The Nashville Predators got through the third period of Friday’s game just fine without Shea Weber.
They did not fare as well in the third game of their Western Conference quarterfinal series with Chicago, however.
Whatever optimism existed following Friday’s 6-2 victory in Game 2 was largely tempered with Sunday’s 4-2 defeat at the United Center.
"I thought that our [defense] did a good job," Rinne said, according to NHL.com. "Obviously [Weber] is a world-class player and any team would miss him, but I think overall we have as good of a [defense] corps as any team in the League. I thought that the guys did a good job."
It’s not that Nashville lost. A lot of teams do the same when they play at Chicago in the postseason. The Blackhawks are now an NHL-best 36-13 at home in playoff games from 2009 through now.
It’s that Weber’s absence was so notable.
Seth Jones took the captain’s place on the right side of the top defense pairing with Roman Josi. Those two were on the ice for each of Chicago’s first three goals and each had a minus-3 rating, the worst of any player on either team.
Josi finished the regular season with a plus-15 rating that tied him for second on the team. In 81 appearances he was a minus-3 just once. Jones was one of four Nashville players who appeared in all 82 games of the regular season – and he was no worse than a minus-2 in any of them. He was a minus-3 just once last season as an 18-year-old rookie.
The performance was a far cry from Friday’s third period when Nashville set a franchise playoff record with three goals in a span of 2:19 and pulled away to even the series. Weber was injured in the second period of that game and did not return. He also did not travel to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 of the series, the second of which is Tuesday (8:30 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
The Predators outshot the Blackhawks 37-30 on Sunday but never led. Chicago scored all of its goals by 12:41 of the second period and successfully sat on the lead from there.
"I guess we've got to have a little better coverage in our [defensive] zone and just try to keep them away from our net and not let them go in the interior," Josi said, per NHL.com. "They've got a lot of skilled forwards. They're going to create chances. We've just got to make sure to limit them."
(Photo: Getty Images)
Recent history favors Predators' ability to bounce back from emotionally, physically draining defeat
It is one thing just to get through a game such as the Nashville Predators played Wednesday.
The 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in their Western Conference quarterfinal series opener became less and less like business as usual the longer it went. Intermissions became less about adjustments and more about sustenance.
“As it goes longer and longer you’re trying to eat, trying to get something in your stomach and a lot of fluids,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “It’s a little bit different than the usual 60 minutes.”
It’s something else to try and come back two days later and get a win after the disappointment and physical toll exacted by a contest such as that.
Believe it or not, a lot of teams have done it.
In the previous five years there were 22 NHL playoff games decided in double overtime or later (half of them in the opening round). Three of them were series-clinchers. In the other 19, the team that lost bounced back and won the next contest almost three times as often as not, and in first round matchups the success rate is even better.
A look at how NHL teams fared in the game immediately following a playoff defeat in double overtime or later (2010-14):
First round: 9-2
Second round: 4-0
Conference finals: 0-2
Stanley Cup: 1-1
Obviously, that is good news for the Predators, who face a bigger challenge than just trying to win Game 2 on home ice. Nashville never has won a playoff series (0-5) when it has lost the opening game.
To make matter worse, the only other time it lost a series-opener at home (2007 vs. San Jose) it was eliminated in five games. The opening game of that series was a double-overtime contest, which the Sharks won 5-4. Of course, the Predators' only postseason victory that year was -- you guessed it -- in Game 2.
“You let it go,” defenseman Ryan Ellis said Wednesday. “You look at some video, see what’s up, what went wrong and what went right and move on from there.”
Game 2 against the Blackhawks is 8:30 p.m. Friday at Bridgestone Arena (Fox Sports-Tennessee).
(Photo: Getty Images)
Brandt Snedeker followed his heart Wednesday and put his head on the line. Well, part of his head at least.
The Nashville native and seven-time PGA Tour champion reveled in the Nashville Predators’ 3-0 first-period lead in their playoff opener Wednesday with a message posted on his Twitter page.
That prompted a response from fellow PGA Tour pro – and big-time Chicago Blackhawks fan – Luke Donald. By the time the Blackhawks closed to within a goal, the two agreed on a bet based on the outcome of the series.
The stakes? The loser has to get a haircut.
CBSSports.com detailed the entire exchange Thursday morning.
From a playoff perspective, Colin Wilson picked up right where he left off.
Despite nearly three years between games, the 25-year-old left wing is unquestionably the Nashville Predators’ most consistent postseason goal scorer of late. He has recorded three of the team’s last four playoff goals after having none in his first 12 appearances.
Unfortunately for him and for the team it has not been enough for Nashville to pick up a victory.
