After the Anaheim Ducks came into Bridgestone and took out Nashville’s top two centers in Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher and walked away with a victory and a 2-2 series, I thought that was the end of the season.
I thought Nashville would go to Anaheim for game 5 and put up a good fight, but ultimately come up short. And then, Anaheim would close things out at Bridgestone.
I have never been happier to be wrong.
The heroes came in the most unlikely of places. Colton Sissons scored a hat trick in the closeout game six to send his team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Who predicted that outcome at the start of the season, or even the start of the playoffs?
Pontus Aberg, who has one of the best names I’ve heard in my life, sparked the Predators in game five. Austin Watson blocked a ton of shots in game six, and got one of the empty net goals late to seal the game.
Those guys are not star players, but they fulfilled the “next man up” mentality coach Peter Laviolette has worked to instill in the team.
Pekka Rinne has been incredible, and without some of his acrobatic saves, the Predators do not survive to this point.
In game 6, the Ducks more than doubled the number of shots on goal the Predators had, but they could only muster half the number of makes.
The Ducks played possibly their best game of the series in game six. Even when Nashville went up by two goals, they kept up the pressure and played desperately. And still, the Predators persevered.
The moment when the injured Ryan Johansen, Kevin Fiala and Mike Fisher came out to high five their teammates after the victory sticks with me. Those guys were, of course, upset they couldn’t be out on the ice, but they were ecstatic for their teammates.
Not only will the Predators compete in the finals for the first time, Nashville will play host to its biggest professional sporting events yet in games 3 and 4 – and maybe 6.
When the series shifts to Nashville, one thing is certain. Bridgestone Arena will be a madhouse.
I genuinely do not care which team the Predators face. Either way, they will not have home ice, as has been the case in each other series thus far. Both teams are talented. Pittsburgh is the defending champion, and Ottawa has a lot of heart. Pick your poison.
Those teams play game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night, and either way, the Predators will get ready to travel for game one Monday.
It will be tough for the Predators to have a strong showing in the finals, as they are still missing key players due to injury.
Not many people thought the Predators would beat Chicago. And it looked like their season was winding down when the Ducks evened the series and key players were lost. But they found a way to overcome adversity and win.
Why stop believing now?
Jake Old is a staff writer for The Democrat. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @wilsonnewsroom.