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Wed, Dec 17, 2014

Blog: March Madness fades to Cup Craziness

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It’s that time of year again, where hockey fans from around North America will spend long nights either in front on the television or at their favorite team’s arena watching all of the heart-racing excitement of the NHL Playoffs.

This is one of my favorite times of the year, spending each night and witnessing all of the action. I know the NBA Playoffs is also coming up pretty soon, but I give a slight edge to the NHL postseason and here is why.

Most of the games usually come down to the very end and can also last deep into the early morning. The action is fast-paced from start to finish and these players play every shift of each game like everything is on the line.

For those new to the sport, the NHL is divided up into two conferences, East and West. The top eight teams from each one qualify for the postseason with all of the series being the best of seven.

The Nashville Predators might not have one the highest payrolls in the league, but they play consistent enough to make the playoffs each year. The only problem is they cannot get past the opening round. However, in the past few seasons, the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks knocked them out in the opening round.

This might be the year, Nashville wins their first ever playoff series, but it will be a tough match-up in the first round. The Predators finished the season with 99 points and earned the No. 5 seed and has a date with Anaheim Ducks starting this week.

It’s classic contest in different styles, the high-powered offense of the Ducks against stonewall defense of Nashville.

The Ducks top two lines have a mix of youth and experience that packs a lot of scoring punch. The first line includes Corey Perry, who led the NHL in goals this season, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. Their second line has two players who might seem like their career could end, but they just keep getting better with age, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.

I remember watching Selanne and former teammate Paul Kariya led the then- Mighty Ducks to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. I later saw Kariya play as a member of the Predators. Right now, Kariya did not play this season for his current team, St. Louis Blues, because of a concussion.

The Ducks were created in 1993, after the Disney movie, “The Mighty Ducks.” In 2005, Disney sold the team and they took the Mighty off the name. Two seasons later, they took home the Stanley Cup.

As for the Predators, they are known for their defense led by one of the league’s best pairings of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. The final line of defense is goalie Pekka Rinne, who has kept Nashville in contention in several games this season. I sometimes wish some the traditional hockey media would give those three players more respect. Instead, they think since Nashville is not a typical hockey market, those players are not very good.

My prediction it will be a tight series and someone will step-up to led their team to victory. Not to sound like a homer, but this is the year the Predators break the drought and advance to the second round for the first time in the team’s history.

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