Nashville Predators question as NHL playoff series against Avs comes to an end
The upside of a 3-0 playoff deficit is nowhere for a team.
But it exists.
It only exists out of necessity. There is no choice but to continue chasing the fairy tale.
It’s a hard sell, of course, believing it’s still possible. You do it by embracing all the positives you can and saying things like the Nashville Predators did Saturday afternoon after losing Game 3 to the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena.
“I mean, we liked our game,” captain Roman Josi said. “I think we played a lot better than in the first two games. We have to stay aggressive. There’s no one in this room who doesn’t believe we can turn things around.”
Reminder: The Predators lost 7-3 with an empty net at the end and a substitute goalie on the other side of the ice.
If a four-goal home defeat was ‘a much better’ performance – and Josi was not mistaken, in fact – then what does that say about the gap between these sides?
GENTRY ESTES:The Avs are too good. They didn’t need the Preds’ help in Game 3.
GREAT MOMENT :Connor Ingram in a better place as the opportunity arises
SAROS STATUS: “A possibility” that Juuse Saros will be back soon
Game 1 was a rout. A second overtime game was closer than it should have been because of goaltender Connor Ingram. Game 3 didn’t get away until the third period.
But they all ran away. Blame anything in each case, but the truth is simple. The Predators were played off the ice by the Avalanche. Nothing suggests Monday’s Game 4 will be any different.
The Stanley Cup playoffs, compared to other sports, carry this unique mythology that everyone has a chance. This is because shocking upsets tend to be more common in hockey. The Predators have been on both sides.
But these predators? No. This series with the Avalanche went exactly as it was widely expected to go: with one-way traffic.
Over 10 periods, including overtime in Game 2, the Avalanche scored in eight. The goal differential is 16-6. The penalty shootout is 138-81.
Considering the Predators were under-20 and under-25 in shooting the first two games, then of course, under-12 on Saturday was better.
Afterwards, Predators coach John Hynes pointed out how his team was better at 5-on-5, saying special teams and the Avalanche’s four power-play goals made the difference. Probably yes, as Hynes also described Saturday’s effort as something to build on before a playoff game.
On the plus side, remember.
“We have a group that has been resilient,” Hynes said. “We know what it is. We know we’re in a streak. And you’re not out of a streak until it hits four.”
When and if the inevitable ends this series and this season of Preds, a difficult postmortem awaits a franchise on the verge of dropping its fifth consecutive postseason series.
First, there’s the important matter of Hynes’ contract. It is about to expire. You have to assume – given that this team was not widely expected to even make the playoffs – that he will be retained.
But if it’s such a simple decision, why hasn’t it been announced yet?
Filip Forsberg’s future also remains a major question. He was kept past the trade deadline in hopes of a playoff run that is about to end in major failure.
And when you see how outplayed the Predators have been in this series, that should mean more questions for their roster beyond Forsberg.
Losing goalkeeper Juuse Saros to a brutal injury obviously didn’t help, but results tended to dip before that. I’m not sure Saros would have stopped the Avalanche from dominating the Predators the last three games, making them look like a shell team with 97 regular season points.
The question is not how the Avalanche did this. It’s an exceptional team.
It will be about how far the Predators still have to go to compete with an exceptional team. Because they haven’t been competitive with this one.
Contact Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at [email protected] and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.