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The Music City entered the NHL in 1998 with an expansion team and immediately brought a new fan base into hockey. From locals to transplants to country music superstars, the Nashville Predators united the population in gold, navy, and white.
Struggling through the early years, the Predators worked hard to find a winning formula on the ice. After five long years without any postseason experience, the Predators finally made the playoffs following the 2003-04 season. A quick exit at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings was enough to ignite a fire under this franchise that would have them continue to strive for the playoffs.
The Predators have been a perennial playoff contender, making a postseason appearance in 9 out of the last 12 seasons. Despite playing will enough to make the playoffs, a deep run seemed to elude the team. Nashville was never able to get beyond the second round of the tournament… until last year.
Following a strong showing with a record of 41-29-12, the Predators made the playoffs as the second wild card team in the Western Conference. Matching up against the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks, there was a collective gulp in Tennessee. Never ones to back down from a challenge, the Predators brought their best game to the rink and astonishingly knocked off the Blackhawks in four games. This was the first time in NHL history that an eighth seeded team swept the first seeded team. Facing off against the St. Louis Blues, the Preds went back to work and prevailed in six games, sending Nashville to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in their history.
A hard-fought six games series ensued with the Anaheim Ducks in the conference finals. A surging Anaheim team brimming with strength and speed was not enough to shake the Predators, who again triumphed to reach the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. Facing the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the Predators gave them everything they had. Digging themselves out of the 2-0 deficit to even the series, the Predators couldn’t find the strength to close out the series, losing in heartbreaking fashion in six games.
This Cinderella run has inspired the team and had them chomping at the bit all summer to get back on the ice. The 2017-2018 season will be one to watch for fans in Nashville. Entering his fourth year as head coach, Peter Laviolette has yet to miss the playoffs and plans to keep the streak going. His team is anchored by longtime player and current captain Mike Fisher.
This team is loaded on talent. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson led the team in points last season and are hoping to eclipse their numbers this year. Young centerman Filip Forsberg continues to improve his game and become a star player in the league. James Neal is a veteran player making a big impact and the acquisition of PK Subban last year from Montreal definitely added to their strong play. Alexei Emelin, Subban’s former teammate in Montreal signed with the team in free agency, solidifying a strong defensive corps that also features Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi. Pekka Rinne will take his normal spot between the pipes, determined to keep the scoring low and allowing his team the opportunity to come out on top night after night.
This team may have been underrated last year, but the same should not be expected this year. After making a big splash in the playoffs, the Nashville Predators have arrived as a Cup contender determined to make it back to the finals. Some of the most loved players to suit up for Nashville include Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, David Legwand, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Mike Fisher, Ryan Suter, Paul Kariya, and Kimmo Timonen. More information about the history of the Nashville Predators as well as their current team can be found by clicking here.