It is time for the Nashville Predators to live up to the Barry Trotz mantra of “No excuses.” After a disheartening 5-3 loss last night to the Chicago Blackhawks, most Predator fans are left questioning the coaches, the players, and David Poile for yet another first round exit. There has been a lot of finger pointing over the last twenty-four hours. Allow me to make some accusations of my own. At the very end, I will have a little bit of praise for a couple of guys.
First off, I want to make one thing clear. The Nashville Predators lost to the Chicago Blackhawks because the Preds kept shooting themselves in the foot. The Blackhawks won games 2,4, and 6 outright, but games 1,3, and 5 the Predators were the better team. I’ll repeat that: The Predators were a better team for half the games. There is no reason the Predators couldn’t have won this series. You can’t tell me Chicago is a better team because from what I saw, they weren’t. I don’t care what the payroll or roster says. That’s why you play the games. There is NO reason this thing shouldn’t have gone to game seven. Now that that is out of the way, on to my finger pointing.
1. POWER PLAY FAILURE
I am sick of writing about it. The Predators FLOWER PLAY was successful only 3 times in it’s last 58 chances. Three times. The Predators would finish the first round with- wait for it- 1 PP goal in 26 tries. The Los Angeles Kings have averaged nearly two power play goals per game. 1 out of 26 is under 4%. That’s the same likelihood of me getting an A in Botany. The alleged “power play” coach is Peter Horachek who appears to be taking an early vacation this year. In fact, I would argue that Horachek actually isn’t the guy who should be running the power play in the first place. Take a look at these statistics.
05-06 10th in PP at 18%
06-07 18th at 17%
07-08 27th at 14%
08-09 25th at 15%
09-10 24th at 16%
I’ll be the first to admit, the 05-06 power play unit was spectacular, but since then it has seen nothing but failure. The one that really stands out to me is the 17% for the 06-07 team. Not that good for a unit that included Paul Karyia, Jason Arnott (near his prime), Steve Sullivan, Foppa (Forsberg), J.P. Dumont, Alex Radulov, Kimmo Timonen, Marek Zidlicky, and Shea Weber. As soon as a couple of key players (Karyia and Timonen) left, the power play sank. That’s fair, but even with that talent in the line up Nashville wasn’t inside the top 10. 3 for 58. That’s the only number that matters right now. Horachek had the audacity to berate the fans for not being loud enough in game four. Let me be blunt: WE GOT SHUT OUT. Why should fans cheer if there is nothing to cheer about? It was a sellout for goodness sake! They were loud to start with. Give the fans something to cheer about and maybe they will. What a concept. Honestly, this last point made me more upset than the power play itself. Sorry Horachek, but it is time for you to find a different team.
Had Nashville had a power play instead of the flower play, this series would still have ended in 6 games; except the Predators WIN. Here is how simple it would be. Game 4, Preds have a 5 on 3 advantage- no goal. Chicago takes the momentum and wins the game. Game 5, Preds on the power play and up a goal at the end of the game. Chicago scores and sends the game in to overtime. Game 5 overtime, Preds on the power play for 3 plus minutes… no goal and Chicago scores at the end of the power play. Game 6, Preds on the power play for 3 consecutive times in the third period down just one goal… no score, season over.
Fun fact-the Predators were 10th in the league for even strength goals during the season. They were 24th in the league for power play goals. So basically as long as we weren’t up a man, we could score. Go figure.
2. SECONDARY SCORING… OR LACK THERE OF!
Tootoo, Goc, Wilson, Smithson, Boyd, and Spaling had a combined 5 points between them. That certainly isn’t going to get it done. Without Patric Hornqvist, someone had to step up and be a leader. I thought that leader was going to be Wilson, but boy I was wrong.
3. THE HERO OF THE DAY
Instead, David Legwand turned out to be the hero for the Predators, notching 7 points in 6 games. The same Legwand that couldn’t score the last month of the regular season. Way to go Legwand! I don’t know what lit a fire under his butt, but whatever it was, I hope he can keep it going next season. The David Legwand we saw during the playoffs is the David Legwand most fans thought he would be 11 years ago. Hopefully something clicked in Legwands brain to permanently ON for the rest of his career with Nashville.
4. THE ACHILLES’ HEELS.
Martin Erat. Poor Martin Erat. He had 4 goals in 6 games (and added an assist) yet he will be looked upon as the reason the Predators lost this series. Erat’s unbelievable no look pass cost the Predators a pivotal game 5. Everyone knows it. Erat had a great series, but that one screw up probably cost the team a ticket into the 2nd round. Joel Ward. One of our best defensive forwards. He stood by like a statue while Chicago scored the tying goal and then deflected the shot directly to Hossa who scored the game winner in game 5. Granted, both of these guys had a great series, but man two moments of stupidity really killed our chances of winning the series.
5. THE ENIGMA
I am hesitant to write this because I think it is arguably the meanest thing I have ever written about anyone in my life: Jason Arnott needs to retire. I’m scared he has had one too many concussions these past three years. He isn’t the aggressive player he once was in his earlier years. Personally, I thought Arnott was afraid to touch people during the series. While his playoff stats will say two goals in six games, everyone who watched this series knows Arnott was invisible for the first five games. He also owes one of his goals to Patric Hornqvist, who made a perfect pass right on the immobile Arnott’s stick. Sorry Jason, but I think it is time. Thanks for the memories and enjoy the rest of your long, happy life. You have a beautiful wife and kids who need you healthy. You were a great player who had one too many concussions. I feel awful saying it, but I think it is for the best.
6. HOCKEY GODS
In game 1, I actually believed the hockey Gods were finally going to smile on us. The goal Dumont scored on a seeing eye backhand seemed to say our time had come. Then it turned against us. Pipes, phantom penalties, no calls etc. took over. How else can you explain Hossa, who should have been tossed from game 5, scoring the game winner. Need more evidence? Have you ever seen a goal like the second one scored by Chicago from center ice in game 6? I ask you to recall a playoff goal scored by Detroit, also in Nashville, on a flip in to the Nashville zone that miraculously bounced over the unsuspecting Nashville goalie. We apparently are still in the dog house!
7. MOVING FORWARD
I can honestly say I am a wreck. This team earned 100 points and powered into the postseason with one of the best records in the league since the Olympic break. Then, once again, ripped my heart out inch by inch with disappointment. Frustrated? Yes. Hurt? Yes. Giving up? Yeah right!
This season had many positives, including the emergence of Pekka Rinne, Colin Wilson and the monstrosity known as Patric Hornqvist. The 100 point finish was certainly a nice surprise, but once again, the Predators failed to do anything in the playoffs. It may require some changes for us to break out of this pattern or near success.
I will have a full season+playoffs summary later this week.
About the Author
Written by Chris Rydburg
Chris currently attends my Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He hopes to one day be a high school teacher.