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 seemed 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 shade analyst. In 2017, he joined radio associate Willy Daunic on the tv facet.
The duo are actually 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 just lately 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.
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Editor’s observe: The dialog has been edited for size and readability.
Sporting News: How would you describe this Predators staff?
Chris Mason: It virtually can be a story of two seasons. I feel originally 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 feel they introduced in about seven or eight new gamers; It’s the largest turnover they’ve had in lots of, a few years and it actually took some time for everybody to gel.
They actually acquired off to a gradual begin by way of making an attempt to be the staff that they stated all of them needed to be, which was bodily, hard-working, onerous staff to play in opposition to due to their consideration to element defensively. There’s some extent 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, properly, when the commerce deadline comes we’re gonna have to maneuver this veteran participant and begin making an attempt to amass property and play all of the younger gamers. But it was virtually this magical factor that occurred when all these guys acquired harm and they had been down and out and they’d this eight-game highway journey in opposition to three of the perfect groups within the league … and it simply appears since that highway journey that their identification was solid.
They turned a staff that you rather than sort of shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘You know, what are you guys? What sort of staff is that this?’ to it is a staff that is prepared to work and play the proper means. … It simply sort of snowballed from there and it is a staff that after they acquired that perception, they may go up in opposition to 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 new seat midway via the season. What brought about the turnaround? Was it that gamers had been lastly shopping for into the methods?
CM: I feel one factor that I’ve been impressed with, with John Hynes is when issues had been going unhealthy and each single sport it’s important to reply the identical questions over and over once more and it turns into a damaged document. But he by no means wavered in his message, in his demeanor and I feel for gamers, I feel that goes a good distance in serving to the fellows say that, you already know, what, it is unhealthy proper now, it is not going properly however our coach is not going to throw us underneath the bus. He believes in us, he believes within the message. … I feel as soon as they began to actually decide to that, as a result of generally it is onerous to get offensive gamers to actually decide to that defensive mindset as a result of they need to rating targets and they need to get on the assault and they’ve a sure skill-set that generally taking part in that means 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 feel when you play that means and the outcomes comply with and you are scoring extra targets as a staff and you are profitable hockey video games, I feel 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 probably the most about him this yr?
CM: Well it is each. Once they began turning it round, you are clearly not getting as most of the Grade A probabilities in opposition to you. I feel the sport turns into just a little extra predictable, there’s not as many breakdowns. You’re taking part in in opposition to some superior groups each single evening (and) you are going to surrender probabilities, you are going to surrender the odd odd-man rush; however should you can reduce these down and make them extra predictable, it offers a goaltender a greater probability to make saves.
And the factor that is impressed me probably the most with him is: He’s one of the sound technical goalies within the NHL. He’s virtually robotic. His capability to learn, anticipate performs and then course of that information and react, it is virtually instantaneous. I feel the factor that’s most spectacular about that is how lengthy he is stored that stage of play up. … And for the final two months, since they began this run and he got here again from damage, 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 feel there is just one man that may reply that query if it is his final sport and I do know from being in that state of affairs, that is normally not a call 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 onerous after the season. I really feel he desires to play that is simply me. I simply understand how a lot he loves the sport. I performed with him. He’s such a competitor and he is at all times pushing himself and I do know he might nonetheless play, and play properly at this stage.
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SN: In the final two video games of the common season, the Predators performed the Hurricanes and received each. How necessary was it to get these wins and set the tone for his or her first-round sequence?
CM: I feel it was extraordinarily necessary. I feel should you ask Carolina as a result of they did not play properly and they sat a number of guys. … I feel should you hear the message out of their dressing room: Eh, does not matter, it was a nothing sport, we’re simply glad no person acquired harm. That’s the spin that they will placed on it.
But I feel for the Predators, the final time they performed them earlier than this two-game stretch, they had been a very completely different staff. For Nashville to get that confidence and that perception which you could beat a staff within the dressing room and to sort of let Carolina know that — ‘Hey, we’re a special staff than you noticed earlier within the season and we play a special type of hockey and, if you are going to play us you are going to must get into the trenches and you are gonna must battle and we will make it a road battle.’ I feel it did imply one thing.
SN: So how do you assume the Predators stack up in opposition to the Hurricanes?
CM: Obviously, should you take a look at Carolina, analytically, they’re top-of-the-line groups within the National Hockey League. They work onerous. They’re well-coached. They have nice particular groups, they have extra offensive famous person energy. So they’re most likely going to be a runaway favourite. I do not count on anyone selecting the Preds to win. But that is been their story all yr.
So, I feel that if they will get Carolina to play their sport and if Nashville can get to their sport, which isn’t essentially at all times simple to do in opposition to a staff in addition to Carolina that strikes the puck out of their zone so effectively. But if they will make them play a heavy sport and get into the battle areas and be actually robust within the impartial zone and hold Carolina from getting up the ice with velocity — sort of flip it into that sort of playoff gritty, no area on the market sort of a hockey sport and keep of the penalty field, I feel that is gonna give them their greatest probability to win.
SN: Connor McDavid had a exceptional season. What are your ideas on his yr and, as a former goalie, what could be going via 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 cherished to simply — clearly, do not need to get scored on each time you play the man — however simply to see and expertise that.
There had been some gamers I performed in opposition to, I keep in mind like Pavel Datsyuk was the one for me. He simply amazed me due to all of the various things you could possibly do in numerous conditions and taking part in in opposition to him simply made me admire how good he was much more. You know, a number of instances it is as a result of I acquired 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 in opposition to the perfect gamers, the perfect goalies on this planet, and they know, they’ve watched video, they’ve performed in opposition to him, they know what he does — and they nonetheless cannot cease him. It’s simply actually, I feel, fascinating to observe a participant that is as dominant as he’s within the sport of the perfect gamers on this planet. … You know each staff that he performs in opposition to, their primary focus is to cease Connor McDavid and they cannot do it. And it is simply, it is wonderful. It’s wonderful.
SN: Austin Matthews additionally had a giant yr. What’s it about his shot that you simply assume makes it so, so deadly?
CM: Auston Matthews is a giant man. He can skate properly for a giant participant, however his shot, his launch level can come from wherever. … It’s simply so misleading, he does 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 present you a while to anticipate the place they are going to shoot however he is simply acquired so many alternative launch factors, and he is so correct and robust in-tight and the way in which that he positions his physique to place him able to shoot, and to get into these areas is sort of second to none.
SN: Alright, so remaining query, prediction time. Who do it’s important to come out of every division within the Stanley Cup playoffs?
CM: I’ll go, I feel Vegas goes to return out (of the West). I feel Toronto. I’m gonna go together with the Islanders, and out of the Central, I’d like to choose the Preds, however I feel I’m gonna go together with Tampa Bay.
SN: Do you decide 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 purpose they — perhaps 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 proper means. They’re onerous to play in opposition to. They have good goaltending. They’ve acquired some famous person gamers that may rating given the chance. So, I simply assume they’re actually gritty, powerful playoff type of staff.
SN: Who do you have got going all the way in which and who be the Conn Smythe man?
CM: I feel all the way in which, I’ll decide Vegas. I feel Vegas or Colorado however I’m going to choose Vegas, and the Conn Smythe might be Mark Stone or Marc-Andre Fleury.