2011 NHL Playoffs: How Far Can the Nashville Predators Go?

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2011 NHL Playoffs: How Far Can the Nashville Predators Go?
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Last night, the Nashville Predators moved into the second-round of the playoffs for the first time in the team's twelve-year history. The Predators have been one of the league's most consistent teams at making the playoffs, only missing them once in the last seven seasons. However, they never tasted a series victory until last night.

The series against the Anaheim Ducks was one of the most entertaining series of the first-round, if not one of the most underrated series. While all the drama has been taking place in the Vancouver-Chicago and Boston-Montreal series, Nashville and Anaheim had a little back-and-forth of their own.

Nashville's top players actually played like their top players. Mike Fisher gave them every reason not to miss the first-round pick they gave up, scoring three goals and three assists for six points. Three other players had five points each, including captain Shea Weber.

Nashville's second-round opponent won't be decided until Game 7 of the Vancouver-Chicago series. Nashville can play either Vancouver, the Detroit Red Wings or the Los Angeles Kings. If Vancouver and San Jose win, the Preds will play the Canucks. If San Jose and Chicago win or if Vancouver and LA win, they face the Red Wings. And if Chicago and Los Angeles win, the Preds face the Kings.

Out of the five previous times the Predators have made the playoffs, they have been eliminated by both the Red Wings and the Sharks twice. Now, I'm not saying that Nashville is scared of playing either team, but I'd suspect they would like to go into a series without people asking if they can make it past a team that has previously had their number.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Vezina nominee Pekka Rinne will have to perform like a Vezina winner for Nashville to have any hopes of winning the Stanley Cup

That being said, Nashville's best record against the teams they could possibly face is Detroit. In six games against the Red Wings, they posted a 4-1-1 record. Against Vancouver, they had a 2-2-0 record. They had a 2-0-2 record against San Jose, and a 1-3-0 record against Los Angeles.

I think their best chance of making it into the third-round this year is Detroit. Every sports station, television or radio, will be saying that Detroit will win that series just based on history. Well history is just that, history. This year, Nashville handled Detroit quite well, outscoring them 18-13. That may not seem like a lot, but only three other Western Conference teams were able to have a winning record against Detroit this season.

Nashville fans have every right to be excited for their team. They have achieved something they have never done before. But it's going to take a bigger effort to make it past the second-round, and an even bigger effort to get into the Stanley Cup Finals. Although, if there was any year for Nashville to pull off an upset, this would be it. However, I don't just see it happening, no matter how good of a story it will be.

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