It’s hard to truly put into words exactly what Bridgestone Arena has meant during in this lengthy playoff run for the Nashville Predators. What it has become, though, is a tangible force – one that has, at times, willed the Predators to wins through some of their more difficult stretches.
Such was the case on Tuesday night in downtown Nashville.
Whenever Nashville has found itself behind on the scoreboard or in need of an emotional boost, its crowd has been there, happily ready to provide.
“It’s tough to put in words,” said Predators defenseman Roman Josi. “You watch it on TV, but you’ve got to be in here to feel the energy. It’s unbelievable. Our fans, they’re amazing. Every time they stand up and they just keep cheering, keep cheering. And as a team it gives us that extra boost. And, like I said, the energy, haven’t been in a building with that much energy in my life, in my career. It’s unbelievable. And I think you got to be here to see how it really is.”
Such is the relationship between the fans and the Predators organization – a partnership that’s nearly 20 years in the making and has finally blossomed into one that the entire hockey world has taken notice of as Nashville ventures deeper towards its ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup.
“Our fans, our city, have really gotten behind us,” Predators captain Mike Fisher noted. “They’ve just done an unbelievable job in the playoffs. We feel that it helps us, there’s no question, on and off the ice. Tonight, you saw it. It was unbelievable.”
That’s the way it’s been all season long. Predators players routinely answer questions about how great the fans have been, both in the regular season and playoffs, but it’s reached a new level over the last handful of games.
Why is this so important? Not a single team since the Detroit Red Wings from 1997 through 1998 and, previously before that, the Colorado Avalanche from 1996 through 1997 has won 10 straight playoff home games. Dating back to April 25th, 2016, Nashville has now rattled off those 10 straight wins: three against the San Jose Sharks, two against the Chicago Blackhawks, three against the St. Louis Blues and two coming against the Anaheim Ducks – including Tuesday’s Game 3.
Speaking of those wins Nashville continues to pile up at home, how about adversity? Of those 10 straight wins at home, six of those have come when Nashville trailed at some point in the game. In Game 3, the adversity was clearly there. Between the end of the first period and through the midway point of the second, the Predators ran a 21-1 shot advantage over Anaheim, but failed to put a puck behind Ducks goaltender John Gibson.
Then Anaheim converted on a power play just a handful of shots later.
When a team piles up shots on top of shots, yet fails to capitalize at any point, it absolutely gives cause for concern. Yet, as Nashville has shown us this postseason, there’s never a time when you can truly count them out. The Predators would go on to tie the game early in the third and finish it with a power play marker – the first of the series for Nashville and coming after two disallowed goals prior to that – to continue the streak and give Nashville an all-important 2-1 series lead.
Rallying behind the 17,338 faithful and the hundreds, maybe thousands, outside at the watch parties surrounding Bridgestone Arena, Nashville made the push to come within two games of reaching its first-ever Stanley Cup Final.
Game 4 is Thursday night and, with a win, the Predators will be on the verge of providing it’s fanbase what they’ve truly desired since 1998: A chance to win it all.