After getting off to an exciting start, the Nashville Predators unraveled at the seams in a matter of minutes at the NHL Winter Classic.
What happened late in the second period and on into the opening moments of the third period to the Nashville Predators is a microcosm to the entire season. They fall into huge lapses that snowball into the other team seizing all of the momentum.
The five-game point streak and winning four of five games before Christmas seems like a distant memory now. This team is in serious trouble after seeing how they fell apart yesterday at the hands of the Dallas Stars in the Winter Classic.
We might have to start coming to grips with the reality that this team just isn’t as good as their roster looks on paper. That can be for a number of things, and it starts at the top with coaching. However, let’s get into how the game unfolded at the Cotton Bowl.
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Predators start off hot
Well we didn’t have to worry about coming from behind early on like in the previous two games against the Penguins. The Predators opened the game with a physical and intense brand of hockey. They looked fully locked in and ready to win this huge milestone game for the franchise.
The fireworks started early in this one with Corey Perry being ejected less than three minutes into the game for elbowing Ryan Ellis. It was clearly the right call, and you can debate whether he intentionally did it or not. Given his track record and looking at the slow motion replay, he knew what he was doing.
This changed the early portion of the game in a massive way. The Predators wouldn’t strike right away however. It would take a delay of game penalty to give the Predators a two-man advantage before getting the first goal of the 2020 Winter Classic.
would get the shot past
getting the assists. Here’s a look at the first goal of 2020 from the Predators website:
The Predators would remain on the power play for Perry’s five-minute major and get another quick goal from Dante Fabbro off of Duchene’s assist and second point of the game. The over 20 thousand Predators fans gave a loud uproar throughout the Cotton Bowl after this goal, and things were going great.
However, great teams like the Dallas Stars don’t panic. They dug themselves out of the hole they created early on and gradually started taking back momentum. They did it with defensive intensity and outstanding goaltending from Bishop.
The Predators had other good scoring chances to push the margin to three or four goals. After coming up empty, the Predators started to wear down. Furthermore, Pekka Rinne also did all he could to keep the Stars scoreless for nearly two full periods.
After a Nick Bonino breakaway scoring chance on a shorthanded opportunity, the Stars would take over this game. They’d get their first goal with time winding down in the second period, and then get a power play.
The Predators would limp into the 2nd intermission clinging to the lead, but everyone knew the Stars had the momentum back. The Stars would pounce all over the Predators for three goals in six minutes and never look back.
The bigger problem
It’s not the result itself that hurts so much if you’re the Predators. It’s how they’re losing and how they’re just falling apart both mentally and physically during games. All of their hard work gets throw to the waste side and they look like a completely different team.
Many want to point fingers at two people for all of the team’s problems right now. Those two are Peter Laviolette and Pekka Rinne. The first one is justifiable, but Rinne did everything he could to keep the Stars scoreless yesterday before the team just stopped playing defense.
The Predators couldn’t get it out of their own zone to save their own lives, and eventually a goaltender is going to let one by when that happens. As the Stars started taking control and counter punching, the Predators acted stunned and didn’t know what to do. Like they didn’t expect the Stars to fight back.
As for Laviolette, I’m still not convinced that anything is going to be done during the season. Unless the Predators go on a long losing streak and get eliminated from playoff contention a couple weeks before the end of the season, then I think this thing plays out until the offseason. Then a coaching change will probably happen.
Obviously the team isn’t living up to the high talent on the roster, and that falls on coaching. Every coach, even the great ones, eventually have to move on. It looks like it might be that time for Laviolette and the Nashville Predators. There’s just no excuse for yesterday, and it’s not an isolated incident.
Ellis wasn’t able to return to the game, which hurt an already suspect Predators defense even more. Not sure how long he’ll be out, but I’d be shocked if he plays Saturday night.
The team was also already without Colton Sissons, so two players critical to applying defensive presence and forechecking were unavailable, and it showed as the game unfolded.
To look at the positive from yesterday, the Nashville Predators fans delivered in a big way and showed their support in Dallas. They represented the fanbase beautifully and gave this game the feel of being at a big college football game and seeing the away fans take over. We see it all time in college football, and this one had a college football atmosphere being in the Cotton Bowl.
The Predators next go to Los Angeles to battle the slumping Kings next. Obviously they can’t let things spiral out of control any worse and have to get a win here.