As the horn sounded in the Nashville Predators’ 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals, the sense of elation of the Nashville fans was evident even through the TV.
The Preds’ journey through the playoffs has not been an easy one, even though at times it’s seemed that way. Eighth-seeded Nashville defeated the No. 1 seed Chicago Blackhawks in four games, before defeating the No. 3 seed St. Louis Blues in six games.
After 19 years of existence, the Predators had made their way to not only their first conference finals, but also their first Stanley Cup. Despite a season-ending injury to leading scorer Ryan Johansen and an injury to captain Mike Fisher (Mr. Carrie Underwood) that could keep him out of the finals, the Nashville train keeps rolling.
A team that barely made it into the playoffs with 94 points has reached the Stanley Cup Finals, where they will face either the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins or the maybe equally as surprising Ottawa Senators, starting on Monday, May 29.
Based on seeding, Nashville will enter the finals as an underdog. The Preds have won every series not only as the eight seed in the West, but the 16 seed in the playoffs, becoming the first overall 16 seed to make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
They have a coach in Peter Laviolette who has now led three teams to the Stanley Cup, winning in 2006-07 with the Carolina Hurricanes and losing in 2009-10 with the Philadelphia Flyers.
They don’t have Cup experience, other than defenseman P.K. Subban, they don’t have the star power that the teams they’ve faced in these playoffs have. But these Predators have battled their way into the position they’re in, and no matter who they face-off against in the next round, they’re out to prove that hockey in “Smashville” is no joke.