If the Nashville Predators rally to win Puck That Hit's "Who Has the Hottest Ice Girls?" contest, that would be just fine, judging by the evidence at hand. But for the betterment of hockey in these United States, the Preds really need to the miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season — for two (other) very compelling reasons.
This isn't a slag on Nashville hockey. Lord knows those fans have been through enough, what with last year's talent defection and ownership follies with Jim Balsillie (Slogan: "He's the Ball-Silliest!"). The Predators even have one of the better stories in the Campbell Conference this season, as career journeyman goaltender Dan Ellis has nearly usurped anointed starter Chris Mason. They're like the Katie Couric and Deborah Norville of puck-stoppers.
A check of the standings this morning finds Nashville with 76 points, in the eighth seed. Vancouver follows with 74, but confidence in the Canucks is dropping so quickly that their coach recently suggested that "bandwagon jumping" become an Olympic sport. And then there are the two reasons why the Predators should concede their playoff slot: the Phoenix Coyotes (73 points) and the Chicago Blackhawks (72). All due respect to Nashville, but these are more compelling teams for postseason hockey and casual playoffs-only fans. Both of these teams are trying to snap four-season playoff droughts. Both have players who will be leading the next wave of NHL stars. And Phoenix has Ilya Bryzgalov, who back-stopped the 'Yotes to a 2-1 win in Dallas last night and who should scare the living shit out of Detroit in a first-round match-up.
And then there's Chicago, who has had a cache of cool this season from "Commit To the Indian" through Gary Bettman's acknowledgement that a Winter Classic at Wrigley Field would be the coolest thing to hit the friendly confines since a drunken Ozzy warbled "Take Me Out To the Ballgame." Detroit and Chicago in the first round? Yes please, especially if the 'Hawks knuckle-up like they did in last night's 3-0 win over Anaheim. If the Ducks feel like you're playing too physical (headhunting Chris Pronger is pretty much the definition of irony, isn't it?), then you're doing something right. Parros looked mighty angry: