WELCOME TO GAME DAY
Just like The Hunger Games, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a battle of survival. It is the quest, through luck, sacrifice and attrition, to be the last team standing, to return home as a revered champion … with the battle scars to prove it.
In the books, 24 are chosen and only 23 (are supposed to) survive. In this case, 16 teams have earned the right to be here, while only one will lift Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of the journey.
The difference between sudden death and eternal glory is biting, a case of black and white, with an entire season coming down to a lucky bounce, a single shift, or one game-winning goal.
In 2011, both Boston and Vancouver were taken to overtime of the seventh game of their first round series. Just 12 months earlier, the Flyers rode a shootout victory on the final day of the regular season all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. And we don’t need to rehash those painful memories from 2009, when Nick Lidstrom shot the puck on an open net with seconds remaining, only to have Penguins goaltender Marc Andre Fleury make a Cup winning save.
Mike Babcock puts it best when he says, “everybody thinks the playoffs are long. They aren’t. They’re only long for two teams.”
The difference between a long playoff run and first round elimination is a sharp, cutthroat world where a fortuitous break, an unlucky bounce, or an unfortunate injury can extend your season, or send you home in an instant.
That’s why we watch. It’s why we love it so much. It really is the greatest reality show that sport has to offer.
So, Happy Stanley Cup Playoffs everyone! May the odds ever be in our favor.
The teams met six times during the regular season, each winning three games. Predators fans would probably point out that guys like Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov, weren’t around for the first four of those meetings. We’d probably counter by offering a lengthy list of names who either didn’t play, or weren’t at 100 percent for those final two meetings, including Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm and Pavel Datsyuk.
The breakdown of those meetings is as follows.
November 26 - Joe Louis Arena - RED WINGS 4, Nashville 1
December 15 – Bridgestone Arena - NASHVILLE 4, Red Wings 3
December 26 – Bridgestone Arena – RED WINGS 4, Nashville 1
February 17 – Joe Louis Arena – RED WINGS 2, Nashville 1
March 10 – Bridgestone Arena – NASHVILLE 3, Red Wings 2
March 30 – Joe Louis Arena – NASHVILLE 4, Red Wings 1
The highlight (at least on this end) was the Wings 2-1 win on February 17, the 22nd straight victory at Joe Louis Arena, which ended with Pavel Datsyuk beating goaltender Pekka Rinne with five seconds left in regulation.
“Z (Zetterberg) made a great pass. I jump on the side,” Datsyuk said of the goal. “I prefer to shoot because I don’t know how much time.”
The Predators would probably point to March 30’s 4-1 win at Joe Louis Arena. The 500th career win for head coach Barry Trotz, who has spent his entire NHL career in the Music City and is the only head coach in franchise history.
The aforementioned Radulov notched a goal and an assist in that game. Andrei Kostitsyn also picked up an assist.
PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR NASHVILLE
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter – Considered two of the best defensemen in the game by many, both are free agents at the end of the season.
Pekka Rinne – The Nashville goaltender led the league in wins with 43 and is 11-5-3 against the Red Wings in his career with four shutouts.
Alexander Radulov – The Kontinental Hockey League’s all-time leading scorer with 254 points, including a championship in 2011. Radulov has five career goals and eight points in 10 NHL playoff games in 2007 and 2008.
The Kostitsyn Brothers – Sergei had 17 goals and 26 assists during the 2011-12 season, but really was a Wings killer during the 2010-11 campaign with four goals and three assists in seven games. Andrei scored 16 goals and picked up 20 assists between Nashville and Montreal.
|Pavel Datsyuk speaks to reporters following the Wings 2-1 win over
Nashville on February 17. (Photo by Dan Mannes – Detroit Red Wings)
Jimmy Howard – Had a 2-2 record with a .908 save percentage and a 2.26 GAA.
Henrik Zetterberg – Led the team with six points against the Predators (2G, 4A)
Valtteri Filppula – Scored four goals in six games played, also notched an assist.
Pavel Datsyuk – Had two goals and three assists in five games played, including the game-winner on February 17.
11:30 AM – Nashville practices at Bridgestone Arena
12:30 PM – The Red Wings practice at Bridgestone Arena
8:00 PM – Game 1 on FOX Sports Detroit, CNBC, CBC and 97.1 FM.
GAME 1 VIEWING PARTY
Need a place to watch tonight’s game? Check out our Official Viewing Party at Hockeytown Café and watch the game with fellow Wings fans. Win prizes, enjoy trivia, mingle with members of the Volunteer Energy Red Patrol and much, much more!
We’ll be joining @WingsFansInNash for their official pregame meetup at McFaddens on 2nd Avenue, starting at 5PM Central. The Wings Fans in Nashville group was cultivated after the Red Wings hosted a Social Media Event in the Music City last March. Everyone is invited to stop on by, grab a bite to eat and converse with fellow Detroit fans in Nashville.