Cheers, towels being thrown on the ice, the classic handshake line, beards being shaven, the season came to a close 6 days ago, but it nearly feels like an eternity. However, with the one week ago today, many members of Predator nation were hoping that today would be the start of Nashville’s first trip to the Western Conference Finals, yet this was not to be this year.
In all honesty, Nashville was the beaten team in 5 of the 6 games in the Western Conference Semifinals, as they faced a Canucks team that was just more determined than their counterpart Predators. Now, I didn’t say they were the more talented team. On paper, yes, they were definitely the more talented team. However, on the ice? Much different story.
Nashville was able to shut down nearly every player on the ice for the Canucks, minus Ryan Kesler, but Vancouver always seemed to find a way at the end of the night due mostly to unsung heroes and reliable goaltending.
Game 1 was decided by a goal on an errant bounce past a flopping Rinne, who was otherwise stellar throughout, yet the Predators just couldn’t find the back of the net.
Game 2 was decided by a double-overtime thrilling goaltending duel capped off by Matt Halischuk.
Games 3 and 4? The Ryan Kesler show.
Game 5 was actually the only game that was dominated by either team, which the Predators were the only team the entire series to get a 2-goal lead (that was NOT by an empty netter)
Game 6 was the capper and you could see the true difference between both teams. Vancouver came out to win and advance, however one of the toughest things to see? The fatigue of the Predators. You could see it during the entire game, Nashville just seemed tired. Maybe it was the travel, maybe it was the way the Canucks played against them, however the Predators looked like they were finished and it was meant to be that way
Yet, Predators fans have nothing to hang their heads over. 48 home games, 26 home wins, and gaining respect from NEARLY an entire world of hockey fans? I consider that a successful season. (Anaheim fans probably still don’t “respect” us, but what would you expect from a team that gave a hockey club it’s first post-season series victory?)
Predators fans also have nothing but great things to look forward to next season: The return of all-world goalie Pekka Rinne and all-world defenseman Ryan Suter, nearly the same core of players returning as well (plus all the gems that lie in waiting in Milwaukee), and the most likely re-signing of one of the world’s top defenseman, Shea Weber. Yet, EVEN if the Predators don’t re-sign him, they’ll most likely get 4 1st round draft picks in return, and that is STILL a win-win deal if you look at the grand scheme of things.
Another question mark added into the mix? Alexander Radulov. There are many that suspect that he COULD be back to the Nashville line-up next season, and if that happens? Easily the Predators would be a cup contender.
However, in all likely hood, the Predators will probably be the same team next year: A team lacking in superstar talent, that overachieves, doesn’t get much national attention, and ends up (and I don’t know why) surprising everyone out there.
Would you expect anything less?