The Predators swept the Chicago Blackhawks.
There’s no need for flowery language here. That statement on its own is sensational enough.
With a 4-1 victory in Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday, the Predators eliminated the Blackhawks from the postseason, the first sweep in team history.
Do the Predators have everybody's attention now?
"It might have surprised a lot of people, but probably not ourselves." Predators captain Mike Fisher said. "We believed we could beat that team. I don't think hardly anyone else did, but that didn't matter."
Yes, it’s only a first-round series victory. Yes, there are still three more to be conquered if the Predators, who haven’t advanced past the second round in three previous appearances, are to win a Stanley Cup.
The outcome of this series will fade when the Predators’ postseason run continues next week against either the Blues or Wild in a second-round matchup that will start in St. Louis or Minnesota.
In this moment, however, the magnitude of disposing of the top-seeded Blackhawks, the closest thing to a modern-day dynasty in the NHL's salary-cap era, in four games can't be disregarded.
This is the crowning achievement in franchise history.
"We're a pretty serious hockey club," said Predators forward Colton Sissons, who scored the first of Nashville's three third-period goals. "We all believed in here heading into (the) playoffs this year that we could beat the Chicago Blackhawks. That's all that really matters is the belief in our locker room."
The Predators' dismantling of the Blackhawks was clinical. In several facets, Nashville outdid Chicago at its own game.
Pre-series predictions, which almost unanimously favored the Blackhawks, highlighted their experience as the ultimate intangible. They had won three championships in the previous seven seasons by excelling in the postseason's most crucial moments.
Nashville did it better, truly resembling for the first time the Stanley Cup contender they were thought to be when the season started.
The Predators pitched consecutive playoff shutouts in Chicago, the third NHL team to do so. Goaltender Pekka Rinne orchestrated the most masterful performance of his career, stopping 123 of 126 Chicago shots in four games and muzzling doubters who had been charting his decline.
Timeliness also had a significant impact. Whenever the Predators needed that critical play, whether it be a goal or save, they made it. On Thursday, Sissons and Predators defenseman Roman Josi scored 89 seconds apart, squashing the Blackhawks' rapidly diminishing hopes.
"The chances we had, we were able to execute," Rinne said. "We did a great job defensively. ... It was a difference in this series, for sure, execution."
"SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP!" an elated Bridgestone Arena crowd chanted in the closing minutes, unable to wait until the final horn to unleash its ecstasy.
There would be no extended celebration inside the Predators locker room, though. Fists were bumped and backs were slapped, but the tone was immediately and expectedly businesslike.
"The one thing that I know for sure is that when we wake up tomorrow morning, we're hardly into this," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "Whoever goes the distance, the two teams that make it the distance, there's a month and a half left.
"We're scratching the surface. It was a job well done, but tomorrow, we've got to go back to work. There's a lot of work left to do."
So who's next?
"I don't really care who we play against," Rinne said. "If we can keep this up, (I) feel really confident facing anybody."
Reach Adam Vingan at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AdamVingan.
PREDATORS vs. BLACKHAWKS
Predators win series 4-0
Game 1: Nashville 1, Chicago 0
Game 2: Nashville 5, Chicago 0
Game 3: Nashville 3, Chicago 2 (OT)
Game 4: Nashville 4, Chicago 1
PREDATORS vs. BLUES/WILD
St. Louis leads series 3-1, Game 5 on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.
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