The Nashville Predators’ postseason will inevitably go down as the season of “we’ve never done it like this before”. Playing their last meaningful game 145 days prior to puck drop on August 3 means setting accurate levels of hope for the Preds’ post season success. It is a tricky business.
In a typical postseason, fans could weigh momentum, recent statistics, player performances, and injury reports to form better-educated and emotionally-safer expectations. Not only does the pandemic of 2020 mean that ship has sailed, the Predators’ consistent inconsistency throughout the 2019-20 season up until March 10 bombed that ship, set it on fire, and stoically saluted while watching reasonable expectations sink into the deepest depths of the ocean. How much hope should Predators fans have?
To determine such an important position prior to facing the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, and to provide a little stability insurance, fans should gauge their level of hope, based on the main characters of the acclaimed film (and #1 ranked movie of all time on IMDB) The Shawshank Redemption.
If you have never seen the movie, stop binging 90 Day Fiancee (c’mon…we know you watch it), and watch Shawshank. It is based on a novella by Steven King and is the story of Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins), wrongfully convicted of murder, who meets and forges a friendship with another prisoner at Shawshank Prison, Red (played by Morgan Freeman). Although Andy and Red are both serving long prison sentences in less than ideal circumstances, they each develop very different perspectives on hope and what it means to look ahead to the future. When it comes to the Predators’ postseason, are you more of an Andy or a Red?
Andy: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best thing, and no good thing ever dies.”
Despite being falsely accused, beaten, and forced to participate in illegal activity inside the prison, Andy is somehow able to still hold on to hope that there is good in the future for him. No matter how bleak things look (and at times things are bleak for Andy), he never completely loses that small light in his eyes that comes from having hope. Andy dreams of what his life might be like once he is free again. Despite a grim existence at Shawshank, Andy slowly executes an escape plan that leads to his eventual freedom.
You may be an Andy if you have found yourself saying/thinking/tweeting some of the following things:
- The time off has given injured players extra time to recover and come back in their best shape.
- The team has had time to implement head coach John Hynes’ systems, and we will finally see what the Predators can do under new leadership.
- I see some of the 2017 Cup run Predators when I watched this team right before the season paused.
- Every other team has had the same amount of time off, so the Predators are no worse off than if the season had continued as scheduled.
- The Preds’ season is best represented by the 12/23/19 game against the Coyotes.
- I think we should see Eeli Tolvanen get some game minutes.
- The postseason is the start of a new, short season where anything can happen.
It is understandable why some Predators fans are going into this post season with glimmers of hope. There could be a number of circumstances that work in the team’s favor. Viktor Arvidsson is back up to full speed, according to OTF training camp reports by our own Shaun Smith—speed that the team will need in the play-in round—and looked great in yesterday’s exhibition game. Hopefully the hit he took wasn’t serious.
Arvidsson is joined by a stronger Ryan Ellis, who returned to the Predators’ lineup after the more-than-questionable Winter Classic hit at the hands (elbow actually) of Corey Perry. With the season paused, John Hynes has had more time to familiarize his new team with new systems, and fans can hope this will clean up sloppy special teams play and lead to better execution offensively and defensively. There may be reasons to hope.
Red: “Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
After committing a heinous crime, Red begins serving a life sentence at Shawshank Prison. He eventually runs a contraband operation and builds a reputation among the other prisoners as “the guy who can get things.” As he and Andy become friends, Red strongly cautions Andy about holding on to hope for the future. After serving 20 years of his sentence, Red comes up for parole, and although he says all the right things at his parole hearing, his request is denied, as it is again 10 years later. Finally, after 40 years in prison, Red speaks bluntly and honestly to the parole board with surprising results.
You may be a Red if you have found yourself saying/thinking/Tweeting any of the following things:
- This Stanley Cup will come with an asterisk.
- Pekka Rinne will not return to playoff form this post season—it will be up to Juuse Saros to carry the team as far as he can.
- David Poile needs to tear this roster up and start again.
- The team was never consistent game to game in the abbreviated regular season.
- The Preds’ season is best represented by the 10/17/19 game against the Coyotes.
- There is no way to truly replicate on-ice work during the season suspension.
- Allowing the trade deadline to pass without significant action sealed the Predators’ postseason fate months ago.
- Not having Smashville fans in the arena will make a difference in the team’s energy.
Sometimes speaking the hard, honest truth just needs to be done, and the 2019-20 Predators’ season provided fans with a not-insignificant number of hard truths. Despite a talented roster, the team struggled with inconsistency most of the season, and without this unique play-in/playoff scenario, the Predators may not have even seen any postseason play, as they were fighting in a crowded Western Conference to even keep a wildcard spot.
While Peter Laviolette took the fall for the team’s early season struggles, the Predators didn’t exactly turn it around once John Hynes came in. With Pekka Rinne struggling in goal as the season paused, the team may have to rely on Juuse Saros, who has far less playoff experience, in net—and without strong goaltending, this team may struggle in the play-in round. There are reasons to doubt the Predators’ chances at a real playoff spot, let alone a serious Cup run.
Perhaps the most applicable truth from The Shawshank Redemption for the Predators at this point is spoken by Red: “Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really, pressure and time.” The Predators have had five months’ worth of time to prepare for this playoff run, and now comes the pressure. While the Edmonton bubble is surely no Shawshank Prison, what happens while the team is there will decide whether hope this season is wise or futile. Expectations become reality on Sunday afternoon.