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Welcome Aboard! The 2018 Bandwagoner’s Guide to the Nashville Predators

We don’t care why you’re here, we just care that you aren’t Ryan Kesler’s imaginary friends.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings fellow hockey fans, and welcome to your wonderful (and hopefully not temporary) experience as Nashville Predator hockey fans! If you haven’t fully committed yet, here are seven quick reasons to join us as we begin the playoffs Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche:

  1. The Predators have P.K. Subban (Bonjour, Montréal!) who, aside from being one of the best defensemen in the NHL, is also one of the most generous and kind athletes in the world.
  2. You just want to root for the most handsome team in sports.
  3. Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson make up one of the best lines in hockey.
  4. With Pekka Rinne on Nashville’s roster, we have an old, lovable goalie (who doesn’t play for a New York team) to root for.
  5. Nashville has hands-down the best top-4 defensive group in hockey. It’s not even close. And I’m just talking about how handsome they are, not to mind how great they are at hockey, for which the above statement also holds true.
  6. Carrie Underwood’s husband is on our team (I’ve used this reason on my sisters to a 2/2 success rate).
  7. We’re not the Anaheim Ducks.

Convinced? Good.

Whatever your reasons may be, here’s a quick guide to get you up to snuff on the Nashville Predators before any skeptical friends question your fandom. However, if they do, just say that you know more than the belligerently intoxicated Blackhawk bandwagoners assaulting security in Nashville. Really, will any rink employee outside of Chicago miss the playoffs this season? My bets are no.

Below you’ll find some team history, insight on the current team, and the fan culture you’ll need to get you through the postseason.

A Brief History of the Predators

A late-90’s expansion team, the Predators have made hockey work in a nontraditional market. The team has made 11 of the last 14 playoffs and sold out every home game at Bridgestone Arena the last two seasons. General Manager David Poile has been with the club through its entire history, while head coach Peter Laviolette is in his fourth season.

The Predators have never faced their first round opponent, the Colorado Avalanche, during the Stanley Cup playoffs. However, with both teams being from the central division, they know each other well. Earlier this season, as part of the Matt Duchene trade that brought second-line center Kyle Turris to Nashville, the Predators sent young defenseman Samuel Girard to Colorado. Girard has blossomed into a talented young player for Colorado and a defense desperately in need of finding balance. Some other old faces play for the Colorado Avalanche in Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque. We used to claim that there were two Wilsons - “regular season” Colin Wilson, and then “playoff” Colin Wilson. The latter is pretty good at hockey, so let’s hope Wilson sticks to his regular season level of play.

Last season, the Predators steamrolled the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, sweeping them and not allowing them to score a home goal. They then beat the St. Louis Blues in a hard-fought six game series that any fan of stifling defense would salivate over. However, the Predators lost second-line winger Kevin Fiala as his femur was broken on a hit.

In the third round, the Predators played the Anaheim Ducks for the third time this decade. As always, it was dirty. If you liked the old Vancouver-Chicago rivalry, this is similar, but much, much more vicious and violent. First-line center Ryan Johansen had a freak injury in game four where his leg began to suffer compartment syndrome, knocking him out for the rest of the playoffs. Mike Fisher also sustained the ever-mysterious “upper-body injury”, which was confirmed to be a concussion after the playoffs. Ryan Ellis also sustained an injury that he played through for the rest of the playoffs, but then required surgery that knocked him out for the first half of this season. Nonetheless, the Predators managed to defeat the Ducks in six games to advance to their first Stanley Cup Finals.

However, the Predators were simply too injured to compete with the Penguins’ depth at center. Missing both Johansen and Fisher, the Predators’ centers Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons were tasked with containing Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. It did not go well. Added into the drama was a controversially overturned P.K. Subban goal in game 1 and the now-infamous “intent to blow” no-goal in game 6, not to mention Crosby punching Subban in the back of the head or Crosby overhand throwing a water bottle from the bench at defenseman Mattias Ekholm. The Predators lost in 6, forced to let the Penguins lift the Cup on Nashville ice.

That sinking feeling is something that the Predators have used as fuel this season, the disappointment and anger making them play even better. The Predators had the most points in the NHL this season, winning the President’s Trophy and securing home ice advantage for the entire duration of the playoffs. As it always seems to be the case, the Predators began clicking in about mid-January and has been stellar the second half of the season. Let’s look at some of the players who have driven the Predators to the top of the NHL.

The Handsome Men’s Club

While every player on the roster has a story worth telling, let’s be perfectly honest: you just need to know five names so when your friends say “I bet you can’t even name five Predators!”, you’re covered. Therefore, I’ll give a few honorable mentions at the end, but here are the names you’ll be hearing broadcasters talking about all postseason (knocks on wood).

Pekka Rinne

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The realest NHL goaltender, Pekka RInne is the longest tenured Predator. At 35-years-old, Pekka Rinne has masqueraded as a fresh 24-year-old stud goaltender and has turned back father time to post one of his best career seasons to date. The Vezina Trophy frontrunner, he may finally win the award for the first time in his career. You read that right: he’s never won the cup. You want to root for a team full of OGWAC’s (old guy without a cup)? The Predators are the team for you.

Last year, Pekka Rinne prevented “Chelsea Dagger” from being played whatsoever in the playoffs. You’re welcome, world. After a stellar performance in the first round resulting in a sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks, Rinne was just as unbeatable against the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks. Ultimately, the Penguins figured him out in the Stanley Cup Finals, but by that point in time the Predators had the depth at center of a kiddie pool. If the Predators go far this year, Pekka Rinne will be the Conn Smythe winner.

Roman Josi

NHL: Nashville Predators at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Taking over the captaincy from Mike Fisher after last season, this Swiss supermodel - er, hockey player - has the power to completely take over a game in ways that you’ll never see. He is simply so consistently good that he almost becomes invisible. Josi will never make a bad pass, never pinch too hard, never take a dumb penalty, and never lose his cool. There may never be another Nicklas Lidstrom, but Roman Josi plays that exact same style of hockey. And he’s pretty darn good at it.

Furthermore, a recurring theme among a lot of Predators players, Roman Josi is heavily involved with charity. He and Pekka Rinne do a ton of work with the local Best Buddies chapter. Josi hosted this year’s Best Buddies prom and it was an astounding success. If you’d like to read more about Roman Josi’s charity work and, furthermore, why he should win the Lady Byng Award for the most sportsmanlike player this season, here’s an article for you.

Ryan Johansen

NHL: Nashville Predators at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Really, this section should be reserved for the entire first line. Ryan Johansen centers Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. Dubbed “the JOFA” line, each player brings their own different play-style in complementary ways. Arvidsson is known for his hustle and tenacious forechecking, Forsberg is known for his creativity and ability to get shots off in unique ways, and Johansen is the elite passer that glues everything together.

Ryan Johansen is going to be particularly worth watching this post-season because of how on fire he has been recently. Although he used to be a goal machine when he played on the Columbus Blue Jackets a few years ago, he’s evolved into more of a playmaking role. Nonetheless, he’s been scoring a bit more in the last few weeks. If he can continue that in the playoffs, it will give opposing defensemen a lot more to think about.

Kevin Fiala

NHL: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Kevin Fiala bounced up and down between the AHL Milwaukee Admirals and the Predators. Eventually, in February, he stuck to the lineup. Playing like a man on a mission, he had a great start to the playoffs. However, this all ended with him shattering his femur against the St. Louis Blues, knocking him out of the playoffs.

This season, especially with the addition of Kyle Turris from Ottawa, Fiala has been lightning in a bottle. He finished fourth on the team in goals with 23 and was seventh on the team with 48 points. For reference, he only had 16 points last season. His growth has been incredible, but expected. Although many will disagree with me, I believe that he has the most pure skill on this roster. If you want to watch a fun, young player with loads of speed, Kevin Fiala is the player for you.

P.K. Subban

NHL: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Honestly, what more could I possibly say about Subban that hasn’t already been said. He’s handsome, he’s the most charitable man in hockey, he loves kids, he’s brought the Nashville Police and local youths together through his Blueline Buddies program, and he’s a really, really phenomenal hockey player. P.K. Subban is a superstar in every definition of the word.

A lot of voters this season may overlook P.K. Subban for the Norris Trophy because he hasn’t scored as many points as the competition, but have you seen how bad Alexei Emelin is?? I won’t break out the advanced statistics but, if you look them up, you’ll notice that Subban was carrying around a bunch of dead weight for the majority of the season. With someone playing as poorly as Emelin next to Subban, it is absolutely jaw-dropping how good Subban has still managed to be.

Also, if anyone knocks Subban on “turning the puck over too much”, tell them that Lionel Messi is one of the top three players in “unsuccessful dribbles” in Europe this soccer season. The best players always have the puck on their stick, of course they’ll turn it over more than someone who never gets the puck.

