The Nashville Predators eliminated the St. Louis Blues from the playoffs Sunday afternoon, winning game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals 3-1. This is the first time since the franchise was born in 1997 that they have reached the Western Conference Finals, making this playoff run historic for the franchise.
And to be quite honest, I am shocked.
@BarstoolChief Nashville is a one line team, and even then their top like is more like an average second like. Should be a walk in the park
— Nick Santangelo (@n__santangelo) April 11, 2017
I tweeted this before the first round of the Chicago Blackhawks – Nashville Predators series. And I truly believed it. The Blackhawks looked ready to win another Stanley Cup, and in my eyes the Predators looked average.
During the regular season, the Predators ranked 11th in goals scored during the regular season, and combining that with their shooting percentage being higher that most teams, it made me think even less of their offensive ability. They also finished 15th in goals against, so their defense and goaltending did not stand out.
Now lets not act like those stats are bad because they are not. The Predators were one of the better teams in the NHL, but did not look like a cup contender this season. Yet here we are.
That average, middle of the pack defense swept the Blackhawks, shutting them out in the first two games and only gave up 3 goals in the series. It was a shocking performance by the Predators, but still many thought the Blues would defeat them in round 2.
Once again, they were underdogs.
Round 2 came along, and the Predators had no problem, as they jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the series. The Blues would fight a little, taking game 5, but the Predators were able to finish out the series in game 6 and get one step closer to the Stanley Cup.
But these Predators look like a different team. They are scoring at a slower rate then during the regular season (2.91 goals per game in the regular season vs 2.80 in the playoffs),which when facing better goaltending is expected, but are playing outstanding defense. They are averaging only 1.40 goals against per game during these playoffs, almost a whole goal less than during the regular season.
The Predators will have either the Anaheim Ducks or Edmonton Oilers in their way of a Stanley Cup appearance. If it is the Ducks, they will be taking on one of the best offenses in these playoffs, but by far the worst defense of any team still left. If it ends up being the Oilers, they take on an offense not producing much more than they are, but a lesser defense.
It isn’t a given, but the Predators look like a team that can be on their way to a Stanley Cup. Their offense will need to step up in order to take down a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals, but their stellar defense could carry them all the way.