Embracing the rise of the Predators

Because it could bring out the best in the Blackhawks

Ever get stuck in a vortex of watching old hockey highlights on YouTube? I’ve caught up on plenty of NHL history that occurred before I was born thanks to those ventures, which make the minutes disappear faster than the puck that clinched the 2010 Stanley Cup.

Of course, these trips down memory lane find their way to Blackhawks moments. It’s usually reliving the Hawks overtime playoff victories, like the one from Brent Seabrook against Detroit in Game 7 or the Martin Havlat OT goal at the start of this whole era back in 2009.

But my favorite one features no goals, actually. It’s the 8-minute stretch of hockey played in the first overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference Final between the Blackhawks and the Kings in 2014. Have you watched it recently? Watch it again. It’s so good.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better stretch of hockey.

Joel Quenneville said it himself after the game, and multiple journalists authored articles echoing similar thoughts.  This is hockey at its absolute zenith; a dizzying blend of speed and skill that turned the neutral zone into a mere rumor as the team’s piled up scoring chances at an electric pace. And both teams contributed to that: this was the Hawks and the Kings at the heights of their powers.

And that’s what has me excited about the rise of the Predators.

Since the Kings were ravaged by age, injuries and the salary cap, no other team has really emerged in the Western Conference — it’s just been a steady decline of the other conference powers, Blackhawks included (at least so far). The Blues had their one shot at winning a Cup last season and missed it. The Sharks and Ducks have an aging core of stars — even moreso than the Hawks — and are on the downside of their respective runs. Edmonton may be one of the next teams up because of that McDavid guy, but they’re probably still a defenseman or two from being a serious contender.

But it’s likely just the beginning of a run for Nashville, and this could give the Hawks a proper villain for what could be their final couple of cracks at the Cup with this current group. And the type of hockey Nashville has played this postseason has been fun to watch. It’s fast and it’s skilled. It’s everything I love about hockey. It’s everything I love about watching the Blackhawks when they’re clicking on all cylinders. We didn’t see enough of it out from the Hawks this season, and we certainly didn’t get a good glimpse of it in the playoffs.

It takes more than just one well-assembled team to make a playoff series come to life like that Hawks/Kings series back in 2014. If the Hawks can find their old form next season, and Nashville doesn’t lose a step after the shortened summer they have coming soon, can you imagine how much fun that would be? Imagine the speed. Imagine the skill. Imagine the atmosphere.

Sign me up for some of that.