Prior to Game 5, I wrote about how the Predators would show us who they really are. Well, they showed us all right. The Preds hung Pekka Rinne out to dry once again as they changed nothing and let the Stars’ top line literally push them around all game. This goal tells you all you need to know about this series so far.

Ellis, for whatever reason, let’s up so he can physically take on Jamie Benn, who has four inches and 35 pounds on him. Of course, he gets brushed aside. Josi drifts to the corner with no idea that Alex Radulov is even parked in front. Benn gets the puck to Radulov, and it’s an easy goal on a helpless Rinne. If you had to show someone who hasn’t watched this series one play to sum it up, this would be the perfect one. In a pivotal Game 5, the Predators couldn’t elevate their game at all.

So, will these Predators be able to make the proper adjustments and force a Game 7? I am pretty doubtful, but there is one thing that gives me hope they can extend this thing out for at least one more game. If you’ve ever watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you know that the Hulk typically waits to come out until Dr. Bruce Banner is essentially already dead.

Quick aside: Yes, we’re doing this. I’m going to use Avengers: Endgame to cope with a potential loss tonight or Wednesday.

Both in “The Incredible Hulk” and in “Thor: Ragnarok”, Bruce Banner has to hit the ground from a high fall before the Hulk emerges. One is played more dramatically (The Incredible Hulk) and the other is played for laughs (Ragnarok), but the idea is the same. Only in the most desperate of times do you see the full power of Dr. Banner/Hulk. Will Dallas thumping the Preds on home ice to put them on the brink of elimination bring out Nashville’s best effort in Game 6? I’d like to hope so, but we may get more of what we saw from Hulk in Avengers: Infinity War. SPOILER, FYI: The big green guy gets his ass kicked by Thanos in the first five minutes of the movie and never shows himself again.

Now, what would lead me to believe the Predators won’t make some kind of Hulk-like transformation? Well, first of all, these are movies. Being exposed to that level of Gamma radiation would kill you — not turn you into a “big green rage monster.” Besides, based on color scheme and player size, the Stars are much more likely to be the Hulk in this series.

In all honesty, the only hope the Predators have of coming back in this series is making actual adjustments. I’m not talking about shuffling some lines and calling it a day. The Predators actually have to change, ya know, how they play the game. The Stars are all over this long flip pass/stretch pass/chip-and-chase game by the Preds. They are being aggressive at the offensive blue line and in the neutral zone and jumping all over it. The incredibly astute and wise P.K. Subban pointed out what I’ve been shouting about all series.

Thank you, Pernell. The Predators’ forwards have a tendency to be well out of the zone before the puck is. Dallas, especially its top line, has taken advantage of that. But like a woodpecker hammering it’s beak against a tree, the Predators keep repeating the same action with hopes of breaking through. The difference is that woodpeckers eventually succeed.

The Predators need to shorten their game using quick passes and close puck support. That reduces the chances the Stars step in front of a pass and reverse the play back toward the Preds’ net. If Nashville doesn’t take care of the puck, this will be the last game of the season.

I guess I’ll end on a positive note — or maybe it’s just a note. Depending on how this game goes, it could be the last sixty minutes of Nashville Predators hockey we watch until October. Therefore, we must cherish it with the entirety of our souls.