NHL: Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators Looking To Silence the Doubters

Chad Minton@@chad_mintonCorrespondent IApril 6, 2011

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  (L-R) Jonathon Blum #7, Cody Franson #4, Martin Erat #10, Mike Fisher #12 and Sergei Kostitsyn #74 of the Nashville Predators celebrate Martin Erat's third period goal against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on March 31, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Nashville Predators defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Once upon a time, the Nashville Predators were an organization that no one outside of the city limits of Nashville really knew about.

Some 13 years later, and five playoff appearances, very few outside of Nashville know about this organization and its group of hard working players. In all reality, this team gets very little national attention, despite their consistent success in their short time as an NHL franchise.

The Predators are on the cusp of their sixth playoff appearance in seven seasons after their win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday night.

All the Predators need to clinch that playoff berth is at least one loss by the Dallas Stars or just take care of business by at least making it to overtime in one of their final two games.

Not only are the Predators quietly sitting in fourth place in the West, but they've got one of the better goalies in the NHL in Pekka Rinne. He is in the running for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the league's top goalie.

It would be hard to argue that without Rinne's great performance in the crease this season, the Predators would still be in the playoff hunt.

The fact is that Rinne has kept the Predators in virtually every game this season with his goaltending, and he'll keep them in every game in the playoffs if they get in. However, simply making the playoffs is no longer good enough for this organization anymore.

The Predators have never made it past the first round and squandered a great opportunity last season against the Blackhawks. Another first-round loss could really be a tough pill to swallow for this organization.

This team seems different than any other playoff team the Predators have had in the past.

They have great scoring threats in Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist to go along with great defensemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. You also can't forget the young talent that this team has in guys like Colin Wilson and Blake Geoffrion.

As long as the Predators can figure out a way to protect leads in the third period, there's no reason why this team can't make a deep run into the playoffs. 

They just have to find their way out of this log jam that is the Western Conference standings.