Another night, another loss. It seems like a broken record getting replayed night after night for the Nashville Predators, however this game had many more positives than negatives. The Red Wings netted goals in the second and two late in the third to beat the Predators 3-0 in front of another sold out crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
With their sixth straight loss, Nashville is all but eliminated in the Western Conference playoff hunt, as their playoff chances drop to a miniscule 0.0000006% chance per SportsClubStats.com. The Predators aren’t eliminated yet, but that should be official very soon. Why? Regardless of the outcome between Nashville and Vancouver on Monday, eight other Western Conference teams (including five fighting for a playoff spot) are playing tomorrow and six are playing on Tuesday, which will stretch the gap between the Predators and eighth place to an unreachable point with four games remaining for Nashville.
Yet, in the end, that’s not the story to the demise of the Predators this season.
Injuries and youth have ended Nashville’s hopes at returning back to the playoffs, where they’ve progressed to the Western Conference Semifinals over the past two seasons, and there isn’t much that can be done about that. In place of the usual Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher, Gabriel Bourque, Brandon Yip, and Paul Gaustad, you have rookies like Taylor Beck, Daniel Bång, Austin Watson, and now Filip Forsberg in the lineup.
While this isn’t the most optimal course of events, these young players are gaining invaluable experience playing against some of the best in the world during the hardest stretch of hockey in the regular season: the playoff stretch. Everyone player in Nashville’s locker room, starting with Shea Weber, have continued to stress the point about not being able to find the back of the net (evidenced again tonight as the Predators were shut out for the ninth time in 43 games). It’s difficult to do, even when you’re getting excellent scoring chances, when two of your top three forwards have a total of 15 games at the NHL level under their belt.
Is that an excuse for what’s happened to the Predators? Of course not, and the players/coaching staff will be the first to remind you of that. It’s just something to think about and remember next time you find yourself asking the question as to what has happened to Nashville.
“The effort is there but the results are embarrassing. There is not much you can say, we keep talking and talking here in the locker room but we have to go out there on the ice and do something and win games,” said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. “Obviously, you have to be realistic too. The other teams they are right there battling for their playoff spots, and we are out of it. They have a lot more desperation. It is not like we are not playing well. We played really well. We just can’t get goals and it is hard to win.”
The most disappointing part of these dismal last six losses is that the goaltending for the Predators has played fairly well to be able to pull out wins. When you’re averaging one goal a game in the six losses, though, “fairly well” goaltending is going to have to be “perfect” goaltending to notch a mark in the win column, and sometimes not even that will be enough. Nashville has two 1-0 losses during this streak, one to Chicago and one to St. Louis. I think, though, both Barry Trotz and Shea Weber summed it up best when asked about the goaltending and the lack of offense during the streak:
“We’ve let [Rinne and Mason] down all year. It’s not their fault. They battle for us every night. We have to do a better job for those guys,” said Weber.
Added Trotz, “I just wish we could have gotten a goal for [Rinne].”
Nashville’s not done, yet. They have five games remaining, four of them against teams in playoff positions. While the playoffs are out of the question for this season, playing the role of spoiler to other teams isn’t. The effort by the Predators is there, it’s just a matter of converting on the multitude of chances they’ve had.
“We just have to keep working, throwing pucks at the net. We have to keep doing the things that we generally need to do. There’s no magic wand I can wave over someone and tell them they’re going to score. We have to put pucks there, make plays, and put it in the back of the net,” said Trotz.