Nashville Predators, keep your chins up. What a series, what a season. This team was dead in the water back at the All-Star Break. Yet, they rebounded from seed 16 out of 16 seeds, to go to the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance. More details are laid out in this previous Armchair article.
The biggest key to Nashville’s successful season was, by far, Goaltender Pekka Rinne. In the Predators’ first series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Rinne held Chicago’s offense to three goals in four games. With that stat in his pocket, people knew Rinne was ready for the challenge. Ready he was too. His dominant play carried the Predators to two wins in the Cup Final. His save % in Pittsburgh was a little, err, a lot off (.756), but in Nashville he was old reliable (.963).
Rinne’s success (or lack thereof) in Pittsburgh surely affected the outcomes of those games. Nashville went 0-3 in Pittsburgh, including a 6-0 whomping in Game 5. The goaltender is the last line of defense for any team, but the guys in front lead the way. Nashville’s defense let Rinne down in that game, where in Game 6, they rebounded and gave themselves a chance to force a Game 7. The Predators’ trade of Shea Weber for P.K. Subban seemed almost moot. A swap for a top tier defenseman in exchange for a top tier defenseman. The move ultimately paid off.
Nashville will need to add one more piece to return to the Cup Final. With the expansion draft looming, that might be easier said than done. When you think of the Predators, you do not think elite scoring. Look at the team they faced; Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, even Jake Guentzel. Those guys were real scoring threats in the series. Nashville must find a top line scorer. Something that could be intriguing could be a move for New York Islanders star John Tavares. The asking price is high for Tavares, so a deal more than likely will not happen. However, that is the type of player the Predators need to look for to fuel another Cup run.
All in all, a franchise’s first trip to the Cup Final is an accomplishment. It is something the city of Nashville, and Predators fans, can rally around and celebrate success. To the Predators; congratulations on a great season. To the fans (coming from a Sharks fan); the Game 6 loss sucks, we know EXACTLY how you feel. The successful season your team achieved this season will further heighten expectations for the next. Enjoy the Campbell Bowl for the next year, and make sure you get your picture with it, if given the opportunity.
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