If I said it once, I've said it a million times: I didn't want to face Pekka Rinne and the Predators in the first round.
This is why.
Because here we all sit, mourning a Cinderella story cut short. The clock didn't even hit midnight, but our carriage is back to being a pumpkin, our beautiful ball gown and fairy tale are both gone.
Now maybe people will resent my cliche comparison, but remember, if you will, back in November and December when the Ducks were not just on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, no they were sitting in the basement of the NHL, curled up in the fetal position, seemingly down and out. Trust me, if anyone would have appeared from the future and said we got eliminated in a seven-game series in round one of the playoffs? Well, I would have probably thrown plenty of profanity around in sheer disbelief of the thought of that team rebounding to the point of even making the postseason.
But they did. The team was down, but not out. So, let's keep that in mind as we pay homage to the Nashville Predators, who got it done when it was needed most.
I tip my hat to Pekka Rinne: I don't care how many times I hear "Rinne doesn't look that good," or "Rinne looks shaky at best," blah, blah, blah. Rinne still made the necessary saves to give his team their best chance to win each and every game. In short? Rinne did his job, and made the big saves when the group in front of him needed them the most. Can I also say that seeing him fight to stop Anaheim's cycle behind the net by jumping into the boards was borderline comic relief all series?
I tip my hat to Shea Weber and Roman Josi: This should be anything but a surprise. This defensive duo tallied five and three points respectively, with Weber co-leading the team in points for the series despite being taken off the ice for 12 penalty minutes. These two combined for 36 shots on goal, which accounts for almost one-fifth of the entire shots on goal for the Predators all series. To say they were offensive threats is a huge understatement and they scared me when they hit the ice. Hence, respect.
I tip my hat to James Neal: This one pains me to write, which is exactly Neal deserves this nod. Neal did a spectacular job of being a thorn in Anaheim's side, getting into the minds and under the skin of both the Anaheim players as well as the Anaheim fans. Side note: had Filip Forsberg not been the elbow that took Josh Manson out of the rest of the series, I could have seen tipping my hat to him as well in this section, however I can't respect when one player targets another maliciously. Forsberg can go fall in a hole now.
I tip my hat to Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis: When a defensive pair hears they are given the responsibility of shutting down the likes of Corey Perry, it probably sparks at least some nerves. But this defense duo from Nashville did just that, holding Perry scoreless through all seven games. For these two 25-year-old blue liners, they have proven they are ready for the task of taming the opponents beastly players, whoever they may be.
I tip my hat to Peter Laviolette: The Predators head coach has improved his career record in game sevens to 5-1, and led the Nashville franchise through their first ever game seven to a victory. Not only that, but he clearly prepared his players from the get go for everything the Ducks would throw at them, and that preparation is what helped propel this team to the second round.
Until next time, ladies and gents, we cannot expect to win them all, but damn.. That one would have been nice.