By D. Smith:
Sure I'm a member of the Nashville Loyal Legion, but it doesn't take an expert (which I'm far from) to realize that the Preds/Sharks series has had all the makings of a classic playoff series.
Fights. League reviews. Suspensions. Bad blood. Double overtime. Coaches exchanging words. You name it.
Should we really be surprised? Two 51 game winners meeting in the first round. You think one of these two clubs wants to go home to their better-than-average home climates and start placing tee times at their local golf clubs in mid-April? Doubt it.
Game 1, as we all know, was the double OT thriller, with the two goal and last-minute comeback by Nashville and the questionable hit by Hartnell mixed in somewhere in the middle of the mess, which was of course reviewed by the league with no suspension.
Game 2 was chippy from the opening faceoff, again to be expected. If you look closely though, you see the Sharks begin to lose composure. All of the sudden, this fast and finesse bunch of Preds were sticking up for themselves and were decisively in control.
Yes, Radulov's hit on Bernier was over the line, and we know he didn't want to hurt anyone. (For all non-Preds followers, pick the most youthful, exhuberent and innocent player on your favorite team and imagine him headhunting a player) In my mind, his suspension was more justified than Hartnell's possible one.
The brawl at the end of the game leaves the entire NHL hanging, and wondering what happens now. Does San Jose play disciplined hockey or do they try and retaliate on a Predator? I would assume they're smart enough not to, because they will be under a microscope to the extent they've never felt before, but you never know.
Thanks to the weak Central Division, coupled with poor results, the Preds have won only two road games since November against a playoff team. The last of which was at San Jose in a shootout on February 28. It will be interesting to see if the Sharks continue to try and impose their size and power on the Preds without crossing the line. Nashville has already held their own.
If ever there was a time for cliches, this would be it: It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Say what you want, but that's the Nashville Predators in a nutshell.