OTF March Madness: Best Games in Predators History (Final Four)

It’s the FINAL COUNTDOWN. (dodo do dooooo.... dodo do do do)

For the past several weeks, your friendly neighborhood On The Forecheck staff has been hosting a tournament to crown the best game in Nashville Predators history.  Well today, my friends, we’re down to the Final Four!

We started this journey with 32 of our favorite games, and over the past few weeks, you all have narrowed down our field by voting for YOUR favorites.  For us, watching the results roll in actually has a ting of March Madness unpredictability.  Many of these votes did NOT go the way we expected (and in the process, caused quite a bit of unrest in our group chat.)  Other matchups came down to just two or three votes.

That being said, it’s no surprise that, out of 20-plus years’ worth of Predators’ games, the ones you chose as the four best in team history all happened in the same 13-month stretch.  Three of them come from the Predators’ Stanley Cup run, and the other from the 2016 playoffs.

Since this is the final four, instead of the usual game recaps, we thought it would be fun for some of our OTFers to share their memories of the four remaining games: Where were they watching?  What was going through their minds during the game’s key moments?  Feel free to jump in the comments and share yours as well!

Semi-Final One

#1 Preds Head to the Stanley Cup Final (May 22, 2017)

What made this game special?

I’ll never forget the atmosphere inside Bridgestone. Mind-numbing noise, gold everywhere, and some nerves.

The Ducks had the Preds in a tight game until the third period, then all hell broke loose. I’m pretty sure we stood for a majority of the third period, realizing that this “glorious” moment meant that the Preds were headed to the Cup Final.

People around me were nearly in tears as the Campbell bowl was brought out. Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen found ways to cheer on the crowd, even while injured. An insane atmosphere. Bridgestone hasn’t been that loud since.

— Rachel K (@_RKH80)

#4 Fiala Caps Game 3 Comeback (April 17, 2017)

What made this game special?

“While I am pretty extroverted, I watched the 2017 Predators/Blackhawks Game 3 hockey game like I watch most hockey games—at home with as few people around as possible. I prefer to watch my hockey without company because people come over and then talk during the game. If I wanted conversation I would invite Willy Daunic or Chris Mason over.

Those Game 1 and Game 2 victories in Chicago with two shutouts by Pekka Rinne and a home game at Bridgestone had me feeling tentatively positive when the puck dropped on Game 3.

Honestly, what I remember most about Game 3 is that horrifying bounce the puck took on a Chicago clear. Peks had already headed to stop the puck behind the net when that demonic black disc of disaster took a physics-defying leap off the boards and headed straight for the goal. The only thing more wide open than that net were my eyes as I in slow motion wailed, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Fortunately, Pekka Rinne drank milk as a child and grew big and tall and was able to stretch and make a heart-stopping save with his stick. I may or may not have had to change my underwear at the first intermission, and I’m convinced my blood pressure stayed high through the rest of the hockey game.

I wasn’t uncomfortably worried when the Preds went down by two goals in the second period. This was a team that seemed to have a knack for the comeback, and if I’m being totally transparent here, did Preds fans really believe we would win three in a row against Chicago? Even at home? When Filip Forsberg put his first goal in the net, I thought they could tie this up. His beautiful second goal from the slot (well before the slot was turned into lava this season) to tie Game 3 convinced me the Preds HAD to win this game. A loss after that comeback just. wouldn’t. do.

Fiala’s game winning goal in what felt like a dog-years-long overtime stunned me. Watching it, I initially thought he had over-skated the goal. Once I registered that the puck had gone in I wanted to jump on that dogpile of gold and hug Fiala myself. Even after this exciting game by the Predators, I still didn’t believe we could sweep the Blackhawks in Game 4. I have never loved being wrong more.

— Ann K. (@AnnK_MamaOnIce)

Which Game Was Better?

#1 Preds Head to the Stanley Cup Final77
#4 Fiala Caps Game 3 Comeback13

Semi-Final Two

#1 Fisher Wins It In Triple-OT (May 5, 2016)

What made this game special?

It was my first year teaching seniors and they had tasked me with being their “man on the inside” for their senior prank. (Disclaimer: everything they were going to do had been approved by the administration and it was my job to make sure nothing else happened.) The unique problem was that this required me meeting the kids at the school around 1:30 in the morning.

I had everything planned out perfectly—watch the game, get a couple hours of sleep, wake up at 1, splash some water on my face and head out to the school. Everything was going according to plan until the game had to go into overtime. I figured I would still get a reasonable amount of sleep when Joe Pavelski scored a few minutes into the first overtime, but it got waved off for goaltender interference. So, with thoughts of sleep disappearing, I decided to go for broke and just enjoy the ride. And what a ride it was!

I was literally standing in front of the TV in the bedroom with my keys in one hand and my cellphone in the other when Mike Fisher scored the goal of destiny. All hell broke loose (as quietly as possible because the kids were asleep) in the bedroom for a quick minute and then I darted out the door and made it to school with a few minutes to spare.  I was fully expecting a parking lot full of students, angry because I was late. To my surprise, I was the first one there. Then, one by one, carloads of kids started showing up, parking, and disembarking with apologies for their lateness because they had been watching the Predators game. I stopped them before they explained what had happened and told them I’d been watching, too, and we all had a quick little celebration in the parking lot before we went into the school. Lots of school spirit, but a lot of kids in Preds gear. I really think the overtime thriller had everyone’s spirits up as the kids (respectfully) made a mess of the school that night.

Even though the Predators went on to lose that series, some of those kids still talk about how the game was waaaaay better than the prank.

— Shaun C. Smith (@SCSOTF)

#1 The First Cup Game in Smashville (June 3, 2017)

What made this game special?

Nashville has always been a part of the iconic Southern ‘football is religion’ stereotype—and for good reason: it’s true. Football rules all in the south, but for two months in 2017, hockey became larger than life. Smashville is the beloved nickname given to the home of the Predators, but it’s more than that, really. Smashville is a movement by Preds fans, for Preds fans. Smashville isn’t just a location, it’s a symbol for what Music City’s NHL team has become: a premiere destination for hockey.

June 3, 2017 is a day that will go down in Music City history. Smashville wasn’t just Bridgestone Arena, it was Broadway—all the way down to Midtown, Demonbreun, Church Street, SoBro to the Gulch. They all became a sea of gold. Honky Tonks filled to the brim with Predators fans, the Bridgestone Arena Plaza and Broadway itself becoming a shoulder-to-shoulder packed watch party for their team inside. That support had been with the team throughout their entire playoff run. These fans didn’t care that the Predators were the lowest seed in the playoffs, they were buying tickets and packing the bars and streets because they knew that this year, this team was different.

For so many years, the Predators had come up short. They endured years of mediocrity and struggles, but 2017 was finally the year to show the NHL Nashville was a hockey city and show the U.S. Nashville was more than just football. Inside the arena, the team felt the energy of the city and the support from their loyal fans and fought for them.

The efforts of the team and the fans were rewarded with a 5-1 victory over the Penguins. Though the Predators ultimately did not win the Stanley Cup, the support the fanbase showed and the fight the team showed changed something for Nashville hockey—they’re no one’s ‘little brother’ and they can keep up with the best of the best on the ice, in the streets, and in the bars.

— Sarah Hager (@SarahKHager)

Which game was better?

#1 Fisher Wins it in Triple-OT58
#1 The First Cup Game in Smashville37