The Nashville Predators season came to an end Monday night when John Klingberg scored an overtime goal to carry the Dallas Stars to a 2-1 win. The Stars won the series 4-2 and now advance to the 2nd round to play the St. Louis Blues.
A season full of high expectations for the Predators now ends with a first round exit… something the Predators haven’t experienced in four years.
Honestly, you could consider this game a microcosm of the entire Predators season, as several familiar themes emerged. A good start, a late fade, a porous defense, inconsistent offensive play, and the league’s worst power play unit.
Good start, terrible finish
With some interesting line changes on the ice, the Predators started out with a nice pace in this one. Rocco Grimaldi on the 2nd line really seemed to energize that unit. The newly revamped 4th line was getting some early looks, and the top line with Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson was just as dangerous as ever.
But it was the newly formed 3rd line with Austin Watson, Brian Boyle, and Nick Bonino that tallied first. Watson pounced on a rebound in front of Ben Bishop with Boyle laying a heavy screen and Subban providing the initial shot.
From this angle, you can see how much Boyle influences this play for the #Preds.
Just by, you know, being enormous.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) April 23, 2019
That made it 1-0 for the Preds early on, but the Stars marched back to put some pressure on the Preds’ defense. A late penalty on Watson forced a huge penalty kill for the Preds. Pekka Rinne helped keep it a one goal game with some stellar play in net through 20 minutes.
But the Stars equalized in the 2nd period. After a mixup in the offensive zone between Filip Forsberg and P.K. Subban, the Stars capitalized on an odd man rush the other way. Blake Comeau had the goal to make it 1-1.
Momentum shifted for a bit. The Preds had to hold off a few furious attacks by the Stars, but eventually the game settled. The Preds had another power play chance at the end of the period, but couldn’t score yet again.
The 3rd period was harrowing, with great chances at both ends. The Stars were going for the win and the series clincher, while the Preds were just trying to survive. Calle Jarnkrok had the best chance of the period. With Ben Bishop down and out, he rang the puck off the crossbar.
But the game went to overtime.
Despite generating some serious chances on Ben Bishop in the overtime, the game ended when John Klingberg scored from the left circle with 2:58 left. That goal culminated a series of intense rushes by the Stars which Pekka Rinne valiantly turned away for much of the period.
In the end, the Preds defense let Rinne down one final time.
A long summer full of big decisions
The Predators now have a very long summer to consider how to fix the problems with their team.
The obvious place to begin would be the power play. And that does need to be fixed. But the bigger issue might be with the lackluster defensive play we saw much of the season.
A considerable chunk of the Preds’ roster is committed to high priced pieces of that defense: P.K. Subban and Ryan Ellis are the highest price blueliners. Then there is Roman Josi, who has one year left on his deal and will be due a new contract.
Do you keep this Predators defense together? Or is it time to split it up?
There’s also the questions about what to do with the pending free agents, restricted and unrestricted. There will be plenty of time to analyze what the Preds should do there, but make no mistake: the biggest priority should be improving the defensive play of this team.
Of course, the biggest question on everyone’s mind will be: will David Poile do anything with the coaching staff? Peter Laviolette, Kevin McCarthy, and Dan Muse did not do themselves any favors last year. After a first round exit, will there be changes there?
My money is on “no” simply because of Poile’s track record with longevity. But he could always surprise us.
One thing is for sure: David Poile will not have an easy time selling the idea that “the team wants to stick together” for one more year. That was the refrain from last summer and it led to a 1st round exit.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a moving target and for two years now the Predators have stood in the same place. Something’s got to change.
— Featured image via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports —