Just over the midway mark of the season, and the Nashville Predators faced the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place in a game that had to be considered "must win" for the Predators.
The good news for the Predators was that their offense was finally scoring some goals, having scored 7 in their past two games.
The bad news was that the Predators defense had totally collapsed in those two games, allowing 13 goals.
For the Predators to have a chance to win this game against an Oilers offense that can score, they were going to have to play better defense.
The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Oilers went with Devan Dubnyk.
The first period ended 0-0 with the Predators having a 10-6 shot advantage. Rinne had to make a couple of great saves to keep the Oilers off the board, while Roman Josi beat Dubnyk with a blast but rang it off the post.
The Oilers got on the board first on the power play at 8:11. Ryan Ellis was in the box for cross checking and Magnus Paajarvi tapped the rebound of a Ryan Whitney shot past Rinne from in front of the net. Rinne was left alone as Paajarvi had gotten lost behind Shea Weber and had an easy put back for the score.
The Oilers had three shots on the power play, and those were their first three shots of the period.
The Predators tied the game at 1 on their power play at 16:37 off a bomb from the blue line by Shea Weber for his 5th goal of the year. Roman Josi and Craig Smith picked up assists on the goal.
The period ended tied at 1. The Oilers out shot the Predators 10-7.
The Predators lost defenseman Scott Hannan to an injury in the second period, and he was out for the remainder of the game.
The Predators had a power play, but Sergei Kostitsyn had the puck hop away from him at the blue line. The Oilers had a 2 on 2 until Kostitsyn went to the bench, leaving the Oilers 2 on 1 against Shea Weber. The Oilers made the Predators pay for a major gaffe by Kostitsyn as Lennart Petrell and Sam Gange broke in and Petrell hammered home a shot at 10:53.
Inexplicable decision by Kostitsyn, and it cost the Predators.
The Oilers picked up a Jonathan Blum turnover just inside their blue line and began a rush down the ice. Jordan Eberle whistled a shot over the shoulder of Rinne to make it 3-1 at 15:48 of the third.
Roman Josi scored with the extra attacker on the ice with 9.2 seconds remaining in the game.
Unfortunately, it was once again too little too late for the Predators as they lost their third in a row by a 3-2 margin.
Made of Glass
Right now, this team has no confidence and is fragile. Every mistake ends up in their net, and this team is tentative. Playing not to make mistakes and tentatively is a formula to consistently lose games. And that is the way this team is playing. If they are going to reverse their fortunes, they are going to have to play more like Predator teams of the past: sound defense and capitalizing on the other team's mistakes. Right now, the opponents are making the Predators pay for their errors.
Get Out the Stapler
Better yet, don't staple Sergei Kostitsyn to the bench. His play has been so atrocious of late that he should be relegated to the press box to watch. His play on the second Oilers goal is inexplicable and inexcusable. A lack of offensive presence and a too casual attitude are killing the Predators.
Better Jump, No Finish
I can't fault the Predators for their effort in general. They had good chances, but once again, could not finish on those chances. Until they bury some pucks, their offense is all sound and fury, but signifies nothing.
Better Hope Rinne Is Mentally Tough...
because this team in front of him is making him look bad.
It is now desperation time for the Predators. Their string is short if they are going to make the playoffs, and they are going to have to start putting together a lengthy winning streak.
Right now, I don't see that.
This team is not playing with confidence. Their breakdowns are resulting in goals. Their scorers are not scoring consistently.
Not a great combination of factors.
Now it boils down to those in the room. The have to reach down inside and get their mojo back. It will not come from the coaches. It will come from those guys that put on the sweater each night.
This will be a test of character and heart.
Time to find out what you got, boys.
My three stars:
1. Devan Dubnyk
2. Jordan Eberle
3. Roman Josi