Updated: Oct 7, 2019
The Predators season ended when they lost to the Dallas Stars in 6 games in the first round of the Stanley cup playoffs. It was a tight, competitive series that could've gone either way.
Game 1: Predators 2-3 Stars L
Game 2: Predators 2-1 Stars OT/W
Game 3: Predators 3-2 Stars W
Game 4: Predators 1-5 Stars L
Game 5: Predators 3-5 Stars L
Game 6: Predators 1-2 Stars L
Key predators stats from the series:
Pekka (game 6): 47 saves
Grimaldi: 2 goals
Subban: 1 goal, 2 assists
Smith (game 2): OT GWG
What lead to the Predators losing this series?:
1. Not enough contribution from the top line
The top forwards for the preds, especially the JOFA line (Johansen,Foresberg, Arviddson) made very few contributions throughout the series. Although both Foresberg and Johansen had goals, the predators rely heavily on this line and many people expect many goals from that line. Arviddson also showed spurts of good play, in game 2, he held the puck in the offensive zone with four people on him when the predators were on the penalty kill. In addition to JOFA not producing on the level they often do, the second line was also disappointing at many times. Although there were line adjustments, the second line consisted of Granlund, Turris, and Smith/Grimaldi (in game 6)/Bonino. Similar to the first line, both Granlund and Turris showed spurts of good play but ultimately, to win in the playoffs you need your top lines to contribute.
2. Defensive Mistakes
The predators had the title of "best defense in the NHL" for awhile, but that is now far from the truth. The defense fell apart in many instances and players were constantly caught with their back to the play or they were out of position which lead to a goal. The stars first line tore apart the predators and that was a large factor in why the predators lost this series. Benn, Radulov, and Seguin combined for 4 assists and 3 goals in game 5 in Nashville. Outside of the 3rd pairing of Hamhuis and Fabbro, all the defensemen struggled. Ekholm had probably one of the worst stretches of play in his career. He got called for multiple penalties, iced the puck unnecessarily,and multiple other things. This was very uncharacteristic because in my opinion Ekholm was the most consistent player for the predators throughout the 2018-19 regular season. Ekholms defensive partner, P.K. Subban was one of the best players in this series. Despite a few misplayed pucks and defensive mistakes P.K. played very well especially on the offensive end. He put other players in a very good position to score with his slapshots, slap passes, and stretch passes. Similar to P.K., Josi played well on the offensive end. In game 1 he scored a very nice goal and continued to get shots off throughout the series.
3. The power play
The predators were 0-15 on power plays during the series. The power play was a problem that was addressed many times during the season and it was a serious concern. The predators became the first team ever to win there division while having the worst power play in the league. When the first line was not on the ice the predators could not even hold the puck in the zone for long enough to get a shot off. The power play is unimaginable and predictable. I would have liked to see the predators mix up the power play lines a bit more than they did (It was Foresberg, Grandlund, and Arviddson in game 6). I would have liked to see Boyle on with the first line because he does a great job getting in front of the net and causing havoc. Although our penalty kill was very good in games 1-3, the predators committed too many penalties which lead to easy power play goals by the Stars.
1. The predators made 6 major trades in the last two seasons:
November 2018: Kyle Turris from the Senators for Smauel Girard, Vladislav Kamenev, and a 2nd round pick
February 2018: Ryan Hartman from the blackhawks for a 1st round pick
(click a linked trade to view my article on the trade)
Only 3 of these players had an impact in the 2019 playoffs. Outside of Boyle and occasionally Granlund and Turris, the predators trades have not payed off and they have gotten very little value.
2. Rocco Grimaldi and Dante Fabbro came out of nowhere and were arguably our best players in the playoffs.
3. P.K. Subban and Kyle Turris do not at all deserve any blame for the result of this series. Many people immediately look to blame someone and point to the players who struggled early in the season. Subban and Turris likely played through lingering injuries and Turris missed a very large chunk of the season with an injury. I thought Subban played great in the series and Turris also did at times.
4. Pekka Rinne was a main reason that the predators stayed in the series for as long as they did.
All season the predators had the same problems. Many injuries, terrible power play, inconsistency, slow starts, and more. Many people (me included) thought come playoff time, everything would turn around, and that obviously did not happen.
What do the predators have to do to get back to the cup like in 2017?