It took the Nashville Predators 13 years and 34 playoff games but finally they have advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs. The series win came thanks to a 4-2 victory at home on Sunday, against the Anaheim Ducks and for the first time since calling Nashville home, the Predators have advance to the second round.
After having been eliminated in the first round six of the past seven seasons, the small market team was determined to add to the “History will Be Made” theme of the playoffs with a little of their own. However, the ultimate goal is Lord Stanley's Cup and now there is little time for celebration as they know they have either the Red Wings, Kings or Canucks as their next opponent, depending on how the remaining series end.
“They don’t remember who wins the first round. You have to continue to work hard and try to get more wins,” defenseman Ryan Sutter said.
The fifth seeded Predators finished the season with 99 points and were technically considered the underdogs in their first round match up, which was probably the most evenly matched series of any in the first round. As the playoffs began, the Predators managed to pick up right where the regular season left off. They averaged 3.33 goals in the final 15 games of the season and scored a franchise-best 22 goals in six games against the Ducks.
“Now we're making history,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We're a young franchise that is trying to go deep.”
The Predators have the fifth-youngest active roster with an average age of 26 years, 140 days but that doesn't concern Trotz. The head coach, who has been the franchise's only coach in their history, has always seemed to get the most out of his players.
The big contributors in this series for the Predators were Mike Fisher and Jordan Tootoo. Fisher, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Ottawa in exchange for a first round pick, led the team with six points, while Tootoo got a career-best five points, two of which were assists on the game-winning goals in Games 5 and 6. They also got plenty of help from team captain Shea Weber, who had five points.
The fans certainly have appreciated all of the Predators hard work. They helped give the team a home ice advantage, selling out 16 games in the regular season and having already sold out three playoff contests. They are now just one sellout away from the franchise high, which came in the 1999-2000 season.
“This city is a fantastic city with a great fan base,” Trotz added.
The Predators were rewarded for their win Monday, as they were given the day off. Now they sit and play the waiting game and surely will be glued to their TVs to see who their next opponent will be.
But no matter who it is, it certainly won't be easy!
Photo Courtesy of: ASSOCIATED PRESS