Ryan Suter said moments after eliminating Anaheim: “No one remembers who wins in the first round.” As Suter was alluding to in that quote, the team’s goal was to win the Stanley Cup (just like every other team).
Yet, every city, team and franchise has different expectations. Nothing more than what they had (or hadn’t) already accomplished was expected from the Predators in 2010-11. Instead, they defied the odds and went on to have the best season in franchise history.
It was a season that will be remembered for taking the next step, as this young team got a taste of playoff success and can build on it for years to come.
In the end, two words will define the 2010-11 Nashville Predators: resilience and character. Nashville overcame a lot to not only advance to the second round for the first time, but just to get to the playoffs.
The first three-fourths of the season, littered with injuries and streaks, was all about resilience.
The injuries seemed never-ending. Within the first few weeks and months, Suter and Pekka Rinne both missed time, while free agent pickup Matthew Lombardi was knocked out for the season with a concussion after two games. Francis Bouillon, Cal O’Reilly and Marcel Goc suffered season-ending injuries around mid-season. Moreover, guys like Steve Sullivan, David Legwand and Martin Erat were injured at one point or another, as well.
All of this forced GM David Poile and Head Coach Barry Trotz to dip into Milwaukee to find replacements. Youngsters were called up and performed admirably at crucial points in the season.
Poile also made the trade to bring in Mike Fisher, who made a great impact. Trotz continually stated that the team wouldn’t have made the playoffs without Fisher’s services.
Just about every win streak was followed by a losing skid. Up until the All-Star break, the Preds were arguably the streakiest team in the league. How they were able to hold everything together during those ups and downs was pretty impressive.
Then you have the stretch run, where the team’s character was tested. It’s safe to say it passed the exam.
A four-game losing streak late in February (and/or a disappointing western swing in March) could have wrecked the season. With their backs against the wall, sitting in 11th place in the conference on Mar. 9, the Preds won 11 of their final 15 games to make the playoffs.
Those final weeks delivered many memorable moments, with the comeback in Buffalo on Mar. 20 shining the brightest. That win, courtesy of Blake Geoffrion’s hat trick, may have ultimately been the win to push the team over the top and into the postseason.
In the playoffs, it was all about resilience and character.
Things weren’t looking so swell in Game 5 against the Anaheim Ducks. Down 3-2 late in regulation with the series knotted at two, it seemed as if the Preds were headed for another heartbreaking loss. Shea Weber tied the game, Jerred Smithson won it in overtime, and the rest is history.
The fans were brought to their feet all spring long, whether it was at Bridgestone Arena, viewing parties around town, or the airport to greet the team. Between the late-night overtime winners and finishing off their first playoff series victory, the Preds gave their fans a lot to cheer about.
Even though they were eliminated in the second round, they fought tooth and nail with the most complete team in the NHL. All six games against Vancouver were essentially decided by one goal. If it weren’t for Ryan Kesler, the Preds may be going on to the third round. However, they can hold their heads high going into the off-season.
It was a (post)season of firsts for the franchise, winning their first ever playoff series, elimination game and overtime game. The Preds also played their first ever games in the month of May.
It was a season of great individual accolades, as Weber, Rinne and Trotz have been named finalists for major awards.
It was a season of uncanny resilience, overcoming the injuries and fighting through the numerous ups and downs.
It was a season of great character, showing the hockey world what this team is all about when the going got tough.
It was a season of establishing a new attitude, thanks in part to the leadership of Weber, first-year captain.
It was a season of reaching new heights for the fan base, as everyone now knows what Smashville brings to the table.
It was a season of reaching new heights for the team, as it is no longer a team that can’t get over the hump in the playoffs.
As with every team, the off-season has plenty of question marks. But now is the time to look back on a memorable year for the Preds. It was a close group with tons of chemistry and great locker room camaraderie.
It was a special season in Smashville, thanks to a special group of guys who cared more about the team than themselves.
It was a season that Music City will never forget.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.