They were a trendy pick to win the Stanley Cup.
And then the season started.
The Nashville Predators never really got rolling during their 82-game schedule. They’d have some good stretches, followed by some bad stretches. They ended up as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Most predicted they’d lose to Chicago in the first round.
Of course, most were wrong. The Preds swept the Blackhawks, and now they’re up 1-0 on the Blues in the second round.
“We come in, we’re supposed to be this awesome, amazing team and we didn’t start so hot,” d-man Ryan Ellis said, per NHL.com. “We started to get better, and then some injuries crept into our locker room. We battled the whole year, losing guys at various times in the year and some younger guys stepped up. But overall, it’s adversity that makes you stronger. This was one of those years we faced a lot of adversity.”
A quick glance at Nashville’s roster and it’s not hard to understand the preseason hype. The Predators have a No. 1 center in Ryan Johansen, a tremendous goal-scorer in Filip Forsberg, and one of the more underrated wingers in the league in Viktor Arvidsson.
But the real jewel is their blue line. Roman Josi is the No. 1 defenseman, paired with puck-mover Ryan Ellis, a former 11th overall draft pick. On the second pair is a former Norris Trophy winner, P.K. Subban, who skates with the dependable Mattias Ekholm.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better top four than that. And to think, the Preds also had Seth Jones, until they traded him to Columbus for Johansen.
The wild card heading into the playoffs was Pekka Rinne, the 34-year-old goalie who was spectacularly inconsistent during the regular season. He had a .949 save percentage in November, followed by an .875 in December. It was .933 in January, down to .888 in February, then back up to .923 in March.
So far this postseason, it’s .962.
Tonight in St. Louis, the Preds can make it six straight wins in the playoffs. More importantly, they can take a 2-0 lead over the Blues back to Nashville.
“Throughout the year, I think we’re a little bit inconsistent,” winger Colin Wilson told reporters. “But when we played our game, we were always unstoppable. We have a lot of talent, great D, great goaltending, all-around strong team with a lot of depth.”
As a former player and well-regarded young executive, there was a fit for Chris Drury in Buffalo’s front office.
Of course, there’s the exact same fit with the Rangers.
Drury, 40, has spent the last two years climbing the Rangers’ executive depth chart. He was brought aboard in 2015 as the club’s director of player development and, a year later, was promoted to assistant GM under Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers aren’t the only ones enamored by Drury’s front office skills. Recently, USA Hockey tabbed him — along with Bill Guerin — as the braintrust responsible for building Team USA’s entry in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.
As mentioned above, it was easy to see why the Sabres were interested. Drury played three seasons in Buffalo, served as team captain, and the club appears primed to make a splash with its next hire after dismissing Tim Murray.
Drury, of course, spent four seasons with the Rangers and also wore the “C.”
We’re only one game into the Sens-Rangers series, and we already have a little bit of controversy.
But should it have counted?
There’s no issue with the Karlsson shot going off Henrik Lundqvist‘s mask and in, but the Rangers felt that the referees missed an icing call moments before the goal happened.
Karlsson is standing near his own blue line when he sends a pass in Jean-Gabriel Pageau‘s direction. Did Pageau get a piece of it? It’s hard to tell from the angles we have at our disposal, but Alain Vigneault seemed to have had a good look at the play.
“We felt on their game-winning goal it should have been icing,” Vigneault said, per Sportsnet. “When we look at it, and look at the angles we get, I think it should have been icing. But at the end of the game you gotta play and you gotta do more than we did tonight to win.”
Challenging icing calls isn’t permitted, so when the officials decided that Pageau touched the puck, there’s nothing more the Rangers could do to reverse the call (except get the puck out of the zone when they had the chance).
Two games on the schedule tonight, as the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks look to avenge their losses to the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers in Game 1.
Here’s what you need to know:
Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues (Preds lead 1-0)
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)
Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks (Oilers lead 1-0)
Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)