On Wednesday night, the Nashville Predators clinched a berth for the Stanley Cup playoffs when San Jose lost 3-1 to the Anaheim Ducks. It is the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the Predators will see post-season action.
With two weeks left until the playoffs begin, Nashville’s ticket to the post-season has been punched earlier than most previous times the Predators have secured their trip to the post season. While the seeding has yet to be determined, it is likely Nashville’s first-round opponent will be either the Detroit Red Wings or the Chicago Blackhawks, two teams the Predators have battled with and lost against in post season action. As all three teams fight for the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings, it will be a fight for positioning until the very end of the regular season.
With five games remaining, the Predators have only once before clinched a playoff berth earlier than March 28th. A look through Nashville’s past shows that the Predators traditionally take it down to the wire before securing their playoff berth.
2010-11 – A season ago, it took the Predators until April 8th, with just one game remaining on their schedule before the Nashville clinched a playoff berth with a 4-1 win over Columbus at home. Fourth place was Nashville’s to lose and that is exactly what happened as the Predators lost their season finale by a 2-0 score to the St. Louis Blues.
The Predators would finish the season in the fifth seed and would face Anaheim in the playoffs. Nashville beat the Ducks in six games to capture their first ever playoff series victory. During the series, Nashville would pick up their first game 5 win as well as first overtime win in the post season. Nashville went on to lose to the Vancouver Canucks in 6 games in the Western Conference semi-finals.
2009-10 – With just two games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Predators clinched a playoff berth with a 4-3 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings on April 3rd. Ryan Suter scored 16 seconds into overtime. The Predators were as high as the fifth seed after the win, but would fall to the seventh seed, third in the Central Division.
Nashville faced the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. With the series tied at two games apiece, the Predators gave up a lead in game 5 and lost in overtime on a goal by Marian Hossa, thus giving the Blackhawks a 3-2 series lead. Nashville lost in 6 games to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
2007-08 - It took Nashville right down to the wire to secure their playoff berth in 2008. For the second time in a row, the Predators would not clinch a playoff berth until April 3rd. It took a 3-2 win over the Blues as well as some help from the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers edged Vancouver 2-1 and the Canucks loss allowed for the Predators to return to the post season for the fourth consecutive season in the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings. The Predators lost to the Red Wings for the second time in the post season in six games.
2006-07 - The earliest Nashville ever clinched a playoff spot was on March 22nd, 2007 with seven games remaining in the regular season. Nashville lost 3-2 to the Calgary Flames in overtime, but were guaranteed a playoff spot. Rhett Warrener scored less than two minutes into the overtime period to give the Flames the win. Again the Predators finished second in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference standings. Nashville went on to host the San Jose Sharks for the second year in a row, but again lost in five contests.
2005-06 – The Predators clinched a playoff berth with four games remaining on the schedule on April 8th, 2006, by edging the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in a shootout. Paul Kariya scored in the second round of the shootout to give Nashville the win. It was the second year in a row for the Predators to clinch a playoff berth, but the first time the Predators got in by winning rather than another team losing. Nashville finished second in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference standings. The Predators played San Jose in the Western Conference quarterfinals. After winning game one of the series, Nashville went on to lose four straight contests.
2003-04 – The first of three times the Predators would secure their playoff berth on April 3rd, Nashville’s 4-1 loss to St. Louis would not stop the Predators from reaching the post season for the first time in the six years of the franchise. With one game remaining in the regular season, the Predators were backed in to the playoffs with the Oilers losing 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks later that night. The Predators would face the Detroit Red Wings and lose in six games.