Fans exited Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night with long faces and a feeling of helplessness. What do the Predators have to do to catch a break? Well If you haven't figured out by now: the Nashville Predators will never have an easy road to success.
The initial expansion that included Nashville was questioned and criticized by many NHL fans and media across North America. Why would the NHL put a team in Tennessee? How will this ever work? The franchise then made its inaugural playoff appearance in 2004 taking a huge step as an organization to gain just a little respect as a team. But three years later, despite the growth in fanbase and the die-hard fans that supported their Predators every night, the Nashville Predators looked to be heading to Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. The NHL had become impatient with Nashville's inability to fill the arena night in and night out, but the Predators faithful would have none of that. On July 19, 2007, Pred Nation came through. A rally held at Bridgestone Arena answered any questions of whether the city of Nashville deserved an NHL franchise.
But the opposition was still there. The Canadian media continued to give Nashville the cold shoulder and often times just ignoring them all together. A team in Nashville, Tennessee could not be taken seriously. As the media continued to turn a blind eye to Nashville, something special was happening. Attendance was going up and the atmosphere was getting better game by game. Music City was slowly and quietly becoming a hockey town.
These playoffs have shed some light on the subject however. Predator fans have been credited by TSN's Farhan Lalji as one of the two loudest buildings in the league. Both TSN and Versus have now carried games in Nashville and have had high praise for Pred Nation. The Predators are also getting some respect. Pekka Rinne, in the shadows for most of the regular season, has now been recognized as what we in Smashville have known all along: one of if not the best goalie of the year. Shea Weber has also flown under the radar in every market not named Nashville and Vancouver. The Norris Trophy nominee and his beard has received national media attention for the leadership shown down the stretch of the regular season and these playoffs. Additionally, both Barry Trotz and David Poile are finalists for the trophies awarded to the best in their respective positions.
So yes, the Predators got a raw deal Tuesday night. Yes, they are down 2-1 in a series against the best team in the NHL. But resiliency says they are only three wins away from the series win. Hard work says who cares who we're playing. The Predator way says anything is possible. It has already shown that earlier in the playoffs when history was made. The Predators are a win away from evening the series, and we all know anything can happen in game five. Anything can happen when Nashville Predator hockey is executed correctly no matter who the opposition may be. Smashville, we must believe as we have all post-season. The team will feed off of that energy and can even the series Thursday night.