Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Three Reasons Why the Preds Will Win Round 1 of the Playoffs

Nashville has been to the playoffs 5 times in the history of their franchise, and are very likely going to make that 6 this year. If the Preds make the playoffs this year, there's going to be the same question asked of them that there has been in every playoff year recently: Can they make it past the 1st round? Here are three reasons why I think the answer to that question is finally yes.

1. Pekka Rinne- The Predators have never had the quality of goaltending going into the playoffs as they have this year. Not even close. He has a save percentage of .929 and a GAA of 2.14. Rinne is playing at the highest level of any goalie in franchise history this year, and literally has the ability to steal wins for the Preds. That's huge in the playoffs. Good goaltending can go a long way toward the end of the year.

2. Unfinished business- Nashville feels as if they should have won last year's playoff series. The fact is, Nashville REALLY should have won last year's playoff series with Chicago. Lackluster play late in the 3rd period and overtime of Game 5 in Chicago cost them the game, and essentially the series. This year, the Predators are going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder in the postseason. They know they can't let what happened last year happen again. The effort is definitely going to be there.

3. Better leadership- First off, this may be the best coaching job that Barry Trotz has ever done. Earlier in the season, he had his critics. I was one of them. But he has proven me wrong, and I respect the hell out of him. However, Trotz isn't the leader I'm referring to for this postseason. Stretching beyond Trotz, is a new captain that is a fierce competitor. Shea Weber simply brings a different mentality to the game than any other captain in Nashville Predators history has brought before him. He's got that look, that demeanor, and the sheer intimidation that he puts in the opposition that strikes fear into their hearts. More importantly, he's a guy that the rest of the team will play for. Weber leads by example, and doesn't accept anything less than 100% effort by himself and his teammates. That aggressive mentality is a very good thing for the Predators in a playoff hockey situation.

The intangibles for postseason success this year are there. It's now just a simple matter of clinching a playoff berth, and then going to work. This is the year that Nashville can get the monkey off of their back, and advance past the 1st round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Collecting 4 more points in the regular season would go a long way to helping their chances of doing that. The Predators are aiming for home ice adavantage in the 1st round, and a big step can be taken to reach that goal on Friday night vs. Columbus.

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