Fresh off a shocking sweep of the hated Chicago Blackhawks, the national media started looking at the Nashville Predators with eyes a little more wide open. Not only was it a case of “David slewing Goliath” again, but in the case of the Preds first round, David flat out beat the tar out of Goliath and then paraded his severed head around for all to see. It was pure domination. Of course, it helps that the guys who get paid to light the lamp did.
But the guys on the other end of the bench were too. Roman Josi scored twice, Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk and Colton Sissons each added goals. Heading into their second round match up with St. Louis, all of a sudden, it’s the Predators depth that was going to propel them deep into the playoffs.
In game one, you had Vernon Fiddler, the grizzled veteran potting the game winner with just under six minutes remaining in the game. With the series tied one game a piece and heading back to Smashville, the depth took center ice. In Games 3 and 4, Ellis has added two more tallies, Josi added a goal in Game 3 and perennial scoring threat, Cody McLeod scored the game winner. In contrast, the JoFA line (Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson) has one goal between the three of them.
As you progress in the Stanley Cup playoffs, naturally, you want your top guys doing top guy things, but it’s the soldiers, not the generals, who are typically the heroes.
Conversely, when the Dallas Stars played, and ultimately lost to the Blues in 7 games last year in the second round, the offensive juggernaut Stars fizzled. In three of the four games Dallas lost, they managed just a single goal (Colton Sceviour, Alex Goligoski, and Patrick Eaves). In the entire series, Goligoski was the only defenseman for the Stars to get the puck past Brian Elliot (twice). Only twice did a scorer with the name “Benn,” “Seguin,” or “Sharp” pop goals during the series. The top line was shut down…but then again, so was everyone else. In fact, Goligoski along with Mattias Janmark and Radek Faksa were the only players to score multiple goals during the 2nd round for Dallas.
Nashville is getting goal production from practically everyone on the roster and those who are not scoring are setting up the players that are. There is production up and down the bench. In fact, the player who has absolutely disappeared from the scoring sheet is goaltender, Pekka Rinne, who had two assists in the series versus Chicago. I think we can all give him a pass for his scoring slump.
The conversations about potential Conn Smythe candidates is starting to heat up, and thankfully, you’ll not hear anyone associated with the team even entertaining such silliness. For the fans, it’s fun to start looking to the horizon, but there’s one big hurdle left this Friday to clear and then things get interesting. I’ve often considered the atmosphere at Conference Finals games way more electric than those for the Stanley Cup Final. There’s a certain magic about being present when your team is actually vying for the Cup, but there’s a whole different level when the Clarence Campbell Bowl is up for grabs. I’ve been to both, and I can say start scraping those pennies together just in case. Come Friday evening around 10:30 PM or so…the team will communicate the possible sale of tickets for the next round. I assure you, you will NOT want to miss that.