The Nashville Predators have suffered a league-high 13 overtime losses.
Seventeen times this season the Nashville Predators have ended regulation in a tie with their opponent and moved into the league’s newly adopted 3 vs. 3 overtime format. Only one of those ventures has ended with the Predators netting a sudden death goal and snaring two points without necessitating the move to a shootout.
On January 2nd, Mattias Ekholm beat Carolina Hurricane’s goaltender Eddie Lack top-shelf blocker side on a lefty’s wrister to notch the sole 3 vs. 3 victory of the season for the Predators. The game serves as the “1” in Nashville’s mortifying 1-12 overtime record this year.
The “12” has come to be represented by the sighs of resignation issuing from Nashville fans as they watch six jerseys take to center ice beneath a clock that reads on ominous, “5:00 OT.” The sigh sounds just a little bit like, “Well, at least we got a point.”
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The league’s new overtime format is undoubtedly exciting- fast paced, offensively bent, featuring odd-man rushes breaking into counter-rushes and talent primed to showcase itself in a winner-take-all scenario- but for Predators fans the excitement is shaded by haunting images of sloppy line changes, lost puck possession under pressure, and a triangle zone defense that gets shredded like a golden Ryan Suter jersey in 2012.
What exactly is the cause of these overtime woes? Apart from the aforementioned forms of disorganization, blame could be placed on Evgeni Malkin. On October 24th, the Predators squared off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first ever taste of 3 on 3 hockey. Within the first minute of OT, the Penguins broke into the offensive zone and the star forward Malkin discovered his stick wandering haphazardly across all that open ice, finding its way into the skates of retreating defender Filip Forsberg, causing him to falter and creating space enough for Penguin puck carrier Phil Kessel to take an unimpeded charge at the net, which he cashed in for the game winner.
Predator head coach Peter Laviolette had his team remain on the bench as the opponent celebrated a victory, arguing with officials that there had been a failure to recognize a clear violation. And there- born in the non-call of a superstar’s tripping penalty- began the Predators overtime woes. I don’t want to call it a curse, but how else does one explain Craig Smith blocking his own slam dunk attempt into an open net? (He would, of course, go on to redeem himself by scoring the shootout winner with a nasty deke supercharged with willpower).
Currently, the Predators hold the first Wild Card spot in the West with 81 points, good for 4th place in the brutal Central Division. Common thought has had the Preds reaching the playoffs only as a Wild Card- seeing as division rivals the Blues, Blackhawks, and Stars amassed enough points to open a gap which virtually secured their post-season life with two calendar months still left in the regular season.
However, if Nashville had managed to hold around a .500 record in overtime, let’s even say a subpar 6-7 record- those hypothetical points would put the Predators at 86 on the year, only 2 points behind Chicago’s 88, 3 points behind St. Louis, and 4 points behind the Conference-leading Dallas Stars. Oh, and Nashville would have a game in hand on all of th
Averaging even mediocre results in 3 vs. 3 overtime action could have put points that were left on the ice back into the pockets of the Predators- it would have provided a healthy double-digit lead over the teams grappling for the final Wild Card position, and it would have had the fangs nipping at the heels of the top team in the West.
All of this should give Nashville fans hope. It provides a sense of strength for a team who has played abnormally poor in a mode that is confined to the regular season. Whatever 3 vs. 3 bug ails the team would be left at the door upon entrance to the post season, where overtime is decided in 5 on 5 standard action.
It’s worth noting that four times the Predators have weathered the 3 on 3 session and taken the game to a shootout, where they hold a favorable 3-1 record. this gives them a slightly less chilling post-regulation record of 4-13. But no matter what hardships the Preds have seen in regular season OT, we will be more than happy to see them have the opportunity to tangle in some 5 on 5 sudden death hockey.