The Week That Was: Chapter 26

A final push lands a desired result. Now, a new, more challenging fight begins.

Well. That’s it.

The regular season has officially come to an end and the Winni...wait. I’m sorry, what? Nashville won the Central Division?

Nashville won the Central Division. The Jets nosedived out of the top spot and left the door open enough for the Predators to sneak in with a perfect final week of the regular season.

Next up: Dallas. But first, I need to eat a little crow. I had the Preds left for dead after their shellacking at the hands of Winnipeg a couple of weeks earlier, in part because of their inability to overcome in-game adversity. (They were 1-19-2 this season when being down by two goals at any point in a game before this past week.) They showed some of that mental toughness I thought they were lacking in the last two games, recovering from 2-0 holes both times.

(This comes with a caveat: both those teams are bad and falling behind 2-0 from here on out is not a good idea in the slightest.)

But still, when the cards weren’t exactly falling their way, they pushed through and made things happen when they absolutely had to have wins. There’s something to be said for that.

I think this team was kind of bored in the second half of the season. They didn’t look like it this past week, though. They looked more like the team we thought they could really be. (Minus the power play, of course.)

It’s okay to believe again. That’s the thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You start on equal ground. Nothing you did in the regular season matters now. Not even finishing 8-2-1 in the last 11 games, though that’s certainly good for confidence.

Go win a game, then go win another. And another. And another. Then do that again three more times. It’s hard. It’s the hardest postseason to come out on top of in major pro sports.

But we’ve seen that anything can happen, and that’s a good enough reason to believe.

The Preds should be favored to win the series against Dallas. But keep an eye on that Winnipeg–St. Louis series. Those two teams might just beat the living daylights out of each other. There might only be a carcass left of the winner after that tussle is over.

Which is why this past week was so very important for the Preds to not falter. Avoiding not just one but both of those squads in the first round could save some wear and tear down the line, provided they take care of business against the Stars. And no, that won’t be easy.

Buckle up, folks. The playoffs are the best time of year. And they’re here. Get the coffee ready, take pregame naps if you need to, do whatever you have to do to stay up, because the next great memory could literally be right around the corner. Even if it’s after midnight, because they’re going to let it all hang out.

And we’ll be here to share it with you.

(Side note: This will also be the last weekly recap of the season, as there’ll be plenty of postseason content coming your way as the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll on.)

On with it:

The Fast Money Round

Tuesday: Predators 3, Buffalo Sabres 2

The Preds continued their outstanding record in Buffalo, Austin Watson returned to the lineup, and P.K. Subban had one of his better games of the season.

Thursday: Predators 3, Vancouver Canucks 2

The Central dreams looked all but dead with five minutes left, but on a weird night where all three Nashville goals went through some form of review, the Preds came through with timely scoring.

Saturday: Predators 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2

It was one of those games where if they got one, they’d get four. And nobody guessed the catalyst for that would have been Dante Fabbro, but oh baby, what a first NHL goal to have. That was one of the best performances of the season, let alone a rocking Saturday night in Bridgestone Arena.

Player of the Week

I think the kid’s gonna be alright. Has Dante Fabbro done enough to make himself part of the active roster for the postseason? Sure seems like it. He gets the final regular-season nod, although, truth be told, a case can be made for several others.

Favorite Things of the Week

Yes, Ryan Johansen had the clutch goal, but let’s not forget the dirty work Filip Forsberg did to set him up:

Part two involves a massive first NHL goal from Dante Fabbro:

And part three isn’t Viktor Arvidsson’s franchise record-breaking goal (coming at the 3:33 mark of period 3 from number 33), but the air he got on the celebration:

On playoff scheduling

Well, we got the time correct on Game 1, just not the day. I was a little surprised the NHL didn’t hold one series back for a Friday start (and I thought Nashville would be that one). Also surprised on the Wednesday-Saturday split between the first two games, but the 5:00 Central start time for Game 2 is a pleasant surprise.

Weird start times are just a fact of life in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since NBC Sports Group pushed to make every game a national broadcast a couple of years ago. The players and coaches know this, and fans really just need to understand that it’s going to happen from time to time with so many games on a given night.

8:30 Central on Wednesday isn’t great, for sure, and there will likely be at least one more this playoff season. But some of the best playoff moments in franchise history came after midnight, which makes it all the more fun to talk about later on.

And, slightly unrelated, one final plea from me — please, for the love of all that is holy — DO NOT schedule a banner-raising ceremony for Opening Night next season UNLESS it is to hang a Stanley Cup championship banner. The Nashville Predators are past that point as a franchise. There’s no novelty involved anymore until the big prize is actually won.

This Week’s Grade

Psst. Guess what? You know those six points I said the Preds needed last week? They got them. And looked pretty good doing it. Was this team bored at times in the second half of the year? Sure seems like it now. And maybe, just maybe, they’ve found the next gear to hit. Let’s see, shall we? The boys pass their final regular-season test in spectacular fashion and deserve a spectacular grade to show for it. This week’s grade: A+

Who’s your Player of the Week for the last week of the regular season?

Dante Fabbro11
Viktor Arvidsson43
Filip Forsberg16
Ryan Johansen16
Someone else7