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The Predators' offseason game plan: Decision time on Ryan Hartman, Juuse Saros

The end came too soon for the Predators' liking in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. But the future remains bright for the team that won the Presidents' Trophy this season. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention -- either mathematically or by losing in the postseason -- we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2017-18, along with three keys to its offseason and a way-too-early prediction for what 2018-19 will hold.


What went wrong

The two teams with the most regular-season points met in the second round. One of them was bound to feel slighted by its ouster. Even so, this stings for the Nashville Predators -- a team that came close in 2016-17 and looked even stronger this season.

The Predators had perhaps the best defensive unit in the league. They boasted incredible scoring depth and balance. They had a goaltender who likely will win the Vezina Trophy. They had a general manager (David Poile) who was constantly making them better, with offseason acquisitions such as Nick Bonino, trade deadline pickups such as Ryan Hartman, and midseason additions such as Kyle Turris, Mike Fisher and Eeli Tolvanen (the 2017 first-round draft pick did not play as much as Predators fans would have liked).

And even still, Nashville collapsed against the Winnipeg Jets. Yes, the Jets are strong offensively, but the defensive lapses by the Predators were uncharacteristic. The Preds put together dominant performances (like Game 4 and Game 6 in Winnipeg) but were not able to sustain that success in back-to-back games. Their dominant regular season was a delight to watch, but the playoff flaws began to show in the first round against a much inferior Colorado Avalanche team.

As Nashville learned, sometimes it's easier to advance when expectations are lower.