This weekend has resembled the Nashville Predators 2017 season: a rollercoaster ride. At the time of this writing, the blue and gold are coming off of an up and down pair of games against the Minnesota Wild (a 3-0 shutout win on April 1) and a deflating 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues the day after. At 40-28-11 with only three games left on their regular season schedule, what could keep everyone in Music City’s hopes alive?
Quite simply, it’s a lot easier to win a game without a man in the net. However, Pekka Rinne is an established veteran in the home of the country gene, having joined the Predators system in 2005-2006 and having spent ten seasons with the NHL-level club.
Excluding the current (active) season, Rinne has played 447 regular season games in the league and won 238 of them with 40 shutouts and a career save percentage of .917. His goals against average is just above two per game in an incredibly competitive modern NHL. His postseason totals are relatively similar at 2.52 goals against with a .912.
Rinne’s international experience should help as well. The Finnish goaltender took home a silver medal from the 2014 IIHF World Championships and was named the World Championships’ best net-minder a year later. He was named to the WC All-Star team and named the “Most Valuable Player” in 2014 also.
He has logged just shy of 3,500 minutes in net this season. Expect Rinne to be the number one option (not including rest time.)
4. Coach Peter Laviolette
Peter Laviolette is the only person in the history of the Carolina Hurricanes organization to bring them a Stanley Cup championship (2006-07.) During that season, he produced a 52-22 regular season record, a 16-9 postseason record, and also a first-place finish in the southeast division. Like the great General Douglas MacArthur, he shall return.
As if his experience needed questioning, he recently coached his 1,000th game in the NHL late last month. He appears to be in love with the city of Nashville and wants to finally give it what it deserves.
3. The Fans / Looking Ahead to the First Round
The Seattle Seahawks of the NFL got it right by calling their fans the “12th Man.” Under the 2-2-1-1-1 format of the playoffs, Chicago could be in trouble depending on how the games go. ESPN reported that the team averaged over 17,000 fans for each game in 2016-17, a total of 686,442,000 people this year
They trail many teams with these numbers (Chicago leads with an average of more than 21,000 fans per game and a total of 891,827,000 but the underlying idea is this: they are the underdogs and they know. If Chicago gets comfortable, the Predators will get physical and the fans MUST get loud. Speaking of that earlier mentioned adversity, Nashville is currently set to face the Chicago Blackhawks (the 2010, 2013, and 2015 Stanley Cup champions.)
Unfortunately, the Predators have been victorious just six of the last almost two-dozen times they battled “The Windy City.” The Predators are 1-4 in their season series this for 2016-17. To not face Chicago, the Predators had to finish third in their division (which they would have done with by triumphing over the Blues,) but they failed to do so.
2. They Are Producers
Ryan Johansson leads the team with 61 overall points (goals plus assists.) Filip Forsberg is just behind him with 58 but leads in goals with 31 for the season. He is also first in game-winning-goals with nine. Viktor Arvidsson has 57 points, there’s Roman Josi and Captain Mike Fisher with 48 and 41 respectively. The last man on the list of the upper echelon of this team is James Neal with 48 points and beyond that there are a handful of men in the 30s range.
The objective is to put the puck in the back of the net and that is something the Predators can do when they have the right moment.
“Every line’s chipping in,”
Fisher told the Tennessean.
“Everyone’s so important on our team, just the way we play. That’s how we’re going to win. That’s how we’ve been successful the last few months, and that’s how we’re going to win in the playoffs.”
1. They’ve Never Won (Anything Before)
The best thing the team can do in the last week of the 2016-17 season is look in the faces of the doubting public and laugh. When a detractor says “They can’t/won’t win the big one,” they need to respond, “Just watch.” Truly great accomplishments stem from immense adversity.
The squad has been a part of the NHL since 1997 and won zero division championships, no President’s Trophies, no conference gold, and no league cups to date. BUT…theirs’s is championship caliber system.
Nashville’s minor league affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals have captured: an American Hockey League regular season championship, four AHL divisional championships, two AHL conference titles, a USHL title, the top honors of the IHL, and (most importantly) an AHL Calder Cup in 2003-04.
The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL’s) Cincinnati Cyclones have four division championships, three conference titles, a regular season championship, and two Kelly Cups. The point is that on some day, all that talent will get called up to Tennessee. Even if it doesn’t happen in 2017 as predicted, the team will win a Stanley Cup.
It’s actually better for them to come in as a wild card team (the stepchild of all playoff teams) as the playoffs are a long, exceptionally physically process.
With nobody but their fans believing they can come out on top, all the Predators have to do is stick to their game plan that has gotten them the “W” for just under exactly half of the current season, sit back, and wait to strike. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
The 2017 NHL regular season officially ends on Sunday, April 9 with the first round of the playoffs getting underway on Wednesday, April 12.