It’s uncharted territory as the Nashville Predators find themselves down a game in a best-of-five series in the Western Conference Qualifying Round.
There’s just not much room for error in a five-game series like the Nashville Predators are in against the Arizona Coyotes. That’s why the panic level might be higher than it normally would be for a best-of-seven series in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Yesterday’s loss was sloppy and lacked a lot of attention to detail. At times the Predators just seemed lost in the moment and couldn’t match the intensity level of the Coyotes.
On the other hand, the Coyotes feasted on the Predators after getting their first goal courtesy of an odd bounce. A goal that probably doesn’t find the back of the net 99 percent of the time.
However, the Predators didn’t respond well to the adversity at all until it was too late. Hockey is full of unlucky bounces, and you have to respond to them better than what the Predators did in that first period.
But with all of that said, the Predators should still have high confidence that they can correct these mistakes and handle their business in Game 2 on Tuesday. They have the talent, they have the goaltending and they have the gameplan that can work. Now they have to execute it from the start, and not just in the final period when you’re already down three goals.
Why the confidence should remain high
The Predators let the initial goal snowball into a three-goal deficit. This can’t happen against such a stout defensive team like the Coyotes are. You’re putting yourself behind the 8-ball with still two periods left to play.
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Confidence has to stay high because these things are correctable. It’s one game, although an important one, that you can’t let leak over into the next game.
The Predators have more talent on paper, but you can’t spot teams three goals and then try to make your comeback while residing in the penalty box.
The second goal of the night by the Coyotes to make it 2-0 was a product of lazy defense and giving up way too much space in front of Juuse Saros. The Coyotes were buzzing all over the net and showing more aggression.
If I’m Head Coach John Hynes, I’m harping on my players to show more intensity and not give up that kind of valuable ice position. Make them work harder for goals.
This leads to the other area that the Predators have to spend their off day on Monday working on. Staying out of the penalty box. Even if the penalty kill was successful five of six attempts, it still smothers your team’s momentum and wears out your defense when you’re constantly killing penalties.
You can certainly take some confidence out of this loss based on how effective the penalty kill was and the comeback attempt. Now they just have to decrease the amount of penalties taken, and lean on it when penalties do happen.
Play a complete 60 minutes
The Predators turned up the intensity big time in the third period while trailing 4-1. They really started making Darcy Kuemper work hard in net in the second period, putting up 13 shots on goal.
The third period saw the Predators pepper Kuemper with another 20 shots, including Filip Forsberg‘s second power play goal of the day.
Here’s the problem; the Predators can’t continue to always look their best when they’re coming from behind. Build a two-goal lead early on against the Coyotes and I’m confident they can impose their will and even this series.
You can’t blame this loss on one quirky goal, which did put the Predators down on the scoreboard for good. The Predators had their chances to tie this game in the third period with over 11 minutes remaining, despite not playing too well to for a large chunk of the first and second periods.
This is why the confidence has to remain high. There’s positives to take away from this game. Hynes has to show his coaching abilities and make the quick adjustments on the off day, and then it’s a quick turnaround for a back-to-back situation for Games 2 and 3.
Don’t make a sudden goaltender change from Saros to Pekka Rinne. That would send the wrong message to both Saros and the rest of the team that you were never really that confident in your decision to start with.
Saros locked in and made some critical saves that made the comeback attempt even possible, and Hynes echoed that in his postgame comments via the Brooks Bratten:
Coach Hynes on Juuse Saros: “As the game went on, he made saves when we needed them… He kept it at four [goals for Arizona], and we were able to keep pecking away at the score. That’s what you want from your goaltender.” #Preds
— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) August 2, 2020
“As the game went on, he (Saros) made saves when we needed them. That’s what you want from your goaltender”.
Play a complete game, keep up the intensity and focus when you do have to kill penalties and the Predators should be able to stretch this out to five games. With a back-to-back upcoming, the Predators have a chance to change the complexion of this short series in a hurry.