BOSTON — Nashville must feel like a different world right now for some.
The Predators are in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since joining the NHL in 1999.
Last night the Preds dropped an overtime decision to Vancouver in their Game 3, but it wasn’t due to a lack of support. The fans in the sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena all wore neon orange t-shirts and lived and died on every play, as their team fell behind in the series, 2-1.
Bruins center Rich Peverley got his start in the NHL with the Preds for nearly three full seasons. He’s been keeping an eye on his former mates even as his current club battles it’s way through its Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia. Having played there as much as he did, Peverley’s a supporter of hockey in The South.
“It was great to see last night, they had those t-shirts. Like I always said, it’s one of the loudest buildings in the league and the fans are starving for a winner there,” said Peverley after the Bruins’ morning skate in preparation for tonight’s Game 3 at the TD Garden. “I think that – who knows? – it was a pretty close game there and special teams made the difference.”
Even if the Preds don’t pull the upset on Vancouver, they’ve undoubtedly attracted a wider fan base by lasting past the first round for the first time. Even the loyalists were abundant before the team won a playoff series, according to Peverley, who played in one playoff series during his tenure in Nashville.
“When I was there, Saturday night’s a sellout. Weekdays [against] a couple teams might be a little bit harder [to sell],” he said. “But it always seems like it’s full. I don’t think they’ve ever had a problem or issue with that.”
The only issue they might have now is with the penalty in overtime called on Shea Weber before the Canucks’ game-winning power-play goal. Peverley said he still has friends with Nashville and that he’s pulling for them as much as the rest of the hockey fans in Music City.
The spring of 2011 might be looked back at as a turning point in Preds franchise history. Peverley, for one, hopes they’re able to make a go of it.