Preds In The Playoffs: NC5 Road Trip Blog

Posted: 9:56 AM, Apr 12, 2017
Updated: 2017-04-12 17:59:12-04

As the Predators get set for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so too is our NewsChannel 5 Sports team. Follow along as Steve Layman and executive producer Brian McKeegan make the journey.


4:19pm: It only took seven hours and 19 minutes, but Brian and I have arrived safely in Chicago.



There's a chill in the air despite the fact the Cubs are getting their World Series rings tonight at Wrigley Field. Brrr. The Cubbies have definitely overshadowed the Blackhawks so far this spring, but I expect that to change tomorrow night when Jim Cornelison hits the ice to sing the national anthem for 20,000 Hawks fans dressed in red sweaters.

Speaking of those sweaters, this should be a very aesthetically pleasing sweater. The Predators gold and navy is always classy, but the Blackhawks red sweater may just be the best jersey in all of sports. Expect to see a lot of them around here in Chicago (and probably in Nashville) during the series.

Time to hang up the playoff wardrobe and go find some  Chicago food.




3:28pm: Hopping on I-90 West about an hour from Chicago.



I would like to congratulate the Predators on their impending Stanley Cup title. EA Sports ran a playoff simulation on NHL '17 and the Preds defeated the Canadiens in seven games in the final with Filip Forsberg winning the Conn Smythe Award as MVP.



Although, maybe we shouldn't get too excited. EA Sports' simulation has yet to correctly predict hockey's champion. 


1:33pm: We just passed Indianapolis, going strong more than four and a half hours into our journey. Though Giordano's still feels very far away. I've had to resort to these for my lunch today.



Executive Sports Producer Brian McKeegan says he's got a feeling the Predators are going to win game one Thursday. I don't disagree. The Blackhawks coasted the last couple weeks of the season, losing their final four games. Will they be able to just flip the switch for playoff hockey in game one?

And winning one of the first two games in Chicago would completely change the complexion of the series for a Predators team that's never beaten the Blackhawks in a playoff series and lost four of the five series meetings this year. A win steals away home ice advantage and would make for a raucous return to Smashville Monday for a game three in which the Preds could grab a series lead. Most importantly, it furthers the Nashville belief that it can actually topple Chicago.

But, as any player or coach will tell you, it's one game at a time. And game one is a big one.

We just wrapped up a Facebook Live from the road somewhere around Indianapolis. Check it out here:


11:54am: Driving past Austin, Indiana not Texas unfortunately, and have seen a lot of this so far.



I also just saw the news that Colin Wilson and Calle Jarnkrok did not practice again today for the Predators. Both guys are nursing lower body injuries and are officially very questionable for game one against the Blackhawks Thursday night.

If those two can't play, the Predators lose two scorers with playoff experience. Given the lines they've practiced with this week, the top two lines of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala, Mike Fisher and James Neal are still stout, but a third line of youngsters Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons and Craig Smith could have their hands full against the Ryan Hartman, Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa line of Chicago. Health and depth are always two keys in the playoffs and the loss of Wilson and/or Jarnkrok would hurt the Preds in both areas.

Also just saw a stat that the Canadiens' Alexander Radulov has 14 points in 18 NHL playoff games and 83 points in 86 KHL playoff games heading into tonight's playoff opener against the Rangers in Montreal. Impressive numbers, but Preds fans will never forgive Radulov for his suspension during the second round of the 2012 playoffs when Nashville was unceremoniously bounced by Arizona, or for leaving once again that summer. It took the Predators two years to recover.


10:37am: Just passed Abraham Lincoln's birthplace in Kentucky on the way to the Land of Lincoln. As someone who grew up in Illinois it's amazing to consider that arguably this country's greatest president comes from Illinois when you consider the political and financial mess the state is in now. But I digress.

The road for the Predators in the playoffs is about as difficult as  a team could race, starting with the Stanley Cup favorite Blackhawks. If the Preds were to reach the Stanley Cup Final facing the most likely opponent by seed they would have to beat three of the top four Cup favorites and Pacific Division champion Anaheim.

But if you're going to be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Preds might as well start with the Blackhawks. Chicago has won three of the past seven Stanley Cup titles. At this point, the Cup runs through Chicago. If the Preds can beat the Hawks in round one, the playoffs will open up for them (and everyone else).

It's also a chance for the Predators to further state their case as one of the top franchises in the league. This is their 10th playoff appearance in the past 13 seasons, but they've won just three series and never advanced beyond the second round. Beating Anaheim and pushing San Jose to seven games last year was a huge step for the franchise. Beating the Blackhawks feels like another hurdle this team needs to get over to get to where it ultimately wants to be.

I ultimately want to be in Chicago. We're 90 minutes in to a seven hour-plus journey. I can taste the Giordano's already.


9:00am: How about that? We're on the road at our target time on the dot. Seven and a half hours on the road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs ahead of us before game one between the Predators and Blackhawks Thursday night.

The Preds will practice one last time in Nashville today before taking the short charter flight (must be nice) to the Windy City. One big question heading into today will be the status of forwards Colin Wilson and Calle Jarnkrok. Both players are nursing injuries and were not on the ice for practice Monday and Tuesday. If either one of them is unavailable in this series it would be a huge loss. The versatile Jarnkrok scored 15 goals this season and Wilson has been a playoff beast the past two years, scoring five goals in six games in the series against the Blackhawks two years ago.