Honorable Mentions

Other good Predators to know include Mike Fisher, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. Mike Fisher is married to Carrie Underwood, so that’s often a talking point among those who aren’t Predator fans. Honestly, it could very well be why you’re reading this article. Fisher retired after last year’s playoffs, but eventually Carrie convinced him to get back out on the ice. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are the other two defensemen, along with Josi and Subban, that make up what we call “the four horsemen.” Every one of these defensemen could be on a top pairing anywhere else in the league. They are an embarassment of riches and the envy of general managers across the league. Finally, if you want to look like a “hip” Predators fan, name drop Eeli Tolvanen in conversation. A young Finnish phenom, Tolvanen played for Jokerit of the KHL this season and represented Finland at the Olympic and World Juniors tournament. He flew over two weeks ago to join the Predators and could be an unsung depth hero as the playoffs wear on.

Reputable Twitter Accounts to Follow:

Our extended family here at On The Forecheck: @onetheforecheck, @onthefutureOTF, @alexdaugherty1, @_marya_k, @DanDBradley, @OTFBryantFair, @bmisey, @statswithkate, @itsHalesYeah, @scsotf, @ledgersko, @carolianne_ , @CBrooksTN, @_RKH80, @ERock_28, @Jgarcia36, @TweetsByHarris, @mpatrickg5 ‏, @kmartel_sports, @3DLink, @avpatel730, @forechecker.

Lines, rushes, and other general news: @AdamVingan, @diamondhockey, @justinbbradford, @RStanleyNHL, @joerexrode, @CutlerKlein, @CrazyCharlie615, @GreekGoalie35, @prednecknation.

Broadcasting Crew: @cmace30, @dmac_1025, @lyndsayrowley, @WillyD1025, @1025thegame, @porthgame, @chaseongame, @PredsOnFSTN.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If your account isn’t listed, my apologies. There are a lot of great people covering the Predators. I’m sure I’m forgetting wonderful people here.

Fan Culture Terms and Traditions

Throwing a Catfish on the Ice: A tradition started in response to the Red Wings throwing an octopus on the ice, you’ll see at least one catfish, if not more, hit the Bridgestone Arena ice this postseason. It’s kind of a big deal.

The Handsome Men’s Club: As used earlier in this guide, this title is used interchangeably with “the Nashville Predators.”

The TV Timeout Ovation: While many teams’ fans may sour when the team needs some help (see: Boston, Philadelphia), us Nashville fans know that we have to do our part to pick the boys up. When the game is on the line. the fans in Bridgestone Arena will all rise and give the Predators a spontaneous standing ovation during a third period TV timeout. Because of the continuous nature of playoff overtime, these ovations will often continue as late as they need to be.

Smith-ing It: A term to describe shooting the puck unnecessarily high over the net. We still love Craig Smith, aka “Honey Badger”, but this was a pretty unforgettable moment.

Handsome/60: While “fancy stats” such as Corsi and Fenwick are all the rage with the analytics part of the hockey community, us Predator fans prefer evaluating our team with this fancy stat. I would say that the team leaders are Roman Josi, Mike Fisher, and P.K. Subban, but picking a top three from The Handsome Men’s Club is a difficult task.

Arvi Hustle: This term is used to describe how hard Viktor Arvidsson hustles. Us fans don’t limit the usage of this term to Arvidsson, but it’s hard to find players who can match Arvidsson’s intensity.

Let It Be: A newer tradition, when a call that favors the Predators is being reviewed, the fans will all pull out their phones and sing “Let It Be” by the Beatles. With all the ambiguity around what on earth goaltender interference is, expect this to happen a lot.

“(Insert complaint about the third defensive pairing)”: In last season’s edition, this was reserved for the fourth line and, in particular, Cody McLeod. However, Alexei Emelin has more than taken over the role of “puck possession black hole.”

Names to NEVER Mention - Ryan Kesler, Jimmy Vesey, and Alexander Radulov: Just don’t.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: last season, Ryan Suter was also on this list. Still feel more than free to boo him, but don’t take delight in his horrific injury that could have threatened a career. We may be rowdy in Smashville, but we try to have some class.

Conclusion

The Predators are an exciting, lovable team with an abundance of talent and personality. After last year’s heartbreak, the Predators are determined to get back. They won’t overlook the Colorado Avalanche, and a potential second-round tilt with the Winnipeg Jets could decide who wins the cup. Nonetheless, no matter how long you’re on our bandwagon for, we hope you enjoy the ride. We’re happy to have you.

So everyone, say it with me one time as your bandwagon ticket is punched: “GO PREDS GO!”

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports