The dire situation the Nashville Predators find themselves in heading into Game 2 against the Colorado Avalanche is where the great NHL head coaches seperate themselves from the ordinary ones.
It’s a “look yourself in the mirror” moment as the Nashville Predators try to rectify the disastrous showing in Game 1 when they fell behind 5-0 just 12 minutes into the game.
Quite frankly, the final score of 7-2 seems generous if you had the utter joy of watching the entire game like I did on Tuesday night. It absolutely could’ve gotten much worse, but luckily Connor Ingram came in and somewhat stopped the bleeding to make 30 saves on 32 shots.
The Avalanche didn’t let their foot off the gas at all, and Ingram just kept it from getting historically bad.
That brings us to how much of the blame should go to starting goaltender David Rittich, how much should go to the team in front of him, and how much should go to the coaching staff?
Rittich obviously had one of the worst nights you can have as an NHL goaltender in Game 1 of the first period. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Avs xGF in the first period was only 1.44, while Rittich still gave up five goals.
Hynes can’t control that, but he does share blame for not having his team prepared. They looked shellshocked as soon as they gave up the first goal. Many times the head coach has to fall on the sword, even if it’s not fair.
Game 2 brings huge implications for Nashville Predators
Head Coach John Hynes has always gotten somewhat of a free pass from me because he’s never had a normal full season to be head coach of this Predators team up until 2021-22. He came into a lot of turmoil in January 2020 after Peter Laviolette’s abrupt firing just two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Hynes has never had the full confidence from the fanbase behind him. He’s always felt like a placeholder for a bigger head coaching hire down the road. However, to Hynes’ credit, he has kept this team at least on the mark of being a playoff team.
Even this season was regarded by almost every expert and analyst as a season where the Nashville Predators’ postseason streak would end, and it would be a season full of growing pains. Only Juuse Saros would save them and maybe sneak them into the playoffs.
I think it’s fair to say it wasn’t just Saros that helped push this team back into the postseason. So many crazy individual milestone and acheivements from players like Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Tanner Jeannot and Ryan Johansen.
And yet the Nashville Predators still narrowly made the playoffs. If you had a crystal ball and knew all of these personal achievements were going to happen, like both Duchene and Forsberg hitting 40-plus goals and Josi nearly hitting 100 points, you would’ve said the Predators were at least pushing for a division crown.
So with that said, Hynes does have something to prove in the remainder of this playoff series against a superior Avalanche team that is a popular choice to hoist the Stanley Cup when it’s all said and done .
Hynes will be up for a contract extension this offseason with his original three-year deal expiring. If the Predators get bounced without a wimper in four or even five games, then the front office is going to have to think seriously about what to do at head coach.
Does the front office give Hynes a contract extension?
As mentioned earlier, these are the times when the great head coaches rally their teams, get their players focused at the task on hand, and don’t let one embarrassingly bad performance dictate the entire series.
This is why tonight’s Game 2 will be so telling. How do the Nashville Predators respond? Do they show some fight, or will they reaffirm that they don’t belong here?
There is plenty of blame to go around for the Game 1 debacle, but ultimately it comes back to the head coach and the front office.
General Manager David Poile probably isn’t going anywhere, but the head coaches often times take the fall when teams come apart in moments like this.
I’m not so certain that the front office brings Hynes back if the Predators get swept. It will illustrate that this franchise isn’t going anywhere and is stuck in the mud of painful mediocrity unless they make a bold change at head coach.
On the flip side, if the Predators turn this into a competitive series that goes six or seven games, then that will entice the front office to extend Hynes for another season or two to let him continue to build the foundation with young players developing.