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Poor, Pour, Not So Pitiful Preds

December 25, 2018, 8:50 AM ET [0 Comments]
Jay Greenberg
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Sing no sad country songs for the Predators. They have had a December where their girl left and their dog died and their pickup truck broke down. But as Ronnie Milsap sings, love comes and goes just like the wind. What are you gonna do? It’s hard to work up sympathy for rich people.

The Preds are out some important bodies. And, when Ryan Johansen hit the post with what would have been the tying goal in Philadelphia with just one second left, they officially became out of luck, never mind how many guys have stepped above their pay grade.

“We’re more of a by-the-numbers kind of a team, if everyone is on board we can find success,” says Peter Laviolette, making the point, like all coaches do, that the whole always is greater than the sum of the parts. All for one, we get it. But, during a 5-5-1 December, are we going to blame it on Mikka Salomaki’s failure to score since Nov. 1?

More to the point, the Preds have missed Viktor Arvidsson for 23 games, PK Subban for 18 and Filip Forsberg for the last 10. That’s two top six forwards and your 1b) defenseman, right after Roman Josi. So as noble as have been the efforts lately of Ryan Hartman for 18-20 minutes and 36-year old Dan Hamhuis for 20-22, elite players prove replaceable only in the short run.

As a result, the Travelling Wilburys, the Preds have not been. Since winning in Dallas on November 10 to get to 13-3-3, Nashville has not captured a road game in 10 tries, getting just a point in Ottawa on the 4-game trip that ended with a 5-2 loss in Boston Saturday.

Merry Bleeping Christmas.

“It’s been substantial, but no sense crying about it,” said Laviolette. “We have to win.

“We played some pretty good games. In the road losses we played some pretty good periods. We just haven’t been consistent enough to find success. On the road you need to find more consistency.”

Consistency, thy name is Pekka Rinne, one of the very best at giving a team a chance with all these arms tied behind its back. But expectations being high for Nashville, that’s is a big fort for even an elite goaltender to hold.

The cavalry is coming; Subban has resumed skating and Forsberg and Arvidsson are not that far behind. Meanwhile time is hanging heavy on the Predators’ hands, losing points they could be putting towards avoiding Winnipeg or Colorado in the first round.

Losing is hard and so is finding benefit in March and April to any refresh button that Subban, Arvidsson and Forsberg should be able to hit after missing so much time in a long, long season. “I can’t see [the advantage] right in front of me today,” smiled Laviolette. “Maybe down the road I will.”

Provided the plague ends, almost surely he will. This team has four top pair defenseman, a big-time goalie, enough scoring depth for three lines, and, by now, the essential wisdom that comes with playoff disappointment. In the 2017 final, the Preds were the better team for four games that they only split until Sidney Crosby started to cook. They may have lost year’s second rounder to Winnipeg by being extended to six by upstart Colorado, which is proving to be no one-year wonder.

“It feels like the hardest division,” said defenseman Ryan Ellis. “You come out of these divisional games feeling like you’ve come out of a fight or a car accident or something. It takes a lot out of you.”

It always helps to get through the first round as quickly as possible; hence the difficulty of seeing points slip away in December. For easier is it for you and me to assume Nashville will get it going than it is for Laviolette, whose job it is to make it happen.

On that what have you done for me lately scale, Nashville is not New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto or Boston. But expectations have been built in Music City along with as deep a team as you can have in this cap era. The franchise is in its 20th year, the fans know what icing is by now, and have heard about this Stanley Cup and figure it’s their turn to get it.

The urgency is not quite as it seemingly is in Columbus, where the contracts of both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky are up at the end of the year with neither apparently interested in a hometown discount. Nashville’s cap seems well managed by GM David Poile. Key guys are locked up, save for a couple– Josi being one year away from being unrestricted and Rinne, two. After Rinne and Dan Hamhuis, the next Predator is five years younger, so this season hardly is last call.

But all this knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door puts the Predators in an elite class with Tampa Bay, about which it is fair to say, “It’s time to win.”

“I wouldn’t call last year a disappointment,” said Ellis. “It was two giants going at it head to head.

“But there was a bitter taste, and a little hunger coming out of the gates. We know what kind of team we have. Since Lavvy has been here, we have been through a lot together. Look at our track record to see how far we have come.

“We expect a lot in here and there are expectations from the outside as well. I like the odds going into the playoff season but we have a lot of work until then.”

Life goes on, And this ‘ol world just keeps on turning. . . .
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