It was too little too late when he found the back of the net in Game 5 of a 2012 Western Conference semifinal series with Phoenix (May 7, 2012), a 2-1 defeat that ended the series.
It might have been too soon when he scored twice in the first period of Wednesday’s 2015 playoff opener against Chicago, but it certainly was not too much. He gave the Predators a 1-0 at 6:07 of the opening period and made it 3-0 when he scored on the power play with 27 seconds to go before the first intermission.
It was the 13th time in franchise history a Nashville player scored twice in the playoff game (Gabriel Bourque last did it April 11, 2012 against Detroit) and the fifth time a player scored twice in a period (Joel Ward last did it May 7, 2011 at Vancouver).
All of that after he went without a goal over the final 15 games of the regular season.
Nonetheless, the Blackhawks tied it 3-3 before the end of the second period and eventually won the game in double overtime.
“The whole time in that first period everyone was going and everyone was feeling it and had a lot of energy,” Wilson said. “So I think that [first goal] was a result of that.”
Only nine players in franchise history have more career playoff goals than Wilson, who is one of nine with three.
PREDATORS CAREER LEADERS, PLAYOFF GOALS
David Legwand (47 games) – 13
Shea Weber (45 games) – 10
Joel Ward (18 games) – 9
Martin Erat (46 games) – 8
Alexander Radulov (18 games) – 6
J-P Dumont (20 games) – 6
Jason Arnott (15 games) – 5
Mike Fisher (24 games) – 4
Ryan Suter (39- games) – 4
(Photo: Getty Images)
If there were a way to accurately measure emotions, Wednesday’s 2015 playoff opener likely would have set the record for most disappointing postseason loss in Nashville Predators history.
As it is, players, coaches and everyone else who took in the action must decide for themselves the depth of their despair following a 4-3 double-overtime loss at Bridgestone Arena in a game Nashville led by three before the end of the first period and ultimately set several actual franchise playoff records.
“You would rather be sitting in a different position, for sure, but it is only one game,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We are going to get ready [and] pull a lot of positives from this game.”
A look at some of what occurred in the contest that lasted three hours and 43 minutes:
• It was the third longest playoff game in franchise history at 87:49 and the second longest postseason contest (by 25 seconds) to a 5-4 double-overtime loss to San Jose on April 11, 2007.
• Nashville’s 54 shots on goal broke the record of 46 set April 30, 2011 at Vancouver (also a double-overtime contest).
• Nashville’s 17 shots in the third period set a record. The previous mark was 16 (twice) and the previous high in a home game was 15 (three times).
• The combined 96 shots on goal (Chicago had 42) easily surpassed the 81 that Nashville and San Jose had in that 2007 contest.
• James Neal tied the franchise record for shots in a game with nine. Patric Hornqvist (April 15, 2011 at Anaheim) is the only other player ever to do so.
• Filip Forsberg’s seven shots on goal set a Nashville rookie playoff record. Alexander Radulov had the previous mark of six (April 11, 2007 vs. San Jose).
• Three goals in one period (the first) tied the franchise record for a home playoff game. The Predators had done it three times previously (it’s worth noting that their only loss in those three games was to Chicago, 5-3 in 2010).
For what it’s worth, players and head coach Peter Laviolette did not seem terribly disappointed when it was over. In fact, they expressed a certain optimism about the things they did accomplish.
“I thought we played a really good game,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “Five-on-five, I thought we had some really good chances to win it. It just didn’t go our way, and we have to move past it. We have to put it behind us. In the playoffs, it’s short term [memory].
“They won and we didn’t. We have to move forward. We can’t dwell on anything.”
Added Colin Wilson, whose two goals also tied a Nashville playoff record (it happened 12 times previously): “Yeah. It’s the big cliché. It’s one game at a time, especially in playoffs. You never want to lose, especially in double overtime. I think we have a great group here and I like the way that we played (Wednesday) night.”
No doubt the Nashville Predators missed Mike Fisher on Wednesday.
After all, there is a lot to miss.
“You take a guy out that you could go down a checklist of things that you need from players on the ice,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “From faceoffs, leadership, power play, penalty kill, checking center, offensive center – you just keep checking the box. When he comes out of the lineup that’s big shoes to fill.”
The Predators’ leader in NHL playoff experience (this was his 99th postseason contest) was injured on his first shift of the second period and did not return. Given that the team’s 2015 postseason opener went into a second overtime before Chicago stunned Nashville and a sellout crowd at Bridgestone Arena 4-3, the veteran center missed more than a full game’s worth of action.
He logged just 5:32 of ice time in a game that lasted more than 87 minutes before Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith ended it at 7:49 of the second overtime. Before he left he won half of his six faceoffs, delivered two hits and had one takeaway.
