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Handshake Line: Defense Wins Game Sevens

Congrats Nashville.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Well done, Preds. It wasn't nearly as big of an upset as Peter Laviolette made it out to be, but it was an upset nonetheless. Credit where credit is due:

Top 4 D

Roman Josi, Shea Weber, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis turned out to be the biggest difference makers in the series. Especially that Ellis-Ekholm pairing. Wow. The Preds have arguably the best top 4 D in the league, and when the coach knows this and distributes ice time accordingly, good things are likely to happen. All four of these players were willing to make, and capable of making, smart, aggressive plays with and without the puck in each of the seven games. To think that they used to have Seth Jones . . .

David Poile

And the reason they don't anymore is because their general manager identified the team's biggest strength (depth on D), identified its biggest weakness (no No. 1 center), and successfully borrowed from one to build the other. Even if Seth Jones turns out to be a better player than Ryan Johansen, the Preds are still probably better off, because they don't win this series if Mike Ribeiro is centering their top line. Was Johansen a truly dominant player in these seven games? No. But did he allow the Preds to slot everyone into an appropriate spot in the lineup, and additionally make some really big plays himself? Absolutely.

Pekka Rinne

It's a good thing I'm allowed to live and die without ever knowing how exactly goalies work, because I'm pretty much lost on this one. After his most forgettable season in a long time, the Finnish netminder showed up big time in these seven games. Sure, he got bounces, but so does every goalie who ever wins in the playoffs.

Peter Laviolette

None of his decisions made the front page, which tends to be a good thing if you're a coach. The lines were what they should have been, the ice time was what it should have been, and the system is what it should have been.

Preds Fans

Thanks for not moving to Orange County in the thousands so you can enjoy our weather and make Honda Center miserable for those of us clad in orange. I mean that, sincerely. We'd probably agree on a lot of things, actually, like what kind of people Hawks and Wings fans are. Thanks for not being them. Enjoy your second round date with the Sharks. You've earned it.