Almost no one predicted that the Nashville Predators would beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Well, the Predators didn’t just beat Chicago; they swept them. Then they took care of the St Louis Blues in six games and are now in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
“Obviously media and experts, they didn’t really pick us, but we knew what kind of team we had in our dressing room,” Predators winger James Neal said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I know everyone says that, but we truly felt we were a team that could make some noise and do something special. We’ve taken care of two rounds and we’ll continue to get better and hopefully have another big series win. We’re looking forward to it.”
Nashville, which will play the winner of Anaheim versus Edmonton, allowed just three goals in four games against Chicago and just five goals over the last four games against St. Louis.
“Pekka has been our best player probably every single night,” Neal said of goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Neal, meanwhile, has three goals and an assist in the playoffs. The 29-year-old was traded from Pittsburgh to Nashville in 2014 and didn’t realize just how good the team would be.
“When I first got here, I didn’t know much about Ryan Ellis. I didn’t know much about Roman Josi. Nashville wasn’t on the radar that much,” he said. “But when you start practice with them and then starting to play games, you really get a feel for how good they are. They’re definitely underrated, but as you continue to get better here and now pushed into the Western Conference Finals, those guys definitely don’t go unnoticed. They’re unbelievable players, they’re great guys, we’re getting lots of help from everyone on our team. It’s a true team game when we play, and it’s been a great ride so far.”