It’s hard not to feel just a little bit bad for the Nashville Predators. No team in the NHL has been forced to travel so far, and play so often just to be brought to the brink of elimination by the San Jose Sharks on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena.
The miles are staggering and the numbers point to 13 games in 25 days, and one of those 13 games was a scant nine minutes away from being TWO games.
Yet, the team still stands, perseveres, and has prospered in the face of adversity. Case in point, the Anaheim Duck series, where the team battled back from a 3 to 2 series deficit, winning big games at home and then on the road to advance to Round 2.
Difference here? The team is 0 for San Jose, and winning Monday night in Nashville would still send them back to the hostile confines of the SAP Pavilion, where defeat has hounded them in Games 1, 2 and 5.
The latest defeat came on the heels of the marathon triple-overtime stunner on Thursday, and was clearly the Predators worst performance of the post-season.
After Mike Fisher had tied the score at 1, the Preds highlight reel was finished for the evening. San Jose goals from Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Pavelski again, and Melker Karlsson gave the Sharks a 5-1 victory, and the seeming momentum switch the home team had needed after such a back-breaking defeat to the Preds less than 48 hours earlier.
Pointing to fatigue would be a logical excuse for the men-of-gold, but both teams on the ice Saturday night had been given the same amount of rest, and the same loss of two hours via the time zone change.
Both teams had multiple defensemen who logged over forty minutes of ice time in the marathon game, and both teams had run the myriad of emotions as the on and off ice officials made crucial decisions in each team’s favor throughout the game.
The fact is; the Preds have to wipe the slate clean and go into Game 6 forgetting the highs of Game 4 and the lows of Game 5. Tonight is just a single hockey game that the team needs to execute better, and hope the Sharks big offensive stars can be held in check.
Preds must look for more of the same from Fisher, and his linemates James Neal and Colin Wilson, but conversely, must look for something a little better from guys like Ryan Johansen (no shots in the past two games) and Mike Ribeiro (reinstated into the lineup after benching for the two home games, and provided zero offense, at a time offense was desperately needed.)
The team has lived to see another game when facing elimination in Round 1 and now they find themselves knocking on the same door in Round 2. Neutralize Pavelski, Marleau, Thornton, and Couture. It seems like a tall task, but the Preds have risen to the occasion in the past, and there will be a raucous crowd of over 17,000 die-hard Preds fans packed into Bridgestone Arena to provide the necessary decibel level to give the home team a much needed boost of adrenaline.
May you stand with us, and cheer for tomorrow! Go Preds!