Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey | Last updated 4/21/12
NASHVILLE– With a 2-1 win in Game 5, the Nashville Predators became the first team toadvance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their first playoff series win over Detroit isa signal that times have changed in Nashville.
It’sa result the Predators have found themselves on the short end of in the past.
In2004 and 2008, the Red Wings were heavy favorites going into series against theeighth-seeded Predators at the time. Barry Trotz’s club gave the Presidents’ Trophy winners their best punchin both postseasons, but Detroit’s counter punch was too strong.
Fast forward four years.
ThePredators saw Detroit’s best effort. Mike Babcock may have called his team’s Game Five performance the “worstof the series,” but the Predators had to consistently fend off a desperate RedWings team throughout the series. Andthey did so successfully in three straight games, including twice in thevaunted Joe Louis Arena to finish off a hard-fought series.
Similar playoff script, different outcome.
“Ithasn’t sunk in,” Trotz said after last night’s series-clinching win. “We used to look up to Detroit, feeling thatwe were a little inferior in terms of talent or whatever it may be. We were maybe a little bit in awe ofthem. I think we’ve grown to the pointwhere we have a great respect for the Detroit Red Wings, but we’re not in aweof them.
“That’sthe stepping stone that we’ve taken.”
Detroithas always been Nashville’s measuring stick, as well as the gold standard inthe Western Conference and NHL. ThePredators could never get over that hump, whether it was on the ice, in thestandings, or in the playoffs. They justcould not beat Detroit when it mattered.
Notmuch has really separated the two teams in recent years, especially in theirprevious playoff matchups. Fourteen oftheir 17 meetings in the ‘second season’ have been decided by two goals orless.
ThePredators competed with the Red Wings in 2006 and 2007 for the division titles,but the old guard would always tend to beat the inexperienced whenever Davidhad the chance to knock down Goliath.
Nothingcould go right for the Predators in what has, up to this point, been considereda one-sided rivalry. The most memorableexample came when Nicklas Lidstrom scored a fluke goal from center ice to sealtheir first-round series in 2008.
Butthe shoe was on the other foot in this latest chapter of what could now beconsidered a legitimate rivalry.
PaulGaustad’s goal in Game One bounced in off a Detroit defenseman’s skate. Kevin Klein’s clutch shot block in Game Threesaved a one-goal lead in the third period. Alexander Radulov’s pass to Gabriel Bourque ricocheted off a Detroitplayer’s skate, which resulted in Bourque scoring a big goal in Game Four.
Everythingthat may have gone wrong four or eight years ago against the Red Wings finallywent right here in 2012 for the Predators, who also finished ahead of the RedWings in the standings this season for the first time in franchise history.
“Theyhave such a great team, great organization with a lot of history with a lot ofsuccess,” Rinne said of beating Detroit. “It was a great chance for us to play against the Detroit Red Wings andbeat them in five games.”
Inpast years, the Predators may have viewed beating Detroit in the playoffs as acrowning achievement. Not now, andthat’s a part of this postseason being ‘different’ in Music City.
Thepost-game locker room last night was slightly joyous, yet more reserved thanone would assume, just moments after one of the biggest wins in the franchise’shistory.
“Youcan’t get too high. A lot of teams winin the first round,” Ryan Suter said. “We have to stay level-headed and be ready to show up for work next week.”
Thingshave changed in Nashville. Everything isviewed in the bigger picture. Takingdown Detroit in the playoffs is nice for the franchise and a moment that hasbeen a long time coming – but in the grand scheme of things it’s just anotherstepping stone along the way.
“It’snot time to celebrate; it’s only the first round,” Alexander Radulov said. “Yeah, we’re happy that we beat Detroit, buteveryone in this locker room wants to go forward and win more.”
Photo credit: Getty Images
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