The Blackhawks’ embarrassment in the hands of the Predators may have been the most shocking result in NHL history. But like most cases, this one isn’t a “they got lucky.” Nashville dominated practically every period, and they’re pulling a 2012 LA Kings, forcing the hockey world to believe this is normal.
The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a joy to watch. With 26 overtime games already, the all-time record (28) can be broken with three more overtime battles. Considering how the Ducks-Preds series is going, we may very well see a new record. But it’s a joy for many other reasons; reasons that all fans have to swallow even if their team is watching from home.
The hockey experts didn’t pick these four teams to be left standing, and even though it’s not necessarily what people want, it’s what the NHL needs. New faces, new names engraved in the most decorated trophy in sports. Nashville has quickly become a hockey-themed city right before our eyes. And similar to “Smashville,” the Ottawa Senators have shocked the world as well. Peter Laviolette and Guy Boucher — the coaches of the Preds and Sens respectively — may have their game faces on at all times, but they’re built with passion and knowledge that’s carrying their clubs through the postseason.
The Anaheim Ducks are playing in their second conference final in three years. A California team (ANA/LAK/SJS) has been in the Western Conference Final for the last seven years. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the defending champs, looking to become the first team to repeat since the 97–98 Red Wings. Both of these organizations are familiar with playoff hockey. But Nashville has had their hearts broken in recent years, and Ottawa is a die-hard hockey city who has been waiting for this for years.
Though the series is tied 2–2, the Predators are simply riding too much momentum despite a Game 4 overtime loss. Ottawa routed Pittsburgh on home ice, scoring four goals in the opening period. They own a 2–1 series lead and can take a commanding 3–1 lead at home, which would put Sid and company on the brink.
A Nashville-Ottawa Stanley Cup Final may not be ideal. NBC’s ratings may go down without Chicago or Pittsburgh playing.
But the literal rating of the matchup would be superb in the eyes of passionate hockey fanatics. It’d be a Tennessee team who has found their groove, sweeping an iconic, modern-day dynasty in the opening round, and a hardworking club in Canada’s capital who can bring the cup back to its country’s roots.
Two teams that grind. Two teams that can skate. Two teams that have controlled the puck most of the postseason. Two teams who have opened a lot of eyes. Two teams that have woken up their fan bases. Two teams led by anchors at the blue line: Erik Karlsson and PK Subban. Two teams that are eager to change the narrative of recent NHL history.
The Ducks are still quacking and the Penguins are still holding on tight.
But it’s fair to say the Predators and the Senators have earned respect from every team across the league.
Two new logos battling in hockey’s biggest stage would do amazing things for the sport. It would perfectly depict the fact that the NHL is the most competitive major American sport. Unlike Cavs-Warriors every year in the NBA, there is too much talent in hockey to annually predict the champions.
It leaves a question with an incalculable magnitude: Are these new faces here to stay, or are the powerhouses like Chicago going to avenge 2017's results using this extra fuel to the fire?