I started a Good, Bad, and Ugly for Game 5, but that would be an effort in futility. It was almost identical to Game 3, except the Predators didn’t score in the first period. It was another pathetic performance. Somehow it was worse because it was at home and in front of a crowd ready to explode for a pivotal Game 5 win.
Let’s address two things I’ve heard since the Game 5 massacre:
- Juuse Saros should start Game 6: I feel like I’m in Groundhog’s Day. After every loss in which the defense melts like Frosty on the Fourth of July, I have to defend Pekka Rinne against idiots who somehow think this is on him. I’ll admit, Rinne may need to steal either Game 6 or Game 7 if the Predators want to comeback and win this series. However, the Predators have made it damn near impossible for him to do that so far. Watch all six Jets goals from Game 5 and tell me what you’d like Rinne to do differently. On several of the second period goals on Saturday, the Preds were standing around in front of the net while the Jets skated circles around them. On the third goal, Rinne was screened by FOUR.. I SAY AGAIN, FOUR of his own teammates who were in the middle of nowhere after scrambling like they were eggs at First Watch on Sunday at 11:00 AM. If Rinne gets any help at all, he’s perfectly capable of winning these last two games.
- Scott Hartnell is the difference maker: This, somehow, might be more stupid than the Saros takes. People are acting like Hartnell is some defensive wizard who shut down the Jets in Game 4. I cannot express how wrong this take is. For starters, the Jets had a 13-8 edge in shot attempts with Hartnell on the ice. Secondly, Hartnell didn’t exactly get a ton of minutes against top competition. The fourth line actually played more against Winnipeg’s top lines. I love Hartsy, but he’s a little too slow to have a major impact on defense against this Jets team. I believe Fiala’s defensive game has come a long way since entering the NHL. Besides, it’s been Fiala’s lack of offense that’s gotten him benched. He is no more at fault on defense than anyone else on this team. Maybe, just maybe, the Preds just coincidentally decided to play defense in Game 4 and Hartnell just happened to be in the lineup.
Then, after the kick to the family jewels that was Game 5, P.K. Subban guarantees the Predators will win Game 6 and Game 7.
"For us, we're gonna wake up in the morning and that page is gonna be turned. We're gonna go to Winnipeg, we're gonna win a game and we're gonna come back here. It's that simple."
– #Preds dman PK Subban after the G5 loss to the #NHLJets pic.twitter.com/exXpkB5rGG
— Jeremy K. Gover (@govertime) May 6, 2018
On one hand, I’m tempted to be a curmudgeon because this promise is founded in false confidence due to the fact that the Preds have only proven they can slow down Winnipeg in one game this series. On the other hand, I do appreciate the confidence. I don’t think the Predators CAN’T come back and win this series. Besides, what else would he say? “I don’t know, I think we’re cooked. It doesn’t look too good right now.” No player would say that — especially not Subban. Hopefully he brings the play to back this up. As we saw in Game 4, he elevates his game with all eyes on him.
The Predators must get back to what worked in Game 4. They smothered the Jets through the neutral zone. If you try to slow them down after they enter the offensive end, it’s much too late by that time. With enough time and space, they will make you pay. They have players that can drive the net. They use drop passes to create lethal shots with bodies in front. They can kick the puck back to talented players on the blue line for a bomb of a shot. They can beat you in so many ways if they enter the offensive zone with possession. Nashville has to figure out a way to make them dump the puck. That’s where the mobility and passing of the Predators defense can beat Winnipeg. They can use the Jets’ aggressiveness against them with quick breakouts or stretch passes to create odd-man rushes.
Offensively, the second line has to emerge from the witness protection program. They need to find their capes and get to the phone booth ASAP. What I’m saying here is they are going to have to score goals. They were almost unstoppable in the regular season but have yet to make a huge impact in these playoffs. They had their one shining moment on the OT-winner in Game 2 of this series, but they need to ditch the cameo appearances and become the star of the show.
I’ll be totally honest, I don’t feel great about Game 6 tonight. My biggest fear is we get a similar scenario to what happened in Game 7 at San Jose in 2016. The good news for those of you reading this is that I haven’t been able to get a read on this series to save my life. As soon as I think one team has a hold on it, the other one wins. When I think the Predators may not be able to bounce back, they win. So, while I have a sinking feeling in my gut about this game, I’ll drown that out with blind hope and Jack Daniels.
No matter what happens tonight, just remember that we are Nashville and they are Winnipeg. Enjoy your one month of summer, Canada.