Image Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Well ladies and gents, that certainly wasn’t the outcome we all wanted for the home team by any means but all good things must come to an end at some point. Unfortunately for Nashville, that end came at a 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Perhaps it was because we gaffed at the Dallas Stars as they fell to the St. Louis Blues 6-1 in their Game 7 the day before that lead to Nashville’s beatdown from the Sharks. Could it have also been the extra day of rest due to a Selena Gomez concert at the SAP Center, an event that caused almost all Preds fans to become Selenators (yes, I looked that up)? Was it the little black cat adorably named “Joe Paw-velski” that ran across the ice during Game 1? Maybe it was because Nashville has never won a game in a playoff series in San Jose. Whatever voodoo or karma you wish to believe in that caused Nashville to crumble last night, it happened and the history making season has come to a close.
But history for the seventeen-year-old franchise was made and that should certainly not be overlooked. Nashville witnessed its first ever Game 7 in Round 1 against the Anaheim Ducks and sealed their first ever Game 7 victory in the same bout. Nashville would reach its second Game 7 in franchise history last night against the San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately, the history books had shut on the Predators at that point. The Predators hit some amazing milestones for its young franchise this season and postseason, which only means they will have to work to go further in the future.
Also to be noted was how the city of Nashville – and all of Tennessee, for that matter – stood with the Predators on their postseason journey towards bringing the Cup to Nashville. Though the Tennessee Titans and the Nashville Predators have a friendly relationship that only rivals due to business aspects, the NFL home team stood tall next to its professional brethren and the players and coaching staff made sure a side of the sports world that may not be as familiar with hockey got a taste of it.
Nashville’s sports roots do belong to football and baseball; there’s no doubting that. But those football/baseball fans have latched onto this frozen sport quite tightly and, whether it was a PR stunt on the Titans part or not, this relationship between the Titans shown through the playoffs was a beautiful thing indeed. With the torrential badmouthing of the Titans and their output on the field, perhaps this was a way for the Titans organization to not only back a winning team, but show its players what winning does for the growth of a fan base. Don’t get me wrong; no matter how terrible the Titans continue to be, they aren’t going anywhere and you won’t find a decrease in tickets sales either. But seeing the emotional connecting that the Predators organization has with its fans – who are also Titans fans – is definitely something of which a fellow professional team should be mindful. Several Titans players, including Marcus Mariota, Taylor Lewan, Delanie Walker, and crowd favorite Avery Williamson made appearances at several playoff games in Nashville.
The Titans weren’t the only Nashville team to stand with the Predators, either. The Nashville Sounds sent out their best wishes via a video:
And, being the Music City, the Predators had plenty of musicians cheering the team onto victory including Dierks Bentley, Chris Young, Vince Gill, Tim McGraw, and – of course – Carrie Underwood.
Several Nashville businesses jumped behind their favorite hockey team as well during the postseason push, including the following:
Seeing all the love from around the city and state was a beautiful sight for us who love the sport of hockey. Not only does this benefit the Predators, it also sheds light on youth hockey – in a strange way – as well. There’s no doubt that, when a team is winning, its exposure grows exponentially and, since we live in a college football dominated region, even a little bit of exposure goes a long way. So many new fans were born this post season and, while some will drop off, a good number will continue to follow the Predators into the next season this October and their love (because there’s no other word for it) will blossom into a passion for the sport. I would say Nashville’s exposure as a legitimate hockey town was an eye-opener to many outside of the city. Of course, the All-Star festivities this year certainly helped, but the fan base made its point that we should be taken seriously as a hockey-loving Southern city. It’s that college football mentality that makes us so unique; makes us so passionate. It’s what makes Nashville a true contender for the Stanley Cup at some point.
So what do the Predators and its organization do now? Well, relax, for one thing. Relax then begin preparing for next season. Now that the 2015-16 run is over, news on injuries sustained by some of the players is beginning to surface, including the fact that Roman Josi has been playing with both a broken finger and nose. Filip Forsberg, who was rather quite and “un-Forsberg-like” this postseason, revealed to Tre Kronor, the Swedish national team, that he has been nursing a back injury. I have been asked if Shea Weber was injured due to his performance last night but not every bad night is due to an injury. Sometimes, bad nights just happen. Sadly for Weber, that night came last night in Game 7. Again, these injuries definitely do not excuse for a poor performance, but they do add into it for sure. No player – on any team in the postseason – is playing at 100% right now. The endurance of a hockey player is insane; something I feel basketball and soccer players could learn from.
It would b e difficult to overlook last night’s performance and remember what an incredible season and postseason Nashville has had this year, but it is possible. Before you even realize it (maybe even now), you’ll be asking, “Is it October yet?” and the excitement of a new season will turn you into a little kid again.
The Sharks played a clean, tough series and you can’t fault them at that. I just hope they take out the Blues. And remembering that Nashville was one of the Top 5 teams this postseason is something to be proud of, too. As old Dr. Seuss once coined, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” Yeah, that was cheesy but it’s true… and you know it.