Tales From The PredsMobile: Smashville Is Ready For Playoffs!
By Miranda Martin (https://twitter.com/lovelyminda)
The Nashville Predators were the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth for the 2018 postseason, and Smashville is ready for the hopefully long road ahead.
After a victory in Buffalo to sweep the short 3-game road trip, the Preds currently stand with 106 points ahead of their home game against Toronto on Thursday. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning, who stand with 102 points as of Tuesday morning, are the only other team in the league who have clinched a playoff berth, as it will likely go to the wire (and the 4/1 Preds vs Lightning game in Tampa) as who will earn the Presidents Trophy this year. The Preds have a chance of going into the playoffs the number one seed in the division, conference, or even league.
But who cares about the regular season when the playoffs start? All bets are off come April 11th, as long as you’re one of the 16 teams remaining. The Preds proved that just last year.
Unlike this time last year, where the Predators were grasping in hope for the last berth into the playoffs, fans can relax a little before the playoffs start. The PredsMobile is practically bare right now as the postseason design is prepared and postseason catchphrases are created. Other fans are planning the day that they start their playoff beards or other superstitions, while others have already started since the moment the team clinched. The high of the postseason run to June has not worn off from last year, and Smashville is ready to party until June once again… this time hopefully with a parade at the end.
In the PredsMobile, the Preds playoff hype has started to ascend, and there was a noticeable change in the atmosphere as soon as the playoffs were clinched. This weekend, through green-colored glasses and drunken stupor, many passengers were very quick to talk about how excited they were about the playoffs this year as soon as they saw the Preds gear in my car. They’re curious who we will play (which I’ll get to in a minute), but many were just reminiscing of the atmosphere last year, and how we, as fans, can make it an even better atmosphere this year. Fans are already starting to try to organize playoff parties for the first round, deciding whether or not to go downtown for a viewing party or just to their favorite bar. People were asking me about playoff tickets and how to acquire them. Some asked if they could request me so they could arrive to the playoff games in fashion.
But for a moment, let’s look at the big picture here. The luxury of having the playoffs clinched and home ice all but guaranteed gives us a humbling reminder of what we had to deal with last year. As the magic number for home ice and first place in the division starts dwindling down, we should be thankful we aren’t still vying for a playoff spot this season. As of Tuesday morning, it’s mainly five teams within three points of each other (Colorado, LA, Anaheim, Dallas, and St. Louis) all contending for a playoff spot. But this time next week it could easily be eight teams all trying for seeding. It’s the typical Western Conference traffic jam, and for once it’s nice to not be a part of it.
So who do the fans want to play? The Avalanche? The Ducks? The Stars? The Blues? No matter who the team, the Preds will have a target on their backs, because every team knows they can make it to the Finals, no matter the seeding. The teams and the fans need to be prepared for a good fight. A big fear I’ve been hearing about playing a team like the Ducks, the Stars, or even the Blues is that it’ll be a good chance for the teams to beat the Preds up, but high physical play should be expected from any team. Personally? I’d like to see a series against the Avalanche in the first round. The first playoff series against the Stars needs to be reserved for a second round, as it’ll be years of physicality and animosity boiling over.
Speculation aside, it’ll likely go down to the very last day before the standings are officially secured in either conference. It shouldn’t matter who we play every round when the quest is for the Holy Grail at the end. The Preds still have to beat whoever it is to get to the next round. The postseason is a marathon, and the Preds and fans alike will have to fight for the chance to play in June yet again.
But for now, enjoy the last ten games, stock up on lemon tea and honey, get your last Blackhawks jokes out of the way, and keep all hands and feet inside the vehicle. We’re in for quite a ride come April 11th.