NHL.com: Predators reflect on difficult end to season

Tuesday, 05.10.2011 / 2:26 PM CT / Nashville Predators Playoffs Coverage
Share with your Friends

NHL.com: Predators reflect on difficult end to season
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With their first taste of playoff success, the Nashville Predators learned a number of things -- the sad fact among them that the farther a team advances, the harder it is to accept defeat.

"All the great teams said they had to learn how to lose before they could win and, you know, we lost a bunch in the first round," said David Legwand, a Predator since the team's first season. "The farther you get the tougher it is to swallow."

The Predators' season officially ended in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals at 9:46 Central time Monday with a 2-1 loss at Bridgestone Arena to Vancouver. In the immediate aftermath, players were having a hard time finding the silver lining, which is a shiny one, to be sure.

For the first time in six playoff appearances, Nashville won a round, defeating Anaheim in six games. Then in a series against the President's Trophy-winning Canucks, they won an elimination game for the first time in six tries. Every game in the series was a one-goal game, except for Game 4, which included an empty-netter, and two ended in overtime.

The closeness with which the series was played added to the Predators' difficulty in accepting the loss. But in the long run, the experience will make them a better team, coach Barry Trotz said.

"I'll tell you exactly what I told the players, not every word, but one the things I said to them (was), 'At training camp in September, if you would've said the Predators got through the first round and played real hard and get knocked out in second round,' I probably would've said that was a big step forward in a successful season," Trotz said. "When you are as close as you are and feel as close you were in this series -- I mean, every game was one goal and we had a lot of people out; we had a lot of Milwaukee influence (Nashville's AHL team) through the playoffs here  -- and they did a great job.

"And I said to them here I don't feel that way now -- the way I probably would've felt in September -- because the hurt is deep and I said, 'Don't forget this feeling,' because that is what's going to drive you to the next level. The first round is really mentally tough because it's really the first time you've really got to extend yourself to the next level and, the second round, you're ready for it and grow from it and it makes you a better player, it makes you a better person, it makes you a harder team. It makes you battle ready. We made a lot of steps forward."

In his postgame remarks on Monday, Trotz briefly allowed himself to play the 'what if' game. He mentioned all of the players that Nashville lost to injury this season and who were unavailable for the playoffs.

Matthew Lombardi, signed to be the team's top center last offseason, played the first two games of the regular season and then was lost thereafter because of a concussion. No. 3 defenseman Francis Bouillon also did not play in the series because of injury. Center Marcel Goc and forward Cal O'Reilly were other important players who could not participate because of injury.

In the end, Nashville was undone because of its inability to score. The Preds scored 11 goals in the series, but only five players did the honors: Joel Ward (four), David Legwand (four), Cody Franson, Ryan Suter and Matt Halischuk.

Trotz said Nashville needed another "secondary hero" to advance. But he, like most of his players, believed that they did have a chance to knock off a team with a far longer list of regular season achievements.

The fact that Nashville got as far as it did was a testament to the play of goalie Pekka Rinne, a Vezina Trophy finalist, defenseman and captain Shea Weber, a Norris Trophy finalist, and Ryan Suter, leading the playoffs in time on ice, with a cast of important contributions from others.

And then there is Trotz, who, again, is a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy.

"This was a very special group," Trotz said. "Not too many times -- I've been coaching a long time -- I can say this group had a great intangible. If we would've beat the Vancouver Canucks, it wouldn't have surprised me. One bit. Because they had a lot of intangibles and they were a group you can be proud of. They came to work. They had a great team unity and they found ways to get it done and they didn't want any excuses of guys out."

Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent





1 z - DAL 82 50 23 9 267 230 109
2 x - STL 82 49 24 9 224 201 107
3 x - CHI 82 47 26 9 235 209 103
4 y - ANA 82 46 25 11 218 192 103
5 x - LAK 82 48 28 6 225 195 102
6 x - SJS 82 46 30 6 241 210 98
7 x - NSH 82 41 27 14 228 215 96
8 x - MIN 82 38 33 11 216 206 87
9 COL 82 39 39 4 216 240 82
10 ARI 82 35 39 8 209 245 78
11 WPG 82 35 39 8 215 239 78
12 CGY 82 35 40 7 231 260 77
13 VAN 82 31 38 13 191 243 75
14 EDM 82 31 43 8 203 245 70


F. Forsberg 82 33 31 1 64
R. Josi 81 14 47 -3 61
J. Neal 82 31 27 27 58
S. Weber 78 20 31 -7 51
M. Ribeiro 81 7 43 11 50
C. Smith 82 21 16 4 37
M. Ekholm 82 8 27 14 35
R. Johansen 42 8 26 10 34
R. Ellis 79 10 22 13 32
C. Jarnkrok 81 16 14 1 30
P. Rinne 34 21 10 .908 2.48
C. Hutton 7 5 4 .918 2.33