We’ve all seen the stats. Out of the 32 times it’s been awarded, only eight of its victors have gone on to claim the 16 victories needed to hoist the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup (the first year the Presidents’ Trophy was awarded, the first round of the playoffs was a best of 5 series, but the Oilers lost in the divisional final). That’s just a quarter of the time. I understand thinking that the percentage should be higher however, only six have lost in the first round and just three Presidents’ Trophy winners have made the Cup Final and have fallen short.
Now, if you were to ask any player, coach, or front office associate about the Presidents’ Trophy, they’re not going to respond with talk of banners or the actual trophy. The real prize is claiming home ice throughout the playoffs. The true reason you see the absolute best from hockey players for 82 games after going through through months of training camps is so that they can have an opportunity to play in front of their home crowd when it matters most.
And when during the playoffs would being able to play a singular game mean the most in front of the home crowd?
That’s what the Nashville Predators have given themselves after beating the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 to tie up their Western Conference Semi-Final series at three games apiece. Fifty-three wins…117 points in 82 games have rewarded Nashville with a game on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. There’s just one tinsy winsy problem; history doesn’t care where the game is played.
Since 2000, the Presidents’ Trophy winner has played in 13 game 7s, and has lost 7 of them. After going 9-2 at home during the playoffs last year, the Predators are just 3-3 this postseason. So, where’s the advantage? What’s the big deal? Well for one, of the 166 game 7s in NHL history, the home team holds a 58% edge over the visitors (97-69). The team that scores first is an even more successful 75% (124-42).
But, I digress. I’m not the stats guy. The other amazing writers here typically give you the black and white…the X’s and O’s. Me…I tell you what you should think and feel.
And Smashville…you should be getting your Thursday attire laid out and telling your boss(es) that you’re leaving early. You’ve never had this opportunity to see a game 7 and you won’t get this particular one again. You have arguably the two best teams in the league in Nashville and Winnipeg (thanks, NHL for that stupid realignment…bring back the re-seeding) going back and forth, toe-to-toe at center ice, each trading victories and not having won consecutive games all series. Here’s hoping that last one ends on Thursday.
All the other series are over. Las Vegas (cough, cough…that was hard to get out), Tampa Bay, and….no. That can’t be right. WASHINGTON? The CAPITALS are in the Eastern Conference Final? I’m guessing the league just hasn’t noticed and at the time this gets published, Gary Bettman will step in and announce that the Washington/Pittsburgh series will become the best-out-of-9. Anyways, Thursday night will have one game. All eyes of the hockey world will reign down onto Broadway and once again, as we were last June, Nashville will have an opportunity to show the world that this IS a hockey town.
You have the chance to go right through Blake Wheeler’s body with all of the fake, piped in noise you can muster. Peter Laviolette has the opportunity to verify that Scott Hartnell is, in fact, the missing link to this team and just the right addition into the lineup to spark the entire roster.
Games 7s are supposed to be a coin flip. That’s what makes them great. No one team has such an overwhelming advantage that game 7s captivate us. Game 7s also produce heroes. I call upon everyone in Nashville…all damn near 700,000 that call Nashville proper home to rise up and be the hero. Realistically, this could be the last game of the year, and despite whatever result may come Thursday, this team has given us so much to cheer for. Everywhere you turned, history was being made; winning streaks, wins, points…
Oh yeah, and that trophy thing. History is the study of the past through documentation. But the Predators have history in front of them. In order to make history, they’ll have to break some history. The last team to win the Cup after winning the Presidents’ Trophy was Chicago. Wouldn’t it be fitting that team that drove the Blackhawks into obscurity be the next ones to do it?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call, poetic justice.