In what was one of the worst playoff games in franchise history, the Nashville Predators got blown out 5-1 by the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night in Game 4. Pekka Rinne, the hero of Game 3, was pulled in the 1st period, but the game was lost long before that occurred.
With the series now tied 2-2, the Predators have a lot of questions to answer. Though they do still have home ice advantage in the series, they can’t feel good about their chances in the series given how they played on Wednesday.
There were so many awful moments in this one. Giving up two power play goals in the first five minutes. Giving up three power play goals in one period. Going down 4-0 in the first 14 minutes. Pekka Rinne getting pulled. And little to no fight in the team for almost 60 whole minutes.
But who is mostly to blame for this disaster? Let’s divide it out.
Almost none of the blame
Pekka Rinne allowed four goals on eight shots, but there is no goaltender on earth that could withstand the onslaught that Rinne had to endure in that 1st period. Especially when you consider the number of power plays the Stars had.
The Stars just had too much time to work in the Preds zone out there. All four goalscorers were uncovered . They also had either an unobstructed view of the net or a perfect screen in front of Rinne.
I’m not sure it’s fair to give Rinne any of the blame here, but as the goalie I suppose he has to take a very small amount. Like a half of a percent maybe.
Most of the blame
The Preds’ Defense
The Dallas Stars did everything they wanted to do in the Preds zone. Generate high danger scoring chances, get the Preds out of position, draw penalties, force icings. They kept the Preds hemmed in their own zone for long stretches at a time so they couldn’t make rushes into the Stars zone.
The defense itself looked flat footed and slow. They couldn’t keep up with the Stars forwards and were a step behind all night. Mattias Ekholm was particularly bad. His two penalties led to two Dallas Stars goals in the 1st period, plus, whenever he was out there, he looked completely outmatched.
So yes, the defense gets a lot of the blame.
The Penalty Kill
I’m not sure you can expect much out of this unit, considering the real issue was taking too many penalties early on. But this stat jumps out as one that you just can’t ignore:
From the Stars: The Stars scored three power play goals in a playoff period for the first time since the team relocated to Dallas in 1993-94.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) April 18, 2019
The Stars did something they’ve literally never done and the penalty kill was out there to let it happen.
So yes, they get some blame as well.
The Power Play
Yes, there is room to blame the power play for this horrible loss.
Rewind this game back to 15 minutes left in the 1st period, with the Preds down 2-0. The Preds get a power play after Alexander Radulov makes a boneheaded play after the whistle.
A goal in that moment, cutting the lead to 2-1 with plenty of time left in the 1st, could have easily changed the momentum of the game. But instead, the power play looked about as bad as it always has.
Then later in the 1st, the same thing happens. Preds have a power play, but this time down 4-0. A power play goal late in the 1st to get the game within three scores could have changed the momentum of the game in the 2nd period. But the power play again faltered.
Here’s a good rule of thumb for this year’s Predators team: the power play can always be blamed because it is the single worse aspect of this team.
And the rest of the blame?
No one is more responsible for not having the team ready to play than the coaching staff.
Going into this game, they knew the Stars were going to come out with everything they had in this game. They knew the Stars power play would be gunning for every opportunity to get on the board, knowing that at 5 on 5, the Preds have been the better team. They knew the Predators would be in the driver’s seat up 3-1 going back to Nashville on Saturday.
And they didn’t have their team ready.
Not only that, they didn’t have an adjustment ready when the game got out of hand. The Preds were essentially useless in the 2nd and 3rd periods, even when there was plenty of time to come back. The team just stopped playing, and that’s on the coaches.
No, this is not to say the coaches have “lost the room” or that there should be a change just based on this game. I don’t think we are to that point yet. Peter Laviolette and his staff have helped transform this team into a legit Cup contender over the last five seasons and that sort of thing shouldn’t be ignored even after a game like this.
But there’s another big game coming up on Saturday. If the Predators are equally as unprepared in that game, then maybe we can start having those tough conversations.
— Featured image via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports —