As the image above suggests, tomorrow begins the pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup and on the agenda? Ottawa at Montreal, Islanders at Washington, Calgary at Vancouver, and Chicago at Nashville.
It’s been two years since the Predators and Nashville have seen playoff hockey and there are a ton of new faces (both player and fan-wise) that will see an entirely new side of the game they’ve come to love. Here’s a few things that have been happening around the rink & then some:
- The World is a Stage –
Despite many claiming that the Predators will be “twisting” the National Anthem to thwart Blackhawks fans, they actually have been doing this for quite a few games now; nothing new, guys. What will they be doing, you ask? Simply having the crowd sing the National Anthem instead of a performer; that’s it. No “God Bless America” or what have you, just some good ole mono a mono American harmonizing… or lack thereof. So, if you are coming to Game 1 tomorrow, gargle some salt water and practice your “Do, Re, Mi”, because there’s good chance you’ll have to drown out some obnoxious hollering.
- Return of the Kane –
After suffering a broken clavicle back on February 24th, Patrick Kane has announced he will be suiting up for Game 1 tomorrow night. Chicago didn’t suffer as badly as many fans would’ve thought during Kane’s absence as they finished 10-4-1 without him. However, though Kane’s return really doesn’t scathe the Nashville bench, it will pose a bit of a threat.
- Bring ‘Em On [Up] –
With injuries starting to increase, Nashville has had to make a few recalls from the Milwaukee Admirals to adjust. Two players to make the recall list just in time for the playoffs are defenseman Joe Piskula and forward-favorite, Kevin Fiala. Piskula, who was signed on a one-year contract over the summer, has one game under his belt this season for Nashville, and likewise for Fiala (who was drafted this season). This could be a turning point for both men, as strength and tenacity shown during key battles (like the playoffs) always strike a [good] cord. Update – Piskula will not have a chance at the NHL playoffs, as he has just been reassigned to Milwaukee. What a bummer, man. So, here’s to you, Kevin Fiala!
- Not quite IR Level –
Let’s see… Mike Fisher (lower-body), Cody Franson (upper-body), and Eric Nystrom (lower-body). So the count isn’t as high as it has been in the recent past, but we’re beginning to wonder at least about Nystrom and his injury. Of course, Ellis’s recovery was never discussed when he was out for that extended period of time, so nothing to see here; just still day-to-day. Both Fisher and Franson were at practice today, though Franson donned a “no contact” white jersey. There’s a good chance Fisher may be back for tomorrow’s game, or at the least Friday.
- Peks (and so forth) on Point –
It’s hard to argue against Pekka Rinne’s excellence in goaltending, but all things must come to an end eventually. No, I am not saying Rinne is in the downside of his career by any means, but it is no secret the rest of the team (and fans) rely on the Finnish Phenom a little too heavily at times & Lord knows he isn’t perfect. With the defense on the slide as of late (and Pekka still recovering from the effects of – you know – e. coli in his reconstructed hip), Rinne has let a few escape by him that he’d otherwise put a stop to before it could even leave the stick. In order to push the Blackhawks aside and move forward in the playoffs, both the defense and Rinne are going to need to be on point. With Patrick Kane’s return, there’s even smaller room for error as that kid is known for pinpointing weaknesses – be it on the goaltender or some other blunder – and he will eat well beyond his fill.
Surprise! The whole world is against the Predators… again. Of course, after a lovely six-game losing streak to end the season & completely letting the Central Division slip through their hands, it’s easy to see why the hype over the team we’ve held dear to has come crashing down. That’s fine – let those who follow the bandwagon push on elsewhere. As the national treasure Tracy Lawrence once (probably continues to) sang:
“Everybody wants to slap your back,
Wants to shake your hand
When you’re up on top of that mountain.
But let one of those rocks give way,
Then you slide back down,
Look up and see who’s around then”
Yea, that’s how it usually goes with the Predators and Nashville needs to feed off of that and put some momentum behind their skates. They are the perpetual underdogs who had an outstanding season and kind of sort of blew it in the latter half. All teams go through ruts, right? Ah, but Nashville’s ruts always seem to be a little more heavier than say, Pittsburgh or Chicago. It’s a stigma they’ll probably carry for the rest of their existence as an organization – a non-traditional team on the march to contend with the big boys. And, for those who are not native to Tennessee reading this post, uh… just as a head’s up: Pretty sure Calgary says “yee-haw” about 100% more times than we ever would. In fact, no one says it here so… stop. Ask Dallas about that saying; it’s more of a Texas thing anyway.
So, cheers to the first round of the playoffs and may the best team move onward to Lord Stanley’s silver Cup. And by best team, I mean the Predators.