It did not surprise me when the Winnipeg Jets rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to the Nashville Predators last night in Game #3 of the Western Conference Semifinals. I sat there without any reaction when the Jets had a 3-goal barrage in a short span in the second period. It was the most goals the Predators have ever allowed so quickly in a postseason game.
The Predators have lost their mojo.
The scary thing is that if they don’t do something to fix it, they could be done by the end of the week. The team that has that mojo seems to be Winnipeg. Even their fans seem louder and a lot like the city of Nashville was a year ago when the Predators stunned everyone in the hockey world by making it to the Stanley Cup final.
Defensive breakdowns in their own zone seem to be a common theme to the meltdowns that the Predators have during the course of the game. I also hate to say this but I think two of the biggest problems are P.K. Subban and Pekka Rinne. How they are both in the running for league awards are not very evident in the playoffs. Subban is notoriously for giving up the puck in his own end and trying to do things flashy instead of smart. He will continuously flick the puck behind him without knowing if anyone is there or not. It is very scary when he is handling the puck. As for Rinne, he is simply not on his game. When he isn’t, he is very shaky. I like the guy and I WANT him to do well but at this stage of the playoffs he isn’t very solid. He is not a brick wall that the Predators desperately need.
Last night was an embarrassment and it should make the team mad and come out with some fire in the next game. The Predators also have a problem dealing with the size of Winnipeg. They are getting knocked around. They need to push back. One player that could put some physical play in the Predators’ game is Scott Hartnell. He has surprisingly been left out of the mix. Hartnell is a veteran who can create opportunities with his physical play. He needs to be in there.
The Predators need to make some drastic moves to change things up. I would start Juuse Saros in goal. How much worse could he make than having Rinne in there already? Saros has been outstanding and I think these are moments when someone can step up and regain the mojo. Saros could be part of the answer.
Another change I would make would be to insert Eeli Tolvanen into the lineup. Yes, I know he hasn’t played much and he’s a young guy but he has played in the Olympics and might surprise us if given an opportunity. I know it would be a huge gamble but at this point I think you need to see if the magic can be there. It isn’t as far-fetched as you might think.
The Predators desperately need a win on Thursday night to avoid going down 3-1 in the series coming back home. At this point, the Predators do not look like the best team in the National Hockey League (NHL). They aren’t even playing like the Predators’ team from last season’s incredible run in the playoffs. The Jets are way too explosive and the Predators need to take charge and quick.
I have watched many Stanley Cup playoffs over the years and based on what I see now, the Predators won’t win another game in the series and will play their last game on Saturday. After winning in double-overtime in Game 2 on Sunday I had predicted the series would go seven games. After last night, I think it’s over. I don’t see the same Predators’ team I have watched in the regular season. It is very frustrating to watch the Predators. They never make it easy – even when they have a 3-0 lead.
Anything can happen and the Predators’ have bounced back from these meltdown losses in the past but I think this time will be different. This loss may be a fatal blow to their hopes to win the cup.