With the Nashville Predators missing Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Mike Fisher, Cody Franson & Pekka Rinne play in the regular season finale in Dallas, most of the focus was on playing a solid game and winning battles. After allowing the Stars to go up 2-1 in the second half of the first period, Nashville played a pretty solid game until allowing an empty net goal late in the third period. Dallas finished the Predators off with another goal bringing the final score to 4-1.
“Our guys kept pulling and fighting to make it 2-2 and they scored the empty net goal,” head coach Peter Laviolette told Adam Vingan of The Tennessean. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t tie it up. We’re moving on and looking forward to Wednesday.”
The outcome of the game didn’t change the standings, but the frustration in the locker room was obvious with the team closing the season losing six straight games. As Laviolette alluded to, the playoffs will begin on Wednesday in Nashville. What can the team learn anything from Saturday’s loss going into the playoffs?
“Not a whole lot because obviously we’re disappointed to lose and it’s frustrating to lose,” said Matt Cullen. “We haven’t had a lot of success here down the stretch as of late, but I think we’re overall a pretty confident group about what we have in here. We would have liked to have that one, but we didn’t play well enough to win it. That’s something where we just have to immediately leave this behind us. We have a lot to look forward to this week and we have to get ready.”
Nashville will have Sunday off and then begin playoff preparation on Monday.
“We’re going to go home and have a few days of practice hopefully with the idea of getting our game in order and getting our mindset proper and getting ready to start at home,” said Cullen. “We like the position we’re in. We have home ice. We have a tough opponent coming in and we’re turning our minds towards that right now. We have things to work on and we’re going to get to work this week.”
In his second year in the NHL, Seth Jones will be participating in his first playoff series next week. The main focus he sees for the team in practice is working on consistency throughout the game.
“We showed flashes of the way we can play and we pinned teams in their zone for minutes at a time, but we’re just a little inconsistent,” said Jones. “I think we have to get back to that battle mentality, support to the puck. I think our second guy might be a little slow to the puck and we find ourselves losing battles a lot. At the end of the day that all results in chances and goals. We have to do a way better job defensively, and I’m sure we’re going to work on that a lot in practice.”
The team is ready to forget the loss to Dallas and move on to their next opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, another team that has struggled down the stretch to close the regular season. It’ll be up to the team to flip the switch back to playing dominant hockey. They have the team they have, they know what’s ahead of them. It’s completely in their hands.
“It just takes that one game for us,” said Jones on a mental switch turning the Predators on to their game. “Things haven’t been going our way lately. We’re not going to blame anyone but ourselves for this stretch. The last quarter of the season is on us and we have to do a much better job of just playing team hockey.”
With the players having Sunday off, the coaching staff gets to work a little earlier.
“We’ll just start the process tomorrow (Sunday) with the coaches and the players will have a day off and be in to work on Monday,” said Laviolette. “I think guys are excited to get to the playoffs and open up in our building. It’s an exciting time. You work all year for it.”
If there’s any comfort for Predators fans, it’s that the Chicago Blackhawks have struggled lately as well, dropping their last three games of the regular season. The last time Nashville was in the playoffs, they were able to knock off a team that had beaten them in the playoffs multiple times in the Detroit Red Wings. Now, the Predators have a chance to get the monkey off their back from the 2010 first round loss to Chicago.
Updated at 1:07am CDT: