“Everybody hands go up, And they stay there, And they say yeah, And they stay there, Up down, up down, up down, ‘cause all I do is win win win” – DJ Khaled.
The Nashville Predators have advanced to their first Western Conference Final in the 18-year history of the franchise! Nashville beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 in Game 6. The Predators road some hard play and their goalie Pekka Rinne to the 4-2 series win. St. Louis fought until the end, but what it was enough to take the Preds off stride.
Game 6 started with an energetic Smashville crowd that took the level up a few notches after Kevin Fiala stood (that’s right, I said stood) on the band stage and whipped 17,000+ fans into a frenzy. The Predators seemed to almost be pumped up too much to start the game. The first 5 minutes of the game were filled with mistakes and unforced errors, one of which lead to the first goal of the game for the Blues. A poor clear attempt by Austin Watson turned into a deflected shot from Vladimir Tarasenko that fell behind Rinne and was tapped in by Paul Stastny for the 1-0 lead.
This looked like the worse case scenario for Nashville, especially after the way Game 5 went. An early goal and the Blues were outshooting the Preds 7-0 in the early portion of the period. The Preds would settle down in the second half and outshoot the Blues 5-2, but could not even the game up before the break.
Whatever, Peter Laviolette said to the boys in the locker room at intermission seemed to work. Just 35 seconds into the 2nd frame, Roman Josi blasted home a quick one-timer on a beautiful circle to circle feed from Mattias Ekholm. With the game tied at 1 and the crown beginning to regain its steam, Nashville began to settle into their game. Both teams could only muster up 7 shots on goal in the period, but you really started to get the sense that the Predators were slowly taking over the game.
Period three would be more of the same, very tight checking and not many shots to the net. Then it happened, Viktor Arvidsson carried the puck up the left boards and then turned to the middle and fired a pass to a streaking Ryan Johansen for what would be the game-winning goal. Johansen got a little stick push from Yannik Weber that propelled him past Blues defenseman Colton Parayko and got him free and clear to make the move.
Let me just say, I have been a season ticket holder since day 1 and I have heard this building really loud before, but nothing like the explosion when Johansen put that puck behind Jake Allen. For the next 16+ minutes, I am pretty sure, almost no one sat down. They cheered while the game was in play, the cheered during stoppages and continued during the commercial breaks. I try not to show my fandom while I write, but just this once, it was a really fun thing to watch and be a part of. Anyways, back to the game.
After the Johansen goal, the Predators didn’t just sit back and let the Blues come at them. They continued their quick counter game, which leads to 3 more breakaways that they didn’t capitalize on. Full props to Allen for this whole series, he was the one reason the Blues pushed it to 6 games. Finally, with exactly 1 minute remaining Calle Jarnkrok slid in an empty-netter to give the Preds the cushion they needed. Then it was high fives and hugs everywhere you looked in the stands. Sorry, I did it again…my bad.
Now Nashville waits to see whom will join them in the Western Conference Finals. Will it be the Edmonton Oilers or the Anaheim Ducks? Honestly, right now, I am not sure Smashville really cares. I think we are all going to just sit back and enjoy the moment!
Follow me on Twitter at danieljones@dj_puckplanet