Sports Hockey

Fate not with Predators against Blackhawks

By Robert Tychkowski

Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks celebrates a goal by teammate Brandon Saad in Game 4 against the Predators on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks won it in triple overtime. (afp)

Marian Hossa of the Blackhawks celebrates a goal by teammate Brandon Saad in Game 4 against the Predators on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks won it in triple overtime. (afp)



If the Nashville Predators don’t survive the first round of the playoffs, which will probably be the case given that their condition has been downgraded from “critical” to “call a priest” after Tuesday’s triple-overtime loss to Chicago, it’s going to haunt them for a long time.

All playoff losers are tormented to some extent by defeat, but the Predators will have every right to believe they deserved better than a first-round exit.

They’ve outshot Chicago in every game, they chased the Blackhawks’ starting goalie from the series and they’ve led or been tied for 268 of 307 minutes so far.

And they’re done.

Down 3-1 against the Blackhawks? You’d get better odds betting on one rat stuck in an elevator with three pythons.

It doesn’t seem fair, and that’s the part that’s going to eat away at them all summer.

“The series has been close, both teams are playing hard, we just can’t seem to get that bounce,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. “We’ve had more than enough looks, more than enough opportunities.”

They’ve had 178 shots in four games (cracking 50 twice) and have scored 13 goals. That’s usually good enough for something better than a 3-1 deficit.

Just not this time.

Fair? Not hardly.

Even the Hawks admit Nashville is two bounces away from being the pythons in the elevator instead of the rat.

“Nashville has played hard every single night, all four games could have gone either way, except, you could argue, Game 2 (the only one the Predators won),” said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.

“That’s how close it’s been. So we can’t think that how we played in the last game is going to be good enough to be successful next game.”

That shouldn’t be a problem. Elevating their game is what the Hawks do best. They always seem to find a way to get the goal or the save or penalty kill that they need at that crucial moment.

Comebacks. Overtime. Games in which they’re outshot or outplayed. At home. On the road. They just win. It’s what they do.

“We’ve been in the situation a lot of times and experience helps,” said Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa. “You never to give up. It’s not easy to score against Nashville but we hung in there and scored some big goals.”

The Predators, meanwhile, are now 1-9 in their last 10 games, counting a six-game losing streak to end the regular season. Six of those nine losses have been by one goal, which means they’re not far off, but they don’t need to be told that close isn’t good enough anymore.

“It’s frustrating, but we’ve done a good job of putting the past in a trash can and that’s what we have to do here,” said defenceman Seth Jones, adding there’s a big difference between finding a way to win and playing well enough to say you maybe deserved better.

“We have to find a way to win games. There’s no such thing as a six-game losing streak in the playoffs.

“There’s not much more I can say. Put it behind us and take it one game at a time. We’re down 3-1 but it’s not over yet.”

In a series where the margins have been razor thin, where would the Predators be if they had Shea Weber and Mike Fisher for the whole thing?

Doesn’t matter.

There’s no time to dwell on how luck and fate have conspired to beat them, there will be plenty of time for that if they lose Game 5 Thursday at Bridgestone Arena.

Right now the focus is on staying alive, pushing through the invisible barrier that stands between them and what they believe the deserve.

“Our guys are a resilient group,” said Laviolette. “They will not cave, they will not go away quietly and they’ll be ready to play in Game Five, I promise you.”


You don’t have to tell Nashville’s James Neal that coming back from a 3-1 series deficit isn’t as far fetched as most people believe.

He knows from experience, a pretty bad one, that it can be done

Neal was with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season when their 3-1 series lead melted before their eyes against the New York Rangers.

It’s a story he’s making sure to tell everyone on the Predators locker room as they try and make similar history against the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Momentum changes really quickly,” said Neal, who believe Nashville just needs a little nudge to get this thing turned their way. “We’ve got lots of fight left in us. And with Chicago coming in our rink, they know how hard it’s going to be to close out a series.”

Preds coach Peter Laviolette can top Neal’s story: His Philadelphia Flyers were down 3-0 to Boston, and trailed 3-0 in Game 7 in 2010, before completing the monumental comeback.

He says focusing on the moment is the key to survival.

“You really just need to focus on one game, it’s really the only game that matters,” said Laviolette, as the Preds returned home for Game 5 Thursday. “There’s no Game 7 that can be played and no Game 6 that can be played yet.

“We’re back home here, we’re in our building with our fans and they’ve been great all year. You know there’s going to be a lot of energy in the building, and we’ll need that energy; certainly we can use it, and I think our guys will be ready to play. We’ve got a real quality group of individuals in there that play hard and have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing.”


Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions

Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »