Predators in the Stanley Cup Final

 

The Nashville Predators have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. That’s right, it’s not a misprint. The mustard-colored, sabre-toothed team has made it to the championship round of hockey postseason. It’s a stunning development. When you think about the fact that qualified as the final seed in the Western Conference, and their goaltender was merely average all season, it’s pretty crazy.

Predators in the Stanley Cup Final – How Did They Do It?

A variety of factors:

Goaltending

Pekka Rinne was decent all season. But throughout the regular season many pundits were asking the legit question as to whether or not young backup Juuse Saros would begin to get more playing time. But somehow Rinne managed to literally flip a switch and play elite come playoff time. He’s been poised, steady and bounced back from defeats. Amazing.

Defense

Nashville has the most talented top four defensemen in the league – and it’s not even close. All four of them can move the puck, play physical and shut down top offensive players of opposing teams. Typically in the playoffs you’ll see the top two guy get a ton of ice time and playing time drop off after that. Not so for the Preds. They ride their top four, keeping everyone fresh and frustrating opponents.

Unlikely Heroes

Every postseason deep run needs some unsung heroes that you’d never think would score big goals. Enter Kevin Fiala and Pontus Aberg. Who? Exactly. While Fiala was lost to injury, Nashville continues to get quality performances from their entire roster.

Elite Players Elevating

At the end of the day, championship teams see their best players be their best players. In other words, guys like PK Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg have all been their teams’ best players. And that’s the way it should be.

Based on how Nashville has lost only two games at home, been stingy on defense, gotten great goaltending and clutch scoring, how can you go against the Predators in the Stanley Cup Final odds?

Matthew Ross is a sports commentator and a radio host on TSN 690 Radio in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Follow him @MatthewWords.