Florida Panthers Reach Cup Final, Brings Back Memories of 2017 Nashville Predators

Matt Cullen #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shakes hands with Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Matt Cullen #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shakes hands with Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators in Game Six of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bridgestone Arena on June 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Watching the Florida Panthers shock the NHL world and reach just their second Stanley Cup Final in franchise history is bringing back fond memories of the 2017 Nashville Predators.

The Panthers completed their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes to make the second appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, their first coming in 1996. Matthew Tkachuk scored the go-ahead goal at 19:55 of the third period, making it the latest goal in a series clinching game in NHL postseason history:

Here’s a look at the pure clutch goal from Tkachuk, who came to the Panthers in a massive trade haul with the Calgary Flames last offseason. A trade that was ridiculed by many at the time for being too generous and the Panthers giving up too much. We can all eat some crow on that one I suppose:

23′ Florida Panthers & 17′ Nashville Predators have Some Similarities 

The only other two teams to be the lowest seeded team entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs to actually reach the final are the 2021 Montreal Canadiens and the 2017 Nashville Predators.

So as a Nashville Predators fan, you can’t help but reminisce about that improbable run that team made in 2017 after sweeping the top-seeded and dynasty Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, and winning a pair of series in six games over the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks.

In case you forgot, the Predators were no darlings of the regular season that year. That would come the following season with a President’s Trophy and a franchise record 117 points.

The 2017 squad had just 94 points in the regular season and actually lost five of their last seven games. In all five of those losses they managed to score just one goal. The momentum heading into the postseason was zero and you had to find the most confident, and maybe delusional, fan to find any kind of confidence that the Predators were going to get past the first round.

Seems very similar to how most felt about the Panthers’ chances heading into the first round against the mighty Boston Bruins. A team that put up an NHL record 135 points, surpassing the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.

I would actually argue that the Panthers upset trumps the magnitude of what the Predators pulled off, even though the Predators did get a sweep while the Panthers won in seven. Either way, both are incredible upset stories.

Remembering the Playmakers of that 2017 Preds Playoff Team

First let’s go back to the regular season. Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson led the Nashville Predators in points with 61. Johansen was a main contributors on the power play with 23 power play points, while Arvidsson tied the team lead in goals with 31.

Filip Forsberg also had 31 goals to lead the team alongside Arvidsson on the infamous “JoFA” line.

Roman Josi was starting to become one of the better offensive defenseman in the league, while the team had some clutch role players in Mike Fisher, James Neal, Calle Jarnkrok and Craig Smith.

However, no one saw a Stanley Cup caliber roster. The overall thought was this was a solid team that’s getting better by the year, but things were going to be short and relatively painless in a quick series against the overloaded Blackhawks.

This is why we love sports, and we absolutely can’t get enough of playoff hockey. Nothing is ever a given, as the Florida Panthers are proving now. Sure, they have Tkachuk as their undoubted superstar who has a great chance of winning the Conn Smythe, but overall this is a blue collar roster. Not many household names, much like the 2017 Predators.

During the 2017 playoff run, Forsberg led all point scorers with 16 in 22 playoff games. His plus/minus was soaring at plus-14.

Johansen had a catastrophic leg injury in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. He was in the midst of playing some of the best hockey of his career and unfortunately we’ll never know what kind of difference he could’ve made in the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a series that went six games and easily could’ve gone seven.

Colton Sissons, who is also still on this current Nashville Predators team, had one of the most memorable performances in franchise history with a hat trick to eliminate the Ducks and punch the ticked to the Stanley Cup Final.

And I can’t overlook the importance of what P.K. Subban brought to this Predators team in his first season in Nashville. It was bittersweet seeing Shea Weber traded away, but Subban brought leadership and tenacity during the playoff run.

Finally, let’s end the reflection of that 2017 with the all-time great of Nashville Predators history, Pekka Rinne.

Although he had his ups and downs in the postseason, Rinne posted a .930 save percentage in 22 playoff starts in 2017, including back-to-back shutouts in the first two games to blank the Blackhawks on the road. Legendary stuff.

Kind of similar to what Sergei Bobrovsky is doing for the Panthers in these current playoffs. Bobrovsky has 13 starts for a .935 save percentage and one shutout. Significantly up from his regular season save percentage of only .901 and a 3.07 GAA.

The prototypical example of a goalie getting hot at the right time in the postseason and good things happening.

Next. How Will Barry Trotz Approach First Offseason as Predators GM?. dark

There are 12 teams to haven’t won a Stanley Cup, but as long as the Vegas Golden Knights don’t completely collapse with their 3-0 lead over the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Finals, then we’re guaranteed to see that number shrink to 11 teams.

Teams Without a Stanley Cup

-Vancouver Canucks (1st Season: 1970)

Arizona Coyotes (1st Season: 1979)

-Buffalo Sabres (1st Season: 1970)

-San Jose Sharks (1st Season 1991)

-Ottawa Senators (1st Season 1992)

-Florida Panthers (1st Season 1993)

-Nashville Predators (1st Season 1998)

-Winnipeg Jets/Thrashers (1st Season: 1999)

-Columbus Blue Jackets (1st Season: 2000)

-Minnesota Wild (1st Season: 2000)

-Vegas Golden Knights (1st Season: 2017)

-Seattle Kraken (1st Season: 2021)

The Canucks have the longest drought without a Stanley Cup dating back to 1970. So surely in the next 28 years the Predators can avoid that long of drought, right?

The front office, with Barry Trotz coming in as General Manager, is ushering in a new era led by young talent and still some veterans that were on that 2017 team as well. But getting back to realistic Stanley Cup contention is going to take some patience.

Seeing two teams that have yet to win a Stanley Cup will be fun to watch, and I’ve hitched my wagon to the Florida Panthers. An awesome story for the NHL and for sports in general. Finish the job.