Nashville Predators Offense Fizzles Out in Elimination Loss to Canucks

In a season with low expectations, the Predators found their way into the playoffs but failed to break their first round curse.
May 3, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Michael McCarron (47) reacts
May 3, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Michael McCarron (47) reacts / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Putting yet another first round playoff loss to the side, the Nashville Predators' 2023-24 campaign can be considered a success once you remove the recency bias.

This felt much different than the previous playoff losses dating back to 2018, the last time the Predators made it past the first round. This one truly felt like the Predators were trying to continue to prove all of the doubters wrong. They came up short against the Vancouver Canucks in six games, but the opportunities were there to win this series.

Canucks send Predators to the offseason with a late game dagger

With less than two minutes remaining in regulation in a 0-0 defensive stalemate, the Canucks finally cracked Juuse Saros to take the lead. The chaos didn't stop there, however. The Predators went down swinging and keeping the "relentless" attitude in a furious attempt to push Game 6 to overtime. They couldn't get one past third-string goalie Arturs Silovs.

The Predators lost all three home playoff game in this series, and have lost six-straight home playoff game overall dating back to 2021. That's a very hard pill to swallow for a fanbase that used to represent one of the most difficult places for a road team to win at.

Much like the entire series, shots on goal were an enormous task to come by for both teams. The first period saw only 11 shots on goal combined. Things gradually opened up as the game went on, and both Saros and Silovs did everything they could in inspiring fashion to keep it knotted at a scoreless draw.

The Predators leaned on their defensive structure and Saros making timely saves while trying to find their offense. It just never came. The team blocked 24 shots by the Canucks, and Saros made 28 saves and a 1.72 Goals Saved Above Expected in what very well could be his last game in a Predators sweater.

Saros will be one of the top prizes on the offseason trade market. His team didn't provide him the goal support against the Canucks, and this series absolutely was not lost due to Saros. His trade value wasn't harmed in this series, and if anything it was boosted.

It's not as if the Predators didn't get their offensive chances in Game 6. In fact, they racked up 3.47 Expected Goals while seeing a huge spike in that department in the final minutes while desperately trying to push it to overtime.

Ryan O'Reilly, Colton Sissons and Jason Zucker all put shots on net in the final 60 seconds looking for the tying goal. Sissons won two faceoff in the offensive zone to get it set up. The Canucks also blocked two shots during that span while also taking a penalty. It was just pure pandemonium to close out the 2023-24 campaign for the Predators.

Playoff standouts for the Predators

Forsberg led all Predators playoff scorers with six point and two goals. No one had more than one goal except for Forsberg, and Gustav Nyquist was next up behind Forsberg with four points.

Some players who were held quiet in this series that you would've liked to have seen more from starts with Tommy Novak who was held without a point and looked completely outmatched physically against the Canucks.

O'Reilly's past playoff success you were hoping would translate to his first playoff run with the Predators, but he was held to just two points. And then you have the reliable fourth line that was held to just one point combined all series, with Michael McCarron and Cole Smith being held to zero points and 16 shots on goal.

I still consider this season a success. The first factor I use is the preseason expectations. This team outperformed realistc expectations considering everything that was new about this team. New free agents, inexperience, new head coach and a new general manager. A new offensive philosophy that took time to hit its full potential, and plenty of moments during the season when it could've been derailed but didn't.

This season can be considered a massive building block going into 2024-25, but not before General Manager Barry Trotz has to make some very difficult decisions for this roster. Six notable unrestricted free agents to decide on, with a big one being Alexandre Carrier.

Early look ahead to the offseason for the Predators

The Predators have the fourth-most final cap space according to CapFriendly. But of course this all hinges on what happens with Saros. If they retain Saros to a long-term extension, then you're likely losing some other key players and riding forward with the same veterans. You'll only have room to make minor depth additions. That is the conundrum Trotz faces with Saros, and why I think Saros has ultimately played his last game for the Predators.

As for Head Coach Andrew Brunette, he got the very most out of this roster that you could've asked for. He found his top line by fitting in Gustav Nyquist with O'Reilly and Forsberg. A brilliant early season move that he never went away from and ended up being one of the most productive top forward lines in Predators history.

Brunette's team showed gradual improvement throughout his first year behind the bench. That is an important measuring stick for me. This team didn't regress, they only got better as time wore on.

It's way too early to say if the Predators will be back in this playoff position next season. It really all will sway on what they do this offseason. Too many undecided factors to even guess right now.