Well, at least we can say the Nashville Predators didn’t take the loss lying down. Other than that, it’s hard to find positives after Game 2.
The Carolina Hurricanes now have a 2-0 series lead after defeating the Nashville Predators 3-0 last night in a game that was once again infuriating to watch from an offensive perspective, and one that saw the power play reach an all-time low it feels like.
Last night’s game was actually way more difficult to swallow than the Game 1 loss where the team just fell apart in the final period. This was just self-inflicted torture from start to finish.
However, the old adage goes that the playoff series really doesn’t get interesting until the road team gets a win, so the Predators now have the chance to hold serve in their own building.
1. Is there any hope for the power play?
The Predators power play failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities, seven to be exact, which could’ve made this a much different outcomes. In fact, if the Predators could just find some sort of success on the power play, perhaps we’re shifting the focus to a massive upset rather than a possible sweep.
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There’s just no creativity or organization with the rush attempts on the mad advantage. It’s predictable and Carolina is having no trouble at all defending it.
This is was a key area the Predators had to focus on heading into the series, and clearly they haven’t figured it out. They’re running out of time to do so, and a full offseason overhaul like we said should’ve probably happened at the trade deadline might be our only hope to fixing this.
If the Predators even manage to get to 20 percent of their power plays up to this point (2 for 10), then how different could this series be? Perhaps they’re playing with the lead in one or both of these first two games.
Despite the Hurricanes just having a slim one-goal lead for much of the game, the Predators just couldn’t get the equalizer. They battled hard, but Alex Nedeljkovic came up clutch when he needed to with 32 saves and the shutout.
I said it going into the series and it’s still painfully true; the Predators stand no chance in this series if they can’t narrow the special teams gap. The penalty kill has been commendable only giving up one power play goal through two games, but the power play continues to be the big eyesore.
Not only can the power play not muster up scoring chances, but they’re surrendering shorthanded chances to Carolina left and right.
I need to see a massive shakeup here for Game 3, and the big addition needs to be Rocco Grimaldi on the second power play unit. Eeli Tolvanen finally got back in, while Calle Jarnkrok missed the game due to a non-Covid illness.
2. Saros tries to steal another one
Yet again Juuse Saros bailed the team out from this being another blowout on the scoreboard. It was a one-goal game for most of night until Carolina added the empty net goal inside of 60 seconds left in regulation.
Sebastian Aho scored the first goal of the game, a power play goal, before getting the empty netter. To add insult to injury, the Canes would add one more with 28 seconds left to make it the final score of 3-0.
Saros has the ability to steal a game or two in this series, especially back in Bridgestone Arena. But he also played well enough to almost steal a game in Carolina. This isn’t on Saros whatsoever, and it’s tough to see his performances get squandered by a team that’s not stepping up in front of him.
Predators Head Coach John Hynes asked local media if “we watched the same game” while taking questions post-game. Check out this exchange courtesy of Alex Daugherty of AtoZSports:
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) May 20, 2021
If Hynes thinks that the team is getting better from Game 1 to Game 2, then I’m petrified to see what happens in Games 3 and 4. Sure, both games the opportunity was there for the taking late in the game, but what’s there to make me believe that anything is going to change back in Nashville?
Don’t overlook the night Saros had to keep this from getting completely away from them until the final minute. He made 28 saves on 30 shots, which brings his series total to 61 saves on 67 shots for a .910 save percentage. Not spectacular, but also not the main issue.
3. Core players are still missing in action
The Predators drastically need their top players to take control in these situations and go out to score some big goals. It’s just not happening, and it’s why I myself thought the Predators should’ve addressed their long-term future instead of keeping the band together for “one more run”.
We’re seeing the results of keeping this unit together well past its prime. I love these guys like Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons and others, but clearly this current roster isn’t going to ever sniff another Stanley Cup. This thing should get broken up in the offseason if another ugly first round exit occurs here.
For the next two games in Nashville it’s critical that players like Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis and others show that the organization made the right decision to not sell. They have to collectively put forth a performance that pushes the Predators to even this series before coming back to Carolina.
Even with a Game 3 win, my confidence will remain pretty low that they’ll do it again. My confidence is in Saros stealing game, and not the core players actually going out there and seizing it. If they prove me wrong then I’ll happily say they did so, but I need to see it for more than just one game.
If these top players on the team play great games and Carolina just outmatches them, then I’ll live with it. What’s hard to watch is seeing them go mostly unnoticeable through the first two games, and Saros having to do everything he can to keep the score within reach.
Unfortunately this feels like the last ride for these core players being together. The group that played on the 2017 Stanley Cup Final team just can’t seem to get it done against this loaded Hurricanes team.
Friday will mark the first home playoff game for the Nashville Predators since April 20, 2019 when they lost in Game 5 to the Dallas Stars. The fans need to show that playoff atmosphere to help give this team an emotional edge.