The disturbing trend of inconsistency has spread into the playoffs for the Nashville Predators as they drop Game 1 of the playoffs to the Dallas Stars.
There was a reason why a lot of us were feeling anxious about this Nashville Predators team heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sure, they’re division champs for the second-straight year and had some thrilling wins to lock up that achievement. However, this team has shown time and time again that it can’t be trusted.
Unfortunately, Game 1 is a perfect illustration to the Predators’ roller coaster ride of a season. A near-perfect first period that saw the Predators generate plenty of shots on goal and offensive pressure completely vanished until late in the game when it was too late.
Give credit where credit is due to the Dallas Stars. They executed a perfect gameplan defensively, clogging up the neutral zone and making it very difficult on Nashville to get much of any noteworthy scoring chances after the opening period. In fact, Nashville’s two goals were more a result of great solo efforts from Roman Josi and P.K. Subban than they were team execution.
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I’m not jumping off the cliff yet after just one game. My confidence meter has decreased a bit, but I still like the Predators to take this series in six games. It’s a matter of putting a complete three periods together for the Predators.
They have enough talent to sometimes take periods off and still come out with a win. However, I don’t think they can get away with that against a hungry Stars team that is playing outstanding defense in front of their goaltender.
Who stood out
For the Predators, let’s start with Pekka Rinne. His playoff troubles are well-documented, but this loss doesn’t fall on him in any way. Dallas’ first two goals were of the fluky variety. Not to say they didn’t deserve the goals, but they were what you can call fortunate bounces. The first goal from rookie Miro Heiskanen was shot in and re-directed off of Mattias Ekholm.
Nothing Rinne could do about this. Credit to Heiskanen for throwing the puck towards the net through a lot of traffic and cracking an otherwise locked in Rinne at the time.
Here’s a look at the goal from NHL.com:
Dallas scored their second goal and takes the lead for good on another Heiskanen goal where he threw the puck towards the net through a lot of traffic in front of Rinne. This is smart hockey from the rookie and a great way to neutralize a goaltender who is stopping almost everything. You have to create chaos in front of the net and hope for fortunate bounces and redirects.
Rinne played well enough to win this game for the Predators. Unfortunately, most of his teammates in front of him didn’t answer the call and play well enough to match his level of playoff intensity. Speaking of which, I thought the Predators waiting too late into the third period to show that urgency. Sure, that Subban goal was a thing of beauty.
I loved his intensity and urgency after scoring the goal to bring the Predators to just a one-goal deficit. However, it’s just too little too late. Viktor Arvidsson nearly got the tying goal on a great individual effort as time was winding down, but Ben Bishop held strong.
This result doesn’t change my series outlook too much. My original series prediction had the Predators winning the series in six games, and even splitting the first two games in Nashville. I’m not getting too caught up on losing the home-ice advantage. Once the Predators settle down and put together a complete game, it won’t matter what venue they’re playing in.
The power play continues to be an ugly problem that’s probably not going to be fixed during this playoff run. They go fail to capitalize on the power play on four attempts, including one towards the end of the game that could’ve tied the game back up and sent it to overtime. It’s a major weakness that may end up burying the Predators in the first round. I will say that despite not getting a power play goal, there were some bright spots on the power play that was just simply met with better defense from the Stars.
Kyle Turris has been a topic of criticism for much of the year. His lack of production on the second line has him under fire, and rightfully so. This game saw him generate plenty of chances with six shots on goal, which is an encouraging sign that eventually he’ll start seeing some results in the box score. We desperately need him to crank up his level of play and energize that second line with Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund. If that line wakes up, then the goals will start coming in and this team won’t look like it’s working through quicksand to generate scoring chances.
The Predators have two days off to prepare for Game 2 on Saturday. They’ll regroup and come out with a lot of energy. They need to treat this game like an elimination game. This team plays its best when they seem desperate. That’s the biggest problem with them. They get too comfortable and try to live off their talent alone. The Stars are too great defensively to play relaxed hockey. The Predators should have that message loud and clear now and will play a complete game to tie this series back up. Settle down Predators faithful. They’ll win this series in six.