Preds Down, But Not Out

Posted at 3:06 PM, May 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-20 16:07:26-04

Ryan Johansen is out for the playoffs, and the Predators chances of advancing, let alone winning the Stanley Cup, just reached long shot odds.

But this playoff run is not over yet.

It's understandable the doom and gloom scenarios that were painted Friday when it was announced that Johansen had to have season-ending emergency surgery to repair the thigh injury he suffered Thursday night.

The Ducks stole game four in OT and reclaimed home ice advantage heading into game five Saturday back in Anaheim, and now the Preds will be without their leading point producer in the postseason.

Johansen is the worst possible loss the Preds could suffer in this series. Besides his 13 points, he's the team's top playmaker, their most physical forward and top man in the faceoff circle.

But this team has been counted out before. No one expected the Predators to beat the Stanley Cup favorite Blackhawks in round one until they swept them. The Blues were the hottest team in hockey entering round two and the Preds took care of them in six games.

Now everyone is ready to hand the Ducks the series based off of Johansen's injury and the fact that Mike Fisher's status is uncertain after he left game four with an undisclosed ailment.

Did the task in front for the Predators just get more difficult? Absolutely. But it wouldn't be unheard of.

Just last season these Predators lost games three and four of round one at home to the Ducks and then lost game five to fall behind 3-2 in the series. Facing elimination with no momentum on their side, the Preds rebounded with a game six win at Bridgestone Arena and then won game seven in Anaheim for just the third series win in franchise history.

As one national hockey writer joked to me after news of the Johansen injury broke, "the Ducks are just the type of team that would lose this series now."

And the Predators are not about to back down. They may be outmanned without Johansen, but they don't quit. We saw that Thursday when they scored two goals in the final 6:27 of regulation to force overtime in a game they were outplayed.

Expect them to be galvanized by this news and put forth a "win one for Joey" effort in game five in Anaheim, not exactly the league's most intimidating road environment.

If they somehow steal that game, the Predators would return to Bridgestone Arena Monday, where they'd won 10 straight playoff games before Thursday's loss and have never lost a close out game. Who would doubt them then?

And even if the Johansen injury is too much for the Preds to ultimately overcome, don't let it spoil the ride.

This has been the greatest playoff run in franchise history, with Nashville sitting just two wins away from its first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. The fun has been non-stop as Preds fever has reached an all-time high in Smashville.

That didn't change with Johansen exiting the lineup.

The path to the team's ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup just got harder, sure. But the run isn't over yet.

And no one expected the Predators to get this far in the first place.