Nashville Predators: Calamity In Loss To Blue Jackets

May 5, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins (90) makes a save as Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) crashes into net during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
May 5, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins (90) makes a save as Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) crashes into net during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports /

Hockey in May for the Nashville Predators is, historically, a wild time, filled with emotional roller coasters and drama in every game. Even though the NHL is still in the regular season, that sentiment holds.

The Predators are still in the driver’s seat for their playoff hopes with a lead over the Dallas Stars, but it’s not going to be an easy road.

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Following a close call on Monday, and with a chance to clinch the playoff berth this team has rallied back to take, the Predators whiffed on the opportunity, losing to the Blue Jackers 4-2 in Columbus.

While the Predators still control their destiny, the road to the postseason could’ve been much smoother.

Herd Line Sets the Tone

Despite the loss, the Herd Line continued to set the tone for the team not only in the 1st period but really the entire game. Tanner Jeannot opened things up just over three minutes into the game with a determined effort that resulted in the Predators’ first lead of the night.

When talking about the identity of the Nashville Predators, it’s hard to find a player who embodies it as much as Jeannot. He is a blue-collar player who was undrafted, works his butt off, and continues to play with a chip on his shoulder while producing results.

Many of the night’s offensive opportunities for the Predators came because of the forecheck and tenacity of the Herd Line.

Old Habits Rearing Their Ugly Head

After a solid 1st period, and with a one-goal lead, the Predators put themselves into trouble early in the 2nd.

With just over a minute into the period, Juuse Saros made what has been a rare mistake by his standards as of late, putting the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.

Less than a minute later, Jack Roslovic tied things up on a power-play goal that Saros was never able to see to make things 1-1.

Calle Jarnkrok, ole Ironhook, answered back in the back half of the period, picking up a puck that got past the Columbus defense and creating a breakaway opportunity. He was able to freeze goaltender Elvis Merzlinkins and put the Predators ahead again, 2-1.

Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived. I’ve lost track of how many times the Predators have allowed goals in the final minute of a game, and it happened again against Columbus at the end of the 2nd period on Wednesday night.

The Blue Jackets had an easy zone entry, and Oliver Bjorkstrand shot the puck from beyond the circle past Saros to tie the game at 2-2. It looked like it should’ve been an easy save for Saros, but he was actually screened by Matt Duchene. Woof.

The go-ahead goal for Columbus came in the 3rd period. Despite the Predators limiting the shots for Columbus, they found life late in the period and created sustained offensive opportunities that Nashville failed to clear. This ultimately led to a goal through Saros’ five-hole by Mikhail Grigorenko off a redirected shot by Vladislav Gavrikov.

Bjorkstrand was able to get an empty-net goal as time expired, giving the Blue Jackets the 4-2 win. The Predators leave Columbus with frustration, only getting two points against a very beatable opponent.

Nashville Predators Remaining Journey

The only ones who may be rooting for the Tampa Bay Lightning to win on Friday night more than Lightning fans are Predators fans.

If the Lightning can win in regulation, the Predators will clinch the fourth and final playoff spot. Any combination of Nashville getting two points, or Dallas losing two points, solidifies the Predators as a playoff team.

At the same time, the Predators close out their season against the top of the class in the Central Division in the Carolina Hurricanes, the team they will most likely see in the first round of the playoffs.

The Predators have yet to beat the Hurricanes in 2021, going 0-6 so far. They will have to do all they can to avoid the season sweep and gain some confidence going into the postseason.

If the Predators want to close out the season, clinch the playoff spot, and start the postseason strong, a LOT needs to happen.

It would help to have a player like Viktor Arvidsson healthy as soon as possible, but at the same time, the return of players like Filip Forsberg, Eeli Tolvanen, and even Dante Fabbro need to turn into more points.

Tolvanen has yet to return to the power play form that he showed before his injury, and the Predators will need him to get back to it to produce much-needed special teams points.

Forsberg has gotten one goal and one assist in three games since his return but can put the team on his back if he takes charge and starts producing at a higher clip. Fabbro is a much more dynamic defenseman than Erik Gudbranson and could be a key if he plays SMART hockey.

Every journey has an end, but the Predators have a LOT of hockey left to play if they get back to the magic they found in mid-March. Let’s hope they can find it, clinch the playoff spot, and go on a run the Smashville faithful have been longing for.

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