SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Jimmy Hascup and Kevin Allen look at some dark horses that could make some noise this postseason, but ultimately it’s hard to bet against Nashville.
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You know the NHL playoffs have started in Nashville when catfish fly.
Catfish were hurled out of the stands at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday just before the Nashville Predators’ playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche. The fish toss could be called the official launch of the No. 1-seeded Predators quest to win the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s 20-year history. Bovada oddsmakers list the Predators (53-18-11) as a 15/4 favorite to win the NHL championship.
One of the catfish tossed onto the ice was dressed in a cape, bow tie and party hat.
The catfish-throwing tradition in Nashville is believed to have started in the early years of the Predators’ franchise in response to the Detroit Red Wings’ tradition of throwing octopus on the ice.
This year, the Predators moved a fish tank with live catfish into the arena for display.
This year’s fish toss came after Rascal Flatts was brought out as the mystery anthem singers for Game 1. Part of Nashville’s playoff tradition is letting fans wonder what famous recording artist will be there to sing the anthem.
Rascal Flatts joins Carrie Underwood, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Martina McBride, Little Big Town, Vince Gill, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban and Kelly Clarkson as famous acts who have performed before Nashville games.
The pregame ceremony also employed the use of a giant video projection screen that dropped down and played a hype-up video before the team took the ice.
The Predators-Avalanche Game 1, broadcast on NBCSN, featured former U.S. women’s national team player A.J. Mleczko becoming the first woman to serve as an in-the-booth analyst for NBC in an NHL playoff game. Former women’s star Cammi Granato had previously done some “Inside the Glass” segments. Canadian women’s star Cassie Campbell had done analyst work on NHL games for Canadian networks .
While Nashville’s celebration of the playoffs got off to a rising start, the Predators’ playoff march got off slowly. The Predators fell behind twice before before Craig Smith tied it with a goal midway in the second period.
Filip Forsberg lifted the Predators into the lead for the first time with a goal at 6:08 of the third period. He would add another before Colton Sissons scored into an empty net to seal a 5-2 victory.
Game 2 starts Saturday afternoon in Nashville.