Well, that was a bit of a buzz kill, after all of the hype surrounding Alexander Radulov’s first NHL game in four years the Preds came out flat and fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins (And fellow Russian star Evgeni Malkin) by a score of 5-1. While Radulov did notch the Predators’ first goal (Only 44 behind Malkin for the lead amongst Russian players in the NHL!) it was a classic case of too little, too late, as by that time the Penguins had established a 4-0 lead and were carrying the play. It’s weird to see so much optimism to a team that has lost back to back ugly games, one against a great team and the other against a team that isn’t so great, but with the return of Radulov to the Music City their Stanley Cup dreams are still valid despite the back to back losses. However more desperation is needed now that after garnering a point in a shootout loss in LA St. Louis has all but clinched the division and despite all of their injuries all year Detroit has slid past the Preds into the fourth seed. While I have the utmost confidence that the Preds could defeat either team in a playoff series especially with Radulov back in North America, the time to start playing with desperation is now as to avoid limping into the playoffs and the team being at a disadvantage due to lackluster play to end the regular season. Starting Saturday night in Winnipeg and carrying through next Saturday when over the course of the week the Preds play four games against division rivals and potential playoff foes in the Blues, Red Wings and Blackhawks the intensity level must be stepped up and good habits must be formed to ensure this team is ready for postseason hockey. The last three games of the season come against Minnesota, Dallas, and Colorado three teams that all due respect are inferior to the elite of the Central Division and offer a chance for the Preds to rest their top guns and take advantage of the plethora of healthy players they have. Over the course of the playoffs team depth will be tested (a la Tyler Seguin going from the press box to the ice in the Eastern Conference Finals against Tampa Bay and saving the Boston Bruins season last year en route to their Stanley Cup victory) and it is important to get ice time late in the season for guys who do not project to play a major role in the postseason to ensure that if their number is called they aren’t too rusty. Until then welcome back Rads and let’s go Winnipeg Thrasher hunting!
For the video segment of today’s piece I’m including a vlog piece I did last week to coincide with Radulov’s return to the Predators lineup: