You’ve heard of chokers, I assume. Players and coaches who deliver except when it matters most. Right or wrong, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Big 10 football, Barry Bonds, Kari Lehtonen, and Alex Ovechkin all have the choke label. Of course, “choke” is one of those strong words that get overused. After all, Tom Brady, LeBron James, Steph Curry, John Elway, and Sidney Crosby were called chokers at some point even though that was obvious bullshit! But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t players and coaches who do choke. Take the Washington Capi… come to think of it, no Washington team has gotten past the second round in forever! And they call Atlanta a cursed sports town…
But what about the opposite breed? The teams that don’t play well except when the lights are on. Take the 9-7 football Giants team several years with a bottom ten-ranked defense that went all the way. A year later, a Ravens team that lost four out of five leading into the playoffs proceeded to win it all! When it counted, they delivered.
Same deal with my Nashville Predators. Whatever happens next week, this is a magical season! You can see it in the home crowds of the playoffs. Yes, we’re assholes to the opposing goalies, but we’re energized in part because of something great happening in Smashville! Even with a 41-41 record and no starting home ice, I still thought we had a shot at overcoming Chicago in Round 1 simply because it’s a rivalry in which the games are usually close. But advancing all the way to the Finals? No way! But maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. We had the same record last season but came a game away from Round 3.
What’s happened is that when the season was on the line, everybody delivered. Pekka Rinne has been playing at a super-elite level, stopping every shot he had to! P.K. Subban has become the amazing piece everybody thought we had traded for last offseason. Roman Josi has only continued to improve.
Even our forwards, the weakest link to our team in spite of their speed, come to play. With John Gibson stepping up his game probably because he knew his fellow Ducks wouldn’t be able to score at will on us like they had on Columbus and Edmonton, we turned it up put the puck in the net some more. I thought we might be done when Ryan Johansen got hurt, but we weathered that quite nicely.
Some say that Preds-Ducks is a real rivalry because we’ve met in the playoffs three times in a decade. I don’t know, seeing as how we won every single time. Kinda one-sided. Then again, the Nashville fans on social media that I see seem to hate the Ducks for how dirty they often play, even mocking the fact that the Ducks are based on those Mighty Ducks Disney movies of a generation ago. Mutual fan interest counts.
So now we’re in the Finals. I hope to see us win the Stanley Cup. I went through two heartbreaks at the finish line with Alabama football and the Falcons. A third in a matter of months would really suck. Welcome to Smashville!