Unless you’re an NHL owner, when you hear the name Gary Bettman, chances are your blood will boil, followed by sounding like you have a bad case of Tourette’s. One of the many reasons why people hate Bettman is because of his atrocious Bible belt experiment.
To be fair to Bettman, based on US history, you’d think a game where a bunch of white guys with clubs are hitting a black object as hard as they can, so the black object gets captured into a net, you’d think that they would have a lifelong waiting list to get season’s tickets.
The one legitimate success, however, is the popularity of the Nashville Predators. The fans are loud and they constantly support their team. This is impressive when you remember that watching a Preds game for the first twelve or thirteen years was about as fun as watching paint dry, or, a 2017 grapefruit league baseball game between the Diamondbacks and the Pardes. However, once their old coach, Barry Trotz, got fired, Peter Laviolette took over and the Ice Titans have been entertaining and good ever since. This is their third straight year they have made the playoffs.
Name: Nashville Predators
DFO Name: Ice Titans
2016-17 Regular Season Record: 41-29-12, 94 points (Wild Card team)
Goals For: 238 (11th)
Goals Against: 220 (11th)
Opponent: Ice Bears
Record Against the Ice Bears: ONE AND FOUR!?! OH MY GOD, THE ICE TITANS ARE SCREWED!
Thoughts: This series will be a lot closer than many think. PK Subban was injured and did not play in two of those losses and goalie Pekka Rinne (tee hee, Peker) played like ass for 85% of the season. However, Rinne posted a .931 save percentage in March, which means he is heating up at the right time.
Defensively, the Ice Titans’ defense is better than Chicago’s. Aside from shutting down Kane, Toews, Panarin, Anisimov (if he plays) and Pannik, they’ll be expected to produce on offense as well. Their top four of Subban, Josi, Ellis and Ekholm each put up 20+ points in the regular season while averaging over 23 minutes of ice time. Scoring on defense is huge in the playoffs and the Ice Titans have the guys who can put up points.
Offensively, the Ice Bears have a significant advantage. With that said, the line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson has been one of the deadliest lines since they were put together on a regular basis on Dec. 26th. Forsberg has scored 26 goals–third most in the NHL– since the line was formed. If they can keep that up, the Ice Titans have a good shot.
1) Can Mr. Underwood, Mike Fisher, shut down the duo of Kane/Panarin?
2) Can Mr. Melanie Collins, James Neal, provide crucial secondary scoring when Keith and Westbrook are beating the Forsberg-Johanssen-Arvidsson line as if they were United Airlines passengers?
If the answer is yes, then the Ice Titans are capable of taking this series in seven games.
Hawks in 7.
Matchups in Round 1 is so important. If the Ice Titans could have faced literally any other team in the Western Conference, I think they would win the series and have enough momentum to beat the Ice Bears. Instead, they’ll be out in the first round.
Perhaps what’s most tragic is, Pekka Rinne, who was a great goalie for many years, is probably never going to get a sniff at the cup. It reminds me of the Ice Giants’ King Henrik. He was so good for so long with garbage teams and now that he’s old, he’s just not good enough to carry his pretty decent team to the Promised Land.