The longest season in Nashville Predators history came to an end on Monday night at the Bridgestone Arena with Vancouver defeating the offensively challenged Predators 2-1. The Predators had plenty of opportunities, especially in the first two periods but could not get one or two more pucks into the net.
In the first five games of the series the case could be made that he best team won on each occasion. Last night, for the first two periods I think the Predators were the better team. In the first period, they had eleven scoring chances to the Canucks two, but only those two found the net. Bad ice and Roberto Luongo stood in the way of several potential goals.
In the final period, a long season of being resilient and pushing a huge rock uphill seemed to finally catch up with the Predators who left everything they had on the ice and could skate off with no regrets of not giving it everything they had in the tank.
The Predators did not attain the Stanley Cup which was their stated goal in September. They did have many "firsts" and went further than any Preds team had gone before. They have nothing to be ashamed of and should have no regrets for the best season in franchise history.
The foundation has been laid for a series of future runs for the Cup. The two round postseason run will allow them more flexibility and re-signing the players they want and putting the best team they have ever had on the ice in the 2011-12 season.
Folks can stop the hand-wringing now. Shea Weber will be back. After the game, he said. "The group in here wants to win the Stanley Cup, so it's not going to be easy going home early." That doesn't sound like a man looking elsewhere.
The main thing that came out of this year's Predators season and post-season run is the graduation of the Predators and the city of Nashville from being a team of no-names and of questionable stability in a non-traditional market to being a very likable team with recognizable players in a bustling big time hockey city.
The old school media from Canada, and especially Toronto, have never experienced the Lower Broad Nashville experience and the fun-filled Bridgestone Arena crowd because they have not spent any time in the "Athens of the South."
Now they have, and they fell in love with everything about it... And, they want to come back!
Normally tired media folks were secretly pulling for Nashville on Saturday night in game five because they wanted another day of Southern hospitality, bar-b-cue, and a couple of more cold beers in the strip of honky-tonks that make Nashville true to its stereotype.
What else they found in Nashville, was the hardest working team in the NHL that is never going to go away, either on the ice or financially. They found the head coach that beat writers in 29 other markets dream of having. Barry Trotz is a real person, in addition to being one of the top coaches in the NHL.
He never gives "coach talk" and he shares his heart after every game, win or lose. He is a people person and is admired by fans and media people across the league because he is a man of character that demands the same from those around him.
After last night's presser, after shaking hands with Predators' CEO Jeff Cogen, Trotz turned and shook hands with the members of Nashville's unique "Blogger's Row" and thanked each of us for "hanging with us all season." Few other coaches would have done that after a very trying evening.
The other half of the Predators' magic is G.M David Poile who has made a career in Nashville of piecing together an intricate jigsaw puzzle of players that mix and match and produce far more as a whole than could ever be expected individually and doing it within an impossible budget at times.
On the marketing side, CEO Cogen and COO Sean Henry, tapped the Nashville market and parlayed their experience into a thriving financial entity that has brought long term stability to a franchise that has never had the full benefit the top marketing and operations folks in the NHL.
Finally, the team of alleged no-names has four folks nominated for NHL Awards which means that a lot of folks are paying attention. In addition to Trotz and Poile, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne will walk the red carpet at the Palms Resort and Casino on June 20.
The Predators players, the organization, their fans, and the city of Nashville can wake up this morning and throw their chests out and be proud that all have passed their final exams and have graduated to being one of the top franchises in the National Hockey League, both on and off the ice.
Game Six: Preds-Canucks Round-Up...
Here is our game story from last night with Barry Trotz's post-game video, This is one you want to watch.
Josh Cooper had his game story, notes column, and postgame ponderings.
Bryan Mullen had a few thoughts from David Poile after the game.
The long lost (to the Titans) John Glennon returns to remind everyone of the Preds' lack of offensive punch. It was good to see you John.
John Manesso had his final post at FS TN with the game six loss.
Jim Diamond has his season ender at the Examiner..
David Boclair has his story at The City Paper as well as a meaty notes column.
From the blog world reports come from Amanda DiPaolo, Mark Willoughby, Chris Burton, Jeremy Gover, Paul McCann, Predatorial, and Hockey Night in Nashville.
The other side of the story comes from all the fine media outlets listed in the right column.
Audio from the Predators comes from David Legwand, Shea Weber, Shane O'Brien. Joel Ward, Ryan Suter, and Pekka Rinne. From Vancouver we have audio from Coach Alain Vingeault, Henrik Sedin, Chris Higgins, and Ryan Kesler.
Game highlights from NHL.com follow...
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass