Starting tomorrow, the Montreal Canadiens will take on the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. But, why should we Predators fans care?
Because we will see a former Predator defenseman in the Stanley Cup Finals no matter what happens.
The matchup pits former Predators Kevin Klein (NY) and Francis Bouillon (MTL) against each other. Both were part of the defense corps that helped the Predators reach the second round of the Playoffs in 2011 and 2012.
Bouillon played in Montreal for years before joining the Predators in 2009. “Cube” became a mainstay at the Nashville blue line, earning the respect of many fans. He put of 10 or 11 points in each of his seasons in Nashville, despite only playing 44 games in 2010. He returned to Montreal in 2012. He had one highlight-reel goal this year, scoring the game-winning overtime goal in a thrilling comeback victory over Ottawa.
Klein started his career in Nashville. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2003 NHL Draft. He became a mainstay at the NHL level in 2008. His play was inconsistent at times, but he was generally well-liked by the fans and the media. He does not have much offensive firepower, but he has a tremendous defensive upside. Once he matured as a player, he began to play consistently well. His biggest highlight as a Predator came in the 2012 Playoffs, when he scored a beautiful breakaway goal vs. Detroit.
He fit very well into Barry Trotz’s system in Nashville, as shown by the five-year, $14.5 million contract he signed in 2012. He did not finish out that contract in a Predators uniform, as he was traded to the Rangers for Michael Del Zotto. He has played a strong defensive game in New York, which is exactly what the Rangers needed. Klein has scored one goal so far in these playoffs (it was an empty netter).
It’s nice to see these guys doing well beyond their time in Nashville. As I was coming into my own as a Preds fan, these guys were right there. In a way, I grew up watching these guys play. It’ll be hard to root against either of them.
My prediction: Canadiens in 6.