“That was big,” Laviolette said. “… We used different people in there. Matt Cullen got a lot of it. I thought he did an excellent job jumping up in there and helping fill that position. Certainly, to lose (him) with just a regulation time of two periods that’s a lot. Then to go to a first overtime and the second half of a second overtime, that’s a big piece out of our lineup.”
Cullen opened the game as left wing on a line with center Callae Jarnkrok and right wing Viktor Stalberg. Those two ended up playing less than any of the other Nashville forwards while Cullen spent a lot of time (he played 23:32) in Fisher’s spot, at center between Colin Wilson and James Neal.
Team officials said only that Fisher had a lower body injury. There was no word on his status for the remainder of the series.
Game 2 of the series is 8:30 p.m. Friday (Fox Sports-Tennessee).
(Photo: Getty Images)
It feels a lot longer than three years ago that the Nashville Predators played their last playoff game.
Regardless, the wait ends Wednesday when Nashville hosts Chicago in the first game of a best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).
Prior to their two-year absence, the Predators had made the postseason seven times in eight years – and had gotten better at it. In each of their last two appearances they made it to the second round.
The question now is whether they will can up where they left off or if they have to start over with a new coach, a lot of new players and an opponent that is well-versed with what it takes to win at this time of year.
Three reasons to believe the Nashville Predators will beat the Chicago Blackhawks in their first-round playoff series
• The Best of Times: When Nashville was good this season it was really good. More often than not through the first three-quarters of the schedule the Predators had the best record in the league and looked like it would be this season’s best story. The level of play tailed off down the stretch, but the Predators have shown they can be as good as anybody. All they have to do is show it again.
• The Real Deal: With all due respect to Filip Forsberg, who led the team with 26 goals, Nashville never has had a more dangerous shooter than James Neal, who scored 23 times in 67 games. He scored five of Nashville’s 11 goals against Chicago during the regular season and must be a difference-maker in this series. Nashville is a tidy 12-3-3 this season when he scores.
• The Laviolette effect: First-year coach Peter Laviolette’s career playoff record is a winning one (43-39) and the last time he took over a team, Philadelphia in 2009-10, he took it to the conference finals in his first year. There’s no doubt his presence injected new life into the franchise at the start of the season. Perhaps he can do the same at the start of the postseason.
Three reasons to believe the Nashville Predators will lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in their first-round playoff series
• Fading down the stretch: Neither team finished with a flourish. Nashville was 0-4-2 in its last six and Chicago was 0-4-0 in its last four. However, the Predators were consistently bad down the stretch and won just six of their final 21 games. The Blackhawks won twice as often over that same stretch, which makes their late stumble look more like a deep breath from a team planning for another long playoff run.
• Raising Kane: Even if his play is a notch or two below what it was when he had 64 points (27 goals, 37 assists) in 61 regular-season games, his mere presence is a boost to his teammates and creates matchup issues for the Predators. Plus, he’s almost a point-per-game player in his postseason career (91 points in 93 games) so it’s not as if he’s going to be just a guy out there. Kane has been out since Feb. 24 with a broken collarbone and his return comes well ahead of schedule – and exactly the wrong time for the Predators.
• Nothing new: Nashville is in the playoffs for the first time in three years and a significant portion of its roster has not NHL playoff experience at all. Chicago has won the Stanley Cup twice in the last five years and last year reached the conference finals after it finished third in the division, as it did this year. With Boston and Los Angeles out, there is no more playoff-proven team in this year’s field than the Blackhawks.
The bottom line
Regardless of seeding and home-ice advantage, the Predators have to be considered the underdogs in their series. They don’t have the consistent scoring among their forwards or the history of playoff success on which to rely that the Blackhawks do.
That’s not to say they can’t win it. If they don’t get off to a good start in Wednesday’s series opener, though, it’s only going to get more difficult.
The drama of Wednesday’s playoff opener between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks won’t be limited to what takes place on the ice.
There also will be what happens in the seats. Or who happens to be in the seats.
Predators officials have instituted ticket purchasing policies for the postseason aimed to create a decided home-ice advantage that has been lacking during recent Blackhawks’ visits to Bridgestone Arena.
Specifically, playoff contests in Nashville have been designated for “credit card entry.” That means tickets will be printed only when the purchaser arrives at the arena. In order to print the tickets, the credit card used to purchase them must be presented.
The official stance is that this approach eliminates the opportunity for scalpers to scoop up large quantities of tickets and resell them at a profit and, thus, protects the integrity of the original ticket price. The reality is that Predators officials don’t want ticket holders selling their seats to just anybody, including the sizable number of Chicago fans who have increasingly shown up in recent years.
