Let’s Hope Today’s Historic in Smashville
If you’re 12 years old or younger, well – hold on, if you’re 12 years old or younger and are reading SoBros Network, your parents are going to be pissed – anyway, if you’re 12 years old or younger and happen to be a Nashville Predators fan, the only hockey you’ve ever known is playoff hockey. In 10 of the last 13 seasons, the Preds have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It seems pretty staggering on the surface – and certainly sheds light on how the Preds have been able to build such a loyal, rowdy fan base. People enjoy a winner.
Of those 10 seasons, however, only 4 seasons have yielded a trip past the first round. The Predators have never made it to the Western Conference Finals. That can change with a win today against the St. Louis Blues.
The only time in this franchise’s history when they were legitimate contenders for a Stanley Cup was the 2011-12 season. That team felt special – it eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in the first round and seemed to match up well against the Phoenix Coyotes in the second round. Unfortunately, they ran into a brick wall named Mike Smith and partied too hard in the desert. That season was completely derailed, though in fairness, I don’t know that any team was going to defeat the Los Angeles Kings that season.
So, Barry Trotz left town. Peter Laviolette arrived. The team rebuilt and reloaded. After last year’s gutsy series with the San Jose Sharks in the second round, and after a trade shipped electric defenseman P.K. Subban to Nashville, expectations were high heading into this season. But, as has been the case with this franchise, when the expectations soar, the team disappoints. The regular season did not go as many predicted it would.
When the Preds backed into a series with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, a lot of people started talking about next season. But, then, something curious happened. The Preds that many expected to see actually showed up and they swept the Blackhawks.
So, the next step is obviously to get to the Western Conference Finals. The Preds had an opportunity to make that step on Friday night, but they showed up flat against the St. Louis Blues, played their sloppiest game of the postseason yet and they paid the price for it. You could probably have heard Nashville grumbling from St. Louis, but the loss was met with a certain optimism that hasn’t always been present among Preds fans. Sure, there seemed to be an understanding that, “hey – this is what happens when you play shitty hockey.” Glad to see that sink in. But, there was also a feeling of “hey – they played really shitty but were still competitive” that didn’t cause Preds fans to give up hope just yet.
That’s all well and good, but the outcome of a hockey series is hardly determined by the hope of a fan base. A couple of things need to happen if this team is going to make a deep run this postseason.
First and foremost, the JOFA line needs to get going – Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arviddson, and Filip Forsberg were deadly in the first round against the Blackhawks. So far, the Blues have completely stalled ’em. This unit has to play aggressively fast to create scoring chances – it certainly possesses the speed to do so.
The team can’t play careless defense. Roman Josi had a bad night Friday, but Ellis, Subban, and Mattias Ekholm all contributed with careless, haphazard defense. This group is a real strength of the team. It can’t become a liability, or the Blues have shown an ability to expose it and capitalize on it. That has to change today.
It would be nothing short of poetic for the beloved Preds to achieve this feat in Nashville, a town that has developed a rabid hockey following. This is a home crowd that has organically grown into one of the best in the NHL, creating one of the loudest game experiences in the league in the process. The hockey gods could throw the city a bone and reward its “hard work” with a celebration today. Then again, Blues fans are probably saying the same thing about a potential Game 7 in St. Louis. Lord knows both of these fan bases have encountered their fair share of letdowns.
We shall see.
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. A strong advocate of GSD (get shit done) and #BeBetter, he’s down to talk Tennessee Titans and Alabama Crimson Tide football over a beer any day. Check him out covering the WWE for WrestlingNews.co. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley, @WrestlingNewsCo