Tha Sports Junkies 101

Reports of Nashville Predators’ Demise Premature

Reports of Nashville Predators Demise Premature Viv Lynch/via Flickr

Predators reach first Stanley Cup Final without top two centers


The Nashville Predators surely felt some disappointment after Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. After erasing a 2-0 deficit late in the third period, they lost 3-2 in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks, which tied the series at 2-2. Disappointment probably turned to worry the following day.

It was learned that top center Ryan Johansen needed emergency surgery on his left thigh and would miss the rest of the playoffs. Second-line center Mike Fisher was also hurting after Game 4 and eventually did not play in Game 5.

Johansen’s injury, though, seemed to be a series changer. At that point, he was the Predators’ leading scorer in the postseason with 13 points in 14 games.

Fans and some experts thought that was probably the end of Nashville’s playoff run. I remember seeing posts on Instagram that same day stating that. There were a couple that even said, “see you in the Final, Ducks.” I wasn’t buying it, though.

Being a Ducks fan, I didn’t feel at ease even though the Predators would miss their top two centers in Game 5. Reason being is because Nashville still had their neutralizer, goalie Pekka Rinne. And Rinne showed why he is still one of the best netminders in the league and the world.

Rinne allowed just four goals on 74 shots over the next two games to help the Predators win the series in six games and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. He was absolutely stellar in the series clinching Game 6.

From the opening drop of the puck, the Ducks were all over Nashville. Anaheim ended the game with a 41-18 shots advantage, but could only beat Rinne three times. The Predators, meanwhile, took advantage of Anaheim backup Jonathan Bernier.

After starter John Gibson left the game after the first period in Game 5, Bernier would take over the net. In Game 6, Nashville would beat Bernier four times on just 16 shots before sealing the game and series with two empty net goals.


Now, if Gibson was healthy for the rest of the series would Anaheim have won the series? Maybe. But he wasn’t and the Predators took advantage.

They also didn’t fold or roll over, which would’ve been easy to do.

Nashville did not have Johansen or Fisher for either Game 5 or Game 6. When a team is missing one of its best all-around players, it can discombobulate a lineup. Guys who may not have big roles get thrusted into a bigger role. It changes match ups and line combinations, as well as special teams assignments.

Having your team captain also out, on top of that, has an effect, as well. Then, you go into a game and have to deal with all the ebbs and flows that come with playoff hockey. It can be taxing. However, the Predators kept on pushing.

During Game 5, they fell behind 1-0 in the second period. In Game 6, they saw the Ducks come back from down 3-1 to tie the game at 3-3 with less than 10 minutes left in the game.

In both games, Nashville went after the game after those instances, instead of sitting back. Thanks to that, they are now just four wins away from their first ever Stanley Cup.


The Predators have that opportunity because they had different guys step up in a big way.

Left winger Austin Watson had three goals over the last two games of the series, two of them coming in Game 6. He also did great work defensively, blocking six shots in the series clincher.

Center Frederick Gaudreau was called up from the AHL for Game 5. He took advantage of his opportunity, winning 10 of 14 face-offs in Game 5 to help give Nashville possession.

Center Colton Sissons would take Johansen’s spot on the top line. He made the most of the chance, tallying four points over the series’ last two games. Sissons had a stellar Game 6, recording his first career playoff hat trick.

Rookie Pontus Aberg had three points combined in Game 5 and 6, scoring the game winner in Game 5.

While missing top guys can hurt a lineup, it also gives guys like the ones mentioned above the opportunity to show what they got and contribute.


Now, Nashville awaits its opponent for the Stanley Cup Final. Not many people had the Predators going this far in the postseason. But the unpredictability of it is what make the Stanley Cup playoffs so fun and exciting (unlike another sport that has its postseason at the same time).

As mentioned previously, Nashville is just four wins away from the Stanley Cup. Regardless of who they play, they’ll have a great chance to win it. They have the best defense of the remaining teams and probably the best goaltender.

Even without Johansen and maybe Fisher, don’t overlook their chances to win this series. They already showed they can do it.