Character. Resiliency. Two words that have defined the Nashville Predators franchise over the years.
With Tuesday’s happenings added on to an 0-2 series deficit, the Predators’ character and resiliency will be tested in Wednesday’s Game Three.
The Predators were already coming off their worst game of the playoffs, uncharacteristically surrendering five goals in Phoenix. The team was bad defensively, making one mistake after another that resulted in Pekka Rinne continually fishing the puck out of his net.
And then Tuesday happened.
I fully believe Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn care about the team and want to win in these playoffs. But what they allegedly did Saturday night/Sunday morning was a selfish act, as GM David Poile put it. Fans can bicker all they want that Radulov and Kostitsyn shouldn’t be suspended because it’s the playoffs, but they absolutely deserve to be sat for Game Three (or longer).
Radulov and Kostitsyn leave a void offensively, but this kind of adversity could be something the team can use to come together.
Those high expectations from the national pundits that the Predators can win the Stanley Cup? Gone. Being down two games and without Radulov and Kostitsyn on Wednesday has many people writing off the Predators. It’s a situation they are accustomed to being in.
When the franchise’s future was in limbo in 2007-08, everyone doubted the Predators’ ability to be a playoff contender. What did they do? They made the playoffs and gave Detroit a run for its money.
In 2004 and 2008, down 0-2 against far more talented Detroit teams, the Predators fought back and tied the series. They didn’t win the series, but they fought back.
Last year when they were in 11th place in the Western Conference in March, the Predators won 12 of 15 to make the playoffs.
In short, whenever this team’s backs are against the wall they perform at their best.
Now the Predators have a new kind of adversity, a challenge they’ve never had to face – an 0-2 deficit, coming off a porous performance, without two dynamic forwards.
Wednesday’s Game Three against the well-structured Phoenix Coyotes is going to be a major test for the Predators. There is sure to be a lot of tension in the building. Not only would a loss put them down 0-3 – an almost impossible deficit to come back from – but it’s a going to be a important moment for the team and franchise.
Poile went “all in” this postseason. With the uncertain future of Ryan Suter, Poile had to. A week ago his master plan looked like it was on the right path, especially with deadline pickup Hal Gill on the mend. Now the train has come off the tracks and is in danger of crashing.
There’s no reason to think that they can’t make this a series again. Before Radulov or Kostitsyn entered the lineup this season, the Predators boasted a 37-19-7 record. They know how to win without either of them. Maybe without them the team will be better defensively, where the primary focus will be for Game Three. Maybe the previously-scratched players will play with a lot of determination and provide a boost.
It’s up to the locker room to pull together if the Predators wish to be playing more hockey in the coming days and weeks.
They wear t-shirts that read “DAMN FEW” because they are the damn few that people expect to win (especially now). Signs around the locker room read “TOGETHER” because the Predators are a close-knit family.
Two members of the family made a poor choice and let down their brothers. Now is the time for those brothers to step up and get the train back on its tracks.
Now is the time for the Predators to show their true character and resiliency.
“Every team that has success in the playoffs has to go through some adversity. (We) haven’t had to go through a whole lot of adversity yet, so this is a good test,” head coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday. “When you go through adversity it really reveals your character, so we’re going to find out what kind of character we do have.”