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NHL Playoffs 2012: Nashville Predators Prove to Be Legitimate Cup Contenders

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 20:  The Nashville Predators react in the final seconds of Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals moments before eliminating the Detroit Red Wings from the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bridgestone Arena on April 20, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Jared DwyerCorrespondent IIIApril 24, 2012

The world has turned upside down.  Hell has frozen over.  Pigs have flown. What has caused these statements of hyperbole?  The Detroit Red Wings have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, in the first round!

There is a saying: “All that is guaranteed in life is death and taxes.”  Well, in the sports world there is:  The Yankees outspending every team every offseason, the Cubs missing out on the World Series and the Detroit Red Wings making it to the second round (minimum) of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Throughout my adult life the Red Wings have seemingly been a guarantee to get past the first round.  Not this year; not in 2012.

Being a relatively short drive away from Nashville, I was not too aware of how good their team is.  I knew of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne and the Kostitsyn brothers.  Yet, for some reason the combination of the above along with Hal Gill, David Legwand and Mike Fisher being an above average team did not register. 

Now, I see this team being able to perform in these Stanley Cup playoffs the way the Memphis Grizzlies did in the last NBA playoffs.  After vanquishing the “never to be counted out,” perennial Stanley Cup contending, San Antonio Spurs of the NHL, the Nashville Predators have announced themselves as a legitimate 2012 Stanley Cup contender.

Due to my work schedule I was not able to watch the entire Nashville-Detroit first-round series.  However, the games I did see showed how truly talented they are and how much of a threat they now are in the West.

They have top-flight goaltending from Pekka Rinne, whom has two great, young defensemen in front of him in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.  Then there is the improbable great play of rookie, Gabriel Bourque, whom threw himself a playoff coming-out party by scoring two goals in the Game 1 then going on to out-score, goal-wise, the great Pavel Datsyuk in their first-round series.

The Predators winning the series over the Red Wings should not have been as surprising to me as it was, since Nashville was the No. 4 seed in the West as opposed to Detroit being the No. 5. 

However, Detroit has a stigma, so to speak, that tends to make believe they are always in the top three spots in the West.  Which to a hockey fan, less aficionado, gives even bigger meaning to their dismissal in the first round.

As dominant their performance against Detroit appeared to be, they have an even tougher challenge in their next series against Phoenix.  The Coyotes can offer up a goalie that is playing as well as any other in the playoffs. 

This second round series, although less appealing as a Chicago-Detroit series would have been, will provide hockey fans with an equally entertaining series with excellent goalie play. 

The upcoming series between Nashville and Phoenix has the smell of a seven-game series.  Which, as a hockey fan and a neutral viewer of this series, I hope it will occur.

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