NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators won the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since beginning play in 1998.
The Predators have not lost back-to-back games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. They have won six playoff series in their history, three of them this postseason.
Here are 5 reasons the Predators advanced:
1. FANTASTIC FILIP FORSBERG
Filip Forsberg scored five goals in the series; he had two points in Game 6 and one point in each of the other five games.
His ability to deliver when it counted was invaluable for Nashville. Forsberg's goal at 3:54 of the third period tied Game 3, which the Predators won on a power-play goal by Roman Josi at 17:17. He assisted on the Predators' third goal in Game 6 and scored the empty-net goal that put the series away.
"He is Mr. Clutch right now, and he has been," forward Harry Zolnierczyk said after Game 3. "He steps up throughout the season and especially when it's most important in the playoffs when the team is just itching for a goal, he finds a way to come through with one."
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Forsberg ties game in final minute
2. OVERCOMING INJURIES
The Predators were already without forward Kevin Fiala, who broke his left femur in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round, and forward Craig Smith, who had been battling an undisclosed injury since the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Injuries struck again when the Predators lost centers Ryan Johansen to acute compartment syndrome and Mike Fisher to an undisclosed injury after Game 4. Still, the Predators overcame.
"It's something I think we worked on all year inside the locker room," coach Peter Laviolette said. "A lot of teams talk about character and they talk about culture, and we actually worked on it a lot inside the room. And part of that is everybody accepting responsibility for our outcome and where we're at.
"And to take those pieces out is difficult. Those are big pieces. Craig Smith not being there, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Johansen, those are guys we'd like to have in the lineup but they're not available. So at the point there's only one choice, sink or swim."
3. PEKKA RINNE'S RUN CONTINUES
Pekka Rinne is arguably the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most valuable player of the playoffs. He had a 2.23 goals-against average and .925 save percentage against the Ducks, and responded when he was needed the most, including a 38-save performance in Game 6.
"He's going to be our best player every night," forward James Neal said. "We've said it all year long. He deserves everything he gets. He's an unbelievable person. He made save after save after save [in Game 6]. He was lights out."
Video: Discussing the unreal performance by Pekka Rinne
4. CONTAINING RYAN GETZLAF
The Predators held Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf without a goal in the conference final. Getzlaf had four assists in six games, including three in Game 2.
Getzlaf had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 11 games heading into the series.
5. SMASHING SUCCESS
Nashville's home crowd in what's affectionately referred to as "Smashville" has been a huge advantage for the Predators during the playoffs.
The Predators are 7-1 at Bridgestone Arena in the playoffs and won two of three home games against the Ducks.
"Our fans are something special," Neal said. "Everyone's starting to hear about them. The hockey world is starting to see them. What a place to play, what a city to live in. It's hard to describe. It's an amazing feeling."
Video: Nick Cotsonika joins show to talk atmosphere in NSH