Yet, according to DNAinfo of Chicago, tickets are available on StubHub and other secondary market places and those tickets will get people through the door, regardless of where they live and for which team they root.
"Eighty to 90 percent of the tickets sold to the games do have that [credit card] requirement," StubHub spokesperson Alison Saucedo said. "The ones we are selling are of the 10 to 20 percent of tickets that do not require a credit card for entry.
"If you're wary, contact StubHub directly, and we'll walk you through the process. And if for some reason, you are turned away at the gate, call us and we'll find a way to get you in that game."
It is worth noting that as of 6 a.m. Wednesday morning (a little more than 12 hours prior to faceoff) tickets were still available in all but four sections of the lower bowl, in two-thirds of the club level sections and one-third of the sections in the 300 level through the team's website. In a number of cases (but not all) only single seats remained.
So either the franchise has succeeded in blocking Blackhawks’ fans attempts to see the game in person, perhaps at the expense of a shutout, or there is still and opportunity for those fans to get in the game – by going directly to the source.
If playoff experience means anything the Nashville Predators could be in trouble in their first-round matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
It has been two years since the Predators were in the postseason, which seems like a brief period. However, it has been long enough for a significant turnover in personnel.
Of the 26 players currently on the active roster, 16 never have been in a playoff game for Nashville. Ten never have been in an NHL playoff game – period. The 15 forwards have a combined 57 games of playoff experience with this franchise.
By comparison, Chicago’s captain, center Jonathan Toews, has 94 games of playoff experience in his own right, all with the Blackhawks. Veteran right wing Marian Hossa has played in 171 postseason contests, including 73 with Chicago.
“You talk about pressure – there’s pressure in the playoffs of losing and going home,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said. “You lose four games and you go home. So I think we’ve got enough guys in here that have been around and have played in those situations. Whether it’s for the Stanley Cup like guys have in here or it’s in international competition guys have done it.
“We’re going to rely on those experiences.”
Mike Fisher (97 games) is Nashville’s most experienced player when it comes to the postseason and Weber (43 games) has been in more playoff contests with the Predators than any of his current teammates.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
A look at the NHL playoff experience, overall and with Nashville, of the players on the Predators’ current roster:
Mike Fisher – 97 games (with Predators: 22)
Matt Cullen – 68 games (with Predators: 0)
Mike Ribeiro – 49 games (with Predators: 0)
Paul Gaustad – 48 games (with Predators: 10)
James Neal – 38 games (with Predators: 0)
Viktor Stalberg – 32 games (with Predators: 0)
Colin Wilson – 13 games (with Predators: 13)
Eric Nystrom – 13 games (with Predators: 0)
Gabriel Bourque – 10 games (with Predators: 10)
Craig Smith – 2 games (with Predators: 2)
Filip Forsberg – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Mike Santorelli – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Calle Jarnkrok – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Taylor Beck – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Kevin Fiala – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Totals: 357 games (with Predators: 57)
Anton Volchenkov – 85 games (with Predators: 0)
Shea Weber – 43 games (with Predators: 43)
Cody Franson – 23 games (with Predators: 16)
Roman Josi – 10 games (with Predators: 10)
Ryan Ellis – 3 games (with Predators: 3)
Mattias Ekholm – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Seth Jones – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Victor Bartley – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Joe Piskula – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Totals: 164 games (with Predators: 72)
Pekka Rinne – 28 games (with Predators: 28)
Carter Hutton – 0 games (with Predators: 0)
Totals: 28 games (with Predators: 28)
(Photo: Getty Images)
Nashville Predators fans can tune in to local broadcasts of almost every game of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fox Sports Tennessee announced Monday that it would televise three of the first four games and six of seven (if it goes that long).
Game 3 (2 p.m. Sunday at Chicago) will be limited to NBC’s national broadcast.
Games 1, 2 and 4 also will air on NBC Sports Network as part of the league’s national television package. National broadcast plans for Games 5-7 (if necessary) have not been determined.
Fox Sports’ coverage will utilize Fox Sports Tennessee and SportSouth and will feature the Predators’ broadcast team of Pete Weber (play-by-play) and Stu Grimson (color analysis) as well as pre-game, between-period and post-game commentary from Mark Howard and Terry Crisp.
The rundown of local television broadcasts for the Nashville-Chicago series:
Wed, April 15
vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Fri, April 17
vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Tue, April 21
@ Chicago Blackhawks
Thu, April 23
vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Sat, April 25
@ Chicago Blackhawks
Mon, April 27
vs. Chicago Blackhawks
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