by Jackson Walsh
The lights were on, the band was playing, the fans were pumped, and seemingly so did the players. In a pre-game interview, defenseman P.K. Subban said that he didn’t want the team to take a home ice Game 7 for granted, but to be “pissed off for excellence”. Sadly, the Predators showed none of that in a lackluster and soulless 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at home last night.
The way the Predators staved off elimination Monday in Winnipeg was completely reversed back to the same foolish mistakes that cost the team games one and five on home ice. Lack of puck possession, shots and scoring chances. Winnipeg handily beat the Preds with their speed down the ice early, setting up chance after chance on Pekka Rinne which eventually got ugly.
Tyler Myers, 8:41 into the opening period, would score a near-impossible goal through the corner of the net behind Pekka Rinne’s blocker to draw first blood and give the Jets a 1-0 lead. A small misfortune that would only get worse.
After Paul Stasny would squirt another hard angle shot past Pekka Rinne, Peter Laviolette did the unthinkable. Possibly the most controversial decision of his coaching career, pulling Rinne 14 minutes into the opening period for Juuse Saros. Definitely an unconventional call, but what the hope was was that the change in lineup would give the Predators a jolt of motivation to get back in the game.
And at first, it seemed to work. The Predators got on the power play and Subban blated one home to cut the deficit in half. 2-1 Jets at the end of one. And not only that, but the Predators started to get opportunity after opportunity, yet Hellebuyck would stay strong, along with the Winnipeg D. “Don’t know what it is ’bout the Predators scoring, but I like it, I love it, I want some more of it”? We saw no more of it.
The Jets simply continued their bread and butter play of cycling around the offensive zone and using their speed to their advantage while the Predators scrambled to gain momentum that would not come. The dagger seemed to cut into the heart of every Predator fan at Mark Scheifele’s goal (who else but Scheifele?) 17:50 into the 2nd. 3-1 Dark Side.
Add on two more Jets tallies, another from Stasny and Scheifele each in the third period, and your beloved Predators call it a season.
What a terrible way to end this season, a season with many awards and so much promise. President’s Trophy winners, Central Division Champions, sent packing before Mother’s Day not to see the hot June ice hockey in the Stanley Cup finals this time around. And for the second straight year on home ice.
Yet as painful as it is right now, you have to tip your caps to Winnipeg. They clearly played a better series, they were on to Nashville’s fancy way of scoring goals from the very beginning and stopped any trace of a large amount of scoring chances. Meanwhile, even when the Jets were clearly outshot (for example, 48-19 in the Game 1 win), they still found the back of the net. This team will be very hard to beat for Vegas, Tampa, or the Caps.
As for our Predators, thus begins a long off-season of reflection and figuring out how to get back. We have a talented team, if ill-prepared this go round. I’m hoping for that spark to return again for the 2018-19 season, and have little doubt it will.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports