3 minutes into the second period this past Saturday, Predators fans were ecstatic with a 3-0 lead they had just gained on Sergei Kostitsyn’s 20th (and team-leading) goal of the year. Thoughts of a possible Central Division title and what would inevitably be an almost-guaranteed 6th playoff birth were rampant in their minds along with the hope that they would face this same Detroit team in about 11 days during the first round.
4 minutes into the second period this past Saturday, Predators fans were worried that they were going to blow a 3 goal lead on a Detroit team that had JUST been blown out by the cellar-dwelling St. Louis Blues by a touchdown, 10-3. Thoughts of a possible third, or even second, period collapse were now running through all the minds of Pred Nation.
About 45 minutes later, Predators fans filed out the Bridgestone Arena in what can only be summed up by one collective statement:
Again…this had happened again. Another collapse after being up by multiple goals and this time to a team that is, by far, the Nashville Predators largest rival. The Nashville Predators had just lost their NHL-leading EIGHTH game after holding a lead after the second period.
The Preds currently stand 26th in the league in win percentage when leading after 2 periods…a terrifying thought. But, what most people don’t realize is, a LOT of current playoff teams are in the bottom half of this percentage as well:
Detroit Red Wings – 15th – .871 Win% – 27-0-4
Tampa Bay Lightning – 16th – .865 Win% – 32-2-3
Montreal Canadiens – 20th – .853 Win% – 29-1-4
Buffalo Sabres – 23rd – .821 Win% – 23-2-3
Chicago Blackhawks – 24th – .816 Win% – 31-4-3
San Jose Sharks – 25th – .794 Win% – 27-4-3
Nashville Predators – 26th – .784 Win% – 29-3-5
Look at that list: 2 Division-leaders and 5 probably definite playoff teams. I know this doesn’t really spell out what happens to the Predators when they decide to just let up, however you can see that the Predators are NOT ALONE in this statistic. There is one thing to look at though, how Nashville will respond.
Nashville could just easily let the loss Saturday be a huge turning point for their season, dropping their next 3 completely winnable games, back into the playoffs, and get swept in the first round.
Nashville could actually LEARN from this experience, so late in the season, and use it as bulletin board material. They could remember that LAST year they committed the ULTIMATE collapse in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the eventual cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks. They could remember that THAT experience is the one major factor driving a lot of the chip the Preds have on their shoulder this year. They could come out Tuesday night and let loose on an Atlanta team that will miss the playoffs yet again and is also one of the 8 teams that has come back to beat the Predators after trailing going into the third period (Section303.com definitely remembers that one). They could take out their next 3 opponents entirely and give notice to their first round opponent that THIS year’s team isn’t going to let ANY team off the hook
However, who really knows what Preds team we will see tomorrow night?
After the way Nashville lost to Detroit on Saturday, the glare that Pekka Rinne gave to Kevin Klein after he blew another defensive play, and the anger he (and subsequently the entire team) had thereafter, I have a feeling everything is going to be alright.
There are ups and downs in every season, times when you want to question everything you know and see, wonder if your team really has it or not. I know the Predators still have what it takes. I still believe this team is more than just a bunch of common players who don’t really get much publicity since they play for a market like Nashville.
I believe this is the team to get us into the playoffs again
I believe this is the team to get us out of the first round for the first time
I believe this is the team who may actually learn from the mistakes of the past.