This won’t be in a usual Good, Bad, and Ugly format. Frankly, that would be a waste of my time and yours. Everything in the first period was good. Everything after that was either bad or ugly with few exceptions.
Once the game ended, I sat in a stunned/fuming silence for about 15 minutes before getting in my car and driving home. I didn’t listen to the postgame show. Instead, I listened to the soothing and upbeat tones of Allen Stone to try to relax. It didn’t really work, but I can’t sleep anyway so let’s do this.
Truth be told, I still don’t know exactly what to say. I’m just going to use the Michael Scott method of starting a sentence and hoping I find it somewhere along the way.
That first period was a perfect start on the road for the Preds. It was clean. They didn’t really do anything to give the Jets or that building any life. Meanwhile, they generated some offense and cashed in on their chances to take the air out of that entire city. It was all good vibes going into the first intermission. Just manage the game the rest of the way and you’re sitting pretty in the series.
Of course, that’s not what happened.
The second period started and the Jets got a friendly bounce in front of the net that led to a goal. Whatever. That’s hockey. Just keep playing and you’ll be fine. Where the game really turned on a dime was when Austin Watson and Mark Scheifele received penalties after Watson laid a heavy hit on Blake Wheeler. It was a clean hit by Watty, but it got called charging for some reason. I guess because Wheeler’s helmet flew off and people got mad? The point I’m making here is that it was garbage call. But that’s not why I’m furious. I’m furious because the Predators displayed the fragility of a wet potato chip after that. From there, they ran around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off in the second period. No one bothers to cover Dustin Byfuglien at the point. Goal. Seconds later, the Preds stand flat-footed in their own zone and turn the puck over to the Jets down low. Every single Predator gets caught watching the puck and Trouba gets it all alone on the back door. Goal. Just like that, a 3-0 lead became a tie game. It didn’t get any better after that. Rinne just managed to keep the score even until the final 45 seconds of the period. Again, the Predators were scrambling in their own zone before Patrik Laine finds a wide open Byfuglien (again) to make it 4-3. I know Ellis was tripped, but the Predators put themselves in positions like that all through the second period.
The first half of the third was markedly better, I will say. Hell, Filip Forsberg gave me a shot of life again with a snipe on the power play to tie the game. Then… wet potato chip time. Kevin Fiala takes a tripping penalty. The Predators manage to kill it off, but Subban takes a high-sticking penalty shortly thereafter. They can’t kill that one off. Rinne makes an outstanding save on Scheifele before an open Wheeler knocked in the rebound. Rinne’s helmet strap was knocked loose on an earlier shot. Should the play have been blown dead? Yes. Is that the reason they got scored on or lost? Hell no. Rinne, feeling frustrated as hell, decides to take a nice whack at Adam Lowry behind the net. Another penalty. Nashville kills it off, but that was two precious minutes spent short-handed when they could have been on the attack.
This wasn’t about officiating. It wasn’t about a helmet strap. Mentally, this team fell apart on Tuesday night. After the game, Ryan Ellis said the team stopped playing in the second. Please, for the love of God, tell me how that happens for 20 minutes against the Winnipeg Jets in their barn? I don’t care if they are “owning it” in the press conferences after the game. Just don’t fall apart so you don’t have to own anything after a crushing loss.
Some may say to relax and that it’s only a 2-1 series, but you’re kidding yourself if you don’t admit there are legit concerns about the Predators in this series. First and foremost, the Predators have no answer for the Jets’ zone entries. If they keep coming into the Nashville zone unimpeded, Seis de Mayo will be a very somber day in Smashville.
Ultimately, the Preds have made things much harder on themselves than they needed to be. Maybe that’s why all of this is so maddening. A lot of it is preventable. A lot of it is the Predators repeatedly shooting themselves in their own feet. Normally, that would be encouraging because it’s correctable. However, we saw some of these same traits in the Colorado series so they haven’t really learned or just have the memories of goldfish. And this Winnipeg team ain’t Colorado, if you haven’t noticed.
Game 4 will be an uphill battle and I do not look forward to it at all. Are the Preds going to have another 3-0 lead to play with on the road? Probably not, I’d say. Plus, those fans in Winnipeg just saw Nashville fold like a cheap tent in a matter of three minutes, so it will only take the smallest spark to set them off. The Predators better not take five minutes off — let alone 20 (again, how the hell does this happen in the playoffs?).
I will end on a positive note because this series is still far from over. We all predicted it would go seven games, and this can be what happens in the course of a long and arduous series. Nashville just has to find their President’s Trophy form quickly.
Do NOT let the Predators win Game 4, Winnipeg. Bringing a 2-2 series back to Nashville with a crowd that has been celebrating Cinco de Mayo all damn day is a recipe for an ass-kicking. After tonight’s game, I’d say both the fans and the players are more than ready to dole one of those out.
Get me back to even and all will be forgiven. Go Preds.