It was a little more than a month ago that the Nashville Predators professed their belief that they were a better team than the Chicago Blackhawks. Never mind that the Blackhawks had just eliminated them from the playoffs in six games.
“Everybody believed that we could win,” general manager David Poile said at his season-ending press briefing. “I’m not so sure that was the case in some of our past playoff situations. … We didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, but we really thought – to a man – that we could do it.”
Now, Chicago is set to try to secure the title of the best team in the National Hockey League when it begins the Stanley Cup finals. The seven-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers opens Saturday.
It is the second time in a row the Predators were bounced in the first round by the eventual Western Conference champion. In 2008, Detroit defeated Nashville in six games and eventually captured the Cup.
“We’re really disappointed in what happened,” forward Steve Sullivan said days after the final defeat. “We felt like we had the series at a couple different points and we let it get away.”
At the very least, the Predators can make the case that they posed the biggest challenge thus far to Chicago.
The Blackhawks scored just 17 goals in the six games against Nashville, They went six games with Vancouver in the second round and scored 23 goals (an average of one more per game), and then scored 13 in a four-game sweep of San Jose.
The Predators led the series after three games. Vancouver only was ahead after the first game and San Jose, obviously, never had an advantage.
All of that will provide little – if any – solace throughout the offseason, even if the Blackhawks win it all.
“I think if you get satisfied with losing then … something’s wrong with you,” defenseman Shea Weber said. “Any athlete is competitive and you want to win.”