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If you like hockey even a little, you should be watching this Jets-Predators series

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The Predators won a Game 2 thriller. There will be more.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Predators were hockey’s best team this season, winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points. They looked every bit that part in beating the Avalanche in the first round, even as they got pushed to six games to do it. In the second round, they’ve run into a Jets’ team that finished right behind them in the points race. Winnipeg won Game 1 off them in Nashville and almost handed them a crippling loss in Game 2 on Sunday.

But the Predators survived. They fell down, 2-1, in the first period, and after they came back to take a 4-3 lead, they lost it when Mark Scheifele beat Pekka Rinne with 65 seconds left and the Jets’ net empty. Rinne had to make 14 saves across 25 minutes of two overtimes before his teammates broke through on one of the prettiest goals of the playoffs — a Craig Smith dish to a streaking Kevin Fiala, who deked in the nick of time to fool Rinne’s fellow Vezina Trophy nominee Connor Hellebuyck and even the series at one win apiece.

Everything about this series screams “slugfest.” The Jets were 4-1 winners in Game 1, but that game was a lot more even than the margin suggests. The Predators controlled almost 70 percent of the shot attempts and scoring attempts, and they lost in large part because Hellebuyck badly outplayed Rinne. Game 2 was much more even by puck possession, and the Predators won because they got one more exceptional play when they needed it.

The Jets showed pluck again, though. The Scheifele game-tying goal was one of the most dramatic moments the playoffs have offered so far. Bridgestone Arena was jumping, and one of the league’s most underrated centers made a lot of people shut up really quickly:

This won’t be the the playoff series that gets the best TV ratings. (That will be Penguins-Capitals.) It’s not the one with the most compelling personal rivalries. (That’s also Penguins-Capitals.) It’s not the one with the first-year expansion team trying to continue one of the most stunning seasons in sports history. But if you love hockey, it might be the best one.

The Predators are a well-oiled, fully operational hockey machine.

There is beauty in watching them play. They don’t have any bona-fide stars in their forward group. Their best players are their goalie, Rinne, and their all-world puck-moving defenseman, P.K. Subban. Nashville’s advantage is it comes in waves. It didn’t have a player with more than 64 points in the regular season, but it had 11 with more than 30.

The Preds aren’t a dominant possession team, and they don’t grind teams down with their incredible skill. But they usually get the saves they need from Rinne, and their Subban-led defensive corps is better than anyone else’s at starting counter-attacks. The Predators are calculated and fast in transitioning from defense to offense. They score a lot of their goals on the hockey equivalent of a basketball fast break, like the one Viktor Arvidsson scored Sunday after Subban opened up the ice with a bank pass off the boards:

The Predators got to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Pittsburgh last year. One of their biggest problems in that series was that Ryan Johansen, their No. 1 center, was out for the year with a thigh injury. Johansen’s healthy now, and he scored twice on Sunday.

Rinne is brilliant, but he’s been inconsistent in the last couple playoffs. He fought the puck a lot in Game 2. For non-Preds fans, his volatility only adds to the fun factor here.

The Jets are young, exciting, and talented enough to pull this off anyway.

Winnipeg’s arrival as an elite team feels sudden, but it probably shouldn’t.

The Jets haven’t made any blockbuster moves to turn themselves from a perpetually bad team to one of the league’s best. Big defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was one, but that was in 2010, when the Jets were still the woebegone Atlanta Thrashers. Fellow large defenseman Tyler Myers was sort of another, but the deal that brought him to Winnipeg in 2015 was the result of the Jets selling off bigger names to aid their rebuild down the line. (Myers was the centerpiece of Winnipeg’s return for winger Evander Kane and D-man Zach Bogosian.)

They’ve hit on some high draft picks, and that’s been huge. They found a 44-goal scorer when they took Patrik Laine second overall in 2016. He’s the headliner. But they’ve gotten great value from 2014 first-rounder Nikolaj Ehlers (60 points) and 2015 first-rounder Kyle Connor (57). Neither is older than 22, Laine is 20, and Scheifele is 25. Of the Jets’ really big stars, only Blake Wheeler and Byfuglien are older than that.

The Jets are a lot like the Predators, though their high-end skill is more concentrated at forward than on defense. They don’t overwhelm teams, but they move the puck crisply and have a deadly cast of finishers. (The Scheifele tying goal on Sunday, the result of some tic-tac-toe with six men on the ice, was a good example of both.) The emergence of 2012 fifth-rounder Hellebuyck as a top-tier goalie has been the cherry on top.

This series is power on power and skill on skill.

The playoffs might not give us a better one. Game 3 is Tuesday in Manitoba.