Postseason Post-Mortem, Part One

The 2010-11 chapter of the Nashville Predators came to a close Monday night at Bridgestone Arena.  The Vancouver Canucks closed out Nashville in six games with a 2-1 second-round clinching win. The team salutes the sellout crowd, with hopeful expectations for even greater success next season. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

A Moment of Brevity?
Okay, this is going to have to be quick, and done in pieces, for a number of reasons. One, because I can’t quite wrap my arms around the number of emotions I have converging on my melon at the moment. Another is that there are so many things I want to say, along with a lot of things I should probably keep to myself for a while. I need some space of time to be able to tell the difference.

Suffice it to say, there’s nothing I can come up with right now that will lighten the mood for me or anyone else who cares about the Nashville Predators.

I’ll try to deal with a few observations on the game at hand and save my philosophical views for a later time.

Smashville’s team was eliminated Monday night at Bridgestone Arena, bowing to the Vancouver Canucks in six games in a hard-fought, tightly-contested game, 2-1. Hats off to Vancouver, the better team when they had to be in this one. They took advantage of Nashville’s big mistakes – one of which was more egregious than the other – and converted them into the only two goals that they would need.

The two markers came just 1:43 apart, in the midst of an impressive opening by the Predators. They came out buzzing and clearly carried play for much of the first period. However, as we saw on numerous occasions in this series, the Canucks’ team defense was extremely tough to break through against, so despite the fact that the Preds dominated the faceoff circle, shots, and time of possession (the Canucks had to kill four penalties in the first 20 minutes), Nashville found themselves down 2-0.

The first Vancouver goal pretty much exemplified the Predators’ frustration on the night, and in many ways, the entire series. The play was as impressive from a Canucks standpoint as it was embarrassing from Nashville’s point of view.

Canucks’ forward Ryan Kessler lofted a dump-in shot from center ice, between Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who were lined up on the left and right sides of the Nashville goaltender, Pekka Rinne, respectively. The Predators’ star defense pairing then proceeded to be made to look like juniors by Kessler and linemate Mason Raymond, who turned on the jets and jumped into the forecheck.

The puck landed behind Suter, who quickly turned to his left to retrieve it. However, skating with his back partially turned to the onrushing Kessler, Suter lost control of the puck between his skates. By the time he had retrieve it, his back was completely turned, and the Canucks forward was well within reach to intercept Suter’s pass attempt to Weber, skating ten feet to his left.

Kessler’s momentum took him in too deeply to attempt his own shot, so he instead snapped a perfect backward backhanded pass right onto the tape of the trailing Raymond, who was able to quickly deke and sweep the puck around Rinne’s left pad.

For Canuck fans, it was a thing of beauty. For Predators fans, it was an unconscionable breakdown by arguably their two best skaters, again making Kessler look like the second coming of Gretzky.

For anyone with eyes to witness this game, it was a sign that this was likely not going to be the Predators’ night.

Already Out ‘O Line
Okay, so I’ve already violated one thing I intended not to do in calling out Suter’s first of several less-than-stellar moments in this game. I really don’t know what it was, but it was a rare lackluster performance by Ryan in my view. And I don’t know whether it’s even fair for me to say that, or just to give a tip of the cap to Kessler, who once again, out-hustled and out beguiled the Predators with his highly skilled, high-energy play. He accomplished the exact result he was looking for with that dump-in play, which was to catch the defensemen off balance, race in on the forecheck to get the puck back, and then to put the puck in the back of the net.

Check, check, aaaand check.

And while I’m actually kinda glad to have gotten that off my chest, I’ll save my other grumblings for another time. I’ll give you a hint though, it involves the Canucks’ second goal, which, while less preventable in my opinion as more-or-less a statistical likelihood, given the laws of probability and Vancouver’s normally-prolific power play, it also goes into an area that’s a little more dicey, and will take more time to develop a story for than I currently have the time.

But for now, I just need to mourn a little for my boys. Sure, this was a tremendous season; one that each and every Preds fan should embrace and relish – and we will, eventually. But as Barry Trotz admitted in his postgame press conference, the accomplishment of this team, which anyone would have accepted in a hot second if you’d allowed them to gaze into a crystal ball last September, is somehow not so satisfying right now. “The pain of losing the series… hurts.”

Summer Schedule
As for the projected future, this summer, you probably won’t be too shocked to know that I’ll be stepping back a bit from this blog, hopefully to concentrate on another: my personal blog, which has gone sorely lacking for pretty much the entire hockey season.

In the short term, I’ll be finishing up this post with a follow-up to discuss a few more points I’d like to make regarding this season before turning my attention to the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in June, Predators Prospect Camp and the annual Predators Skate of the Union in July, and finally, Preds Training Camp in September.

Sprinkled in amongst whatever streams of Preds consciousness I come up with, I have a couple of other things I’d like to bring to you that I hope you’ll like, and as always, I’d love to hear back from you. Be sure to offer your comments, good or bad, and if you’re not already, I invite you to follow me on Twitter at @ajinnashville.

Thanks to the Predators and to Kevin Wilson for their help on a couple of stories this season, and to all my Preds Blogger Brethren for the community and support they continually lend by suffering my occasional silliness to be mentioned in the same breath with their consistent and seriously excellent work.

The Nashville Predators blog and fan community is a special thing; I consider it an honor to be a part of it.

Seeya around Preds fans.

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5 Responses to “Postseason Post-Mortem, Part One”

  1. Jen Burns May 10, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    Ah the emotional rollercoaster we Predators fans have (and still are) riding on! Very proud of the team this year and their hard work to take Vancouver to 6 and finish off the Ducks in 6.
    Yes I really wish there had been more Preds hockey in May…losing sucks and the tears in my eyes last night proved that for sure.
    I can’t say much more than that now…still too many emotions in my melon as well!
    Catch ya on twitter my friend!

    • AJ in Nashville May 10, 2011 at 8:11 am #

      It’s a curious difference the feeling now compared to previous first-round exits, because with the possible exception of last year’s Game Five disaster in Chicago, you really never got the feeling that any of them ‘got away.’ I feel as though this series got away. But I do believe that the Preds will be better next season — perhaps *much* better. So there is good reason to be optimistic. Thanks for commenting, Jen! See you around! :)

  2. CC May 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Speaking as a Canucks fan and Canadian – Nashville is now a legitimate hockey town. The sports media here is still raving about the quality of the crowds and atmosphere down in Nashville.

    Keep and grow the fan support and you can only get better! Now that you’ve had a taste of the 2nd round it should leave everyone hungry for more.

    You have an excellent back end to build on – just need to acquire some more offensive forwards and perhaps change your power play coach and you’ll much more competitive in next year’s playoffs.

    Cheers and good luck next year!

    • AJ in Nashville May 12, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

      Thanks, CC, and let me just say, I haven’t been intentionally avoiding reply to your comments! :)

      While it was disappointing to lose the way we did, I don’t know any Preds fan who hasn’t acknowledged the Canucks were the better team. We made some great strides this season and everyone is already anxious for October to arrive and the puck to drop once again. I’m confident that David Poile will do whatever he must in order to add some needed offense to the lineup in 2011-12.

      Best of luck to whomever you guys meet in the Conference Final (and as of the writing of this post, it looks like it will be the Sharks). It’s been an historic season for your boys, here’s hoping it ends with smiles for you.

      Take care, and thanks again for being such an engaging part of this blog.

      Cheers! :)

  3. CC May 13, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    No worries and thanks! Should be an intense WCF.

    You have a well written blog here and I’ll be back from time to time to keep an eye the Preds. They are definitely more interesting to me now than they were before the semi-finals.


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