should get into the trenches and you are gonna should battle and we will make it a road battle.’ I believe it did imply one thing.
SN: So how do you suppose the Predators stack up towards the Hurricanes?
CM: Obviously, if you happen to have a look at Carolina, analytically, they’re probably the greatest groups within the National Hockey League. They work laborious. They’re well-coached. They have nice particular groups, they have extra offensive celebrity energy. So they’re most likely going to be a runaway favourite. I do not count on anyone choosing the Preds to win. But that is been their story all yr.
So, I believe that if they’ll get Carolina to play their sport and if Nashville can get to their sport, which isn’t essentially all the time simple to do towards a staff in addition to Carolina that strikes the puck out of their zone so effectively. But if they’ll make them play a heavy sport and get into the battle areas and be actually robust within the impartial zone and preserve Carolina from getting up the ice with pace — type of flip it into that type of playoff gritty, no area on the market kind of a hockey sport and keep of the penalty field, I believe that is gonna give them their finest likelihood to win.
HURRICANES: Carolina broadcaster Tripp Tracy seems on the collection from the opposite aspect
SN: Connor McDavid had a exceptional season. What are your ideas on his yr and, as a former goalie, what could be going by way of your thoughts if he was bearing down on you?
CM: Just to observe him, you simply marvel on the man each sport. It’s unbelievable and he is a participant that simply cannot be stopped, and I might have liked to only — clearly, do not wish to get scored on each time you play the man — however simply to see and expertise that.
There had been some gamers I performed towards, I bear in mind like Pavel Datsyuk was the one for me. He simply amazed me due to all of the various things you can do in numerous conditions and taking part in towards him simply made me respect how good he was much more. You know, a variety of occasions it is as a result of I obtained victimized by his talent and his capability to play the sport of hockey.
I watch Connor McDavid and you go into these video games and you are taking part in towards the perfect gamers, the perfect goalies on the earth, and they know, they’ve watched video, they’ve performed towards him, they know what he does — and they nonetheless cannot cease him. It’s simply actually, I believe, fascinating to observe a participant that is as dominant as he’s within the sport of the perfect gamers on the earth. … You know each staff that he performs towards, their primary focus is to cease Connor McDavid and they cannot do it. And it is simply, it is wonderful. It’s wonderful.
SN: Auston Matthews additionally had a giant yr. What’s it about his shot that you simply suppose makes it so, so deadly?
CM: Auston Matthews is a giant man. He can skate effectively for a giant participant, however his shot, his launch level can come from wherever. … It’s simply so misleading, he would not have any tells. I do know as a goaltender you search for tells in sure guys, sure physique place, sure fakes in the way in which they begin to transfer their physique to offer you a while to anticipate the place they are going to shoot however he is simply obtained so many various launch factors, and he is so correct and robust in-tight and the way in which that he positions his physique to place him ready to shoot, and to get into these areas is nearly second to none.
DIVISION PREDICTIONS, PREVIEWS: Central | East | West
SN: Alright, so remaining query, prediction time. Who do it’s a must to come out of every division within the Stanley Cup playoffs?
CM: I’ll go, I believe Vegas goes to come back out (of the West). I believe Toronto. I’m gonna go together with the Islanders, and out of the Central, I’d like to choose the Preds, however I believe I’m gonna go together with Tampa Bay.
SN: Do you choose the Islanders due to the goaltending?
CM: I picked the Islanders (as a result of) I do know Barry Trotz, and I simply really feel that that is a staff that for no matter cause they — possibly as a result of they don’t seem to be as thrilling to observe I assume — however they do not get the credit score they deserve as a staff to me that that performs the appropriate approach. They’re laborious to play towards. They have good goaltending. They’ve obtained some celebrity gamers that may rating given the chance. So, I simply suppose they’re actually gritty, powerful playoff type of staff.
SN: Who do you may have going all the way in which and who be the Conn Smythe man?
CM: I believe all the way in which, I’ll choose Vegas. I believe Vegas or Colorado however I’m going to choose Vegas, and the Conn Smythe might be Mark Stone or Marc-Andre Fleury.