When the season began few expected that the Nashville Predators would be preparing for their fourth straight playoff appearance. Not many teams can lose Tomas Vokoun, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg replace them with Martin Gelinas, Jed Ortmeyer, Radek Bonk and Dan Ellis and expect to complete. Not only did the Preds compete this year but at times they looked like (and did) they could beat anyone.
This is not last years edition that coasted into the playoffs. This team had to fight like crazy the last two weeks to get in. This is not that team that mortgaged it's future to bring in Forsberg last year. This is a team that brought in near unknowns to bolster it's playoff hopes. This is not the stacked team that we had last year. This is a team. A team that had to play together. Win and lose together. This is a team that grew up alot this year.
It seems only appropriate that our first round foe would be the Red Wings. This years team is more like our first playoff team that faced the Wings...not overflowing with talent but a blue collar team that can make life hard on opponents. If I were the Wings I would be a little nervous to face us right now.
Let's take a look at the playoff teams past and present:
1st playoff team - happy to be there! Thrilled for the chance to play with the big boys.
2nd playoff team - starting to feel like we belong and at the #5 seed felt like we could make some noise. We were clearly outmatched by the bigger stronger Sharks.
3rd playoff team - went into the playoffs struggling but with Foppa we thought all would be good. After the 2 OT loss at home to the Sharks it was all downhill.
4th playoff team - we are not supposed to be here. No one is expecting us to win. The least talented team since our first appearance.
Despite the odds being stacked against us I really like our chances here. I don't just think that the Preds make a series out of this but I think that they actually win this series. We will need great goaltending from Ellis and top notch, disciplined (read don't take penalties) play in our end and we will get this done.
These Preds are not just thankful to be here...they have some work to do.