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NHL.com: Preds' season ends prematurely

Tuesday, 05.8.2012 / 10:28 AM CT / Features
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NHL.com: Preds\' season ends prematurely

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Nashville Predators made a series of changes at the trade deadline in order to beef up their offense and toughness -- and transform themselves into a fairer fight with the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks and the other elite teams in the Western Conference.

And for one playoff series against the Red Wings, the plan worked to perfection. There was just one problem: The Blackhawks weren't waiting for them in the second round.

It was the Phoenix Coyotes, a team built more like the plucky Nashville teams of the past, who weren't interested in matching skill and were more than happy to grind in front of elite goaltender Mike Smith.

Start with some frustration, add in a little team dissention and, just like that, the Predators are going home much earlier than they expected – just like the Blackhawks. Monday's 2-1 loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals capped 11 days of frustration that included defensive breakdowns, suspensions to forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov and enough blown scoring chances to fill an entire postseason.

"It's the worst feeling in the world," said Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who allowed three goals in the last three games of the series and came out a loser twice. "You think that if this would have happened or that … but they worked hard and their goalie was unreal. He was the difference in the series.

"It's tough to swallow. The series goes by so fast it is over before you ever realize it. We played a lot of good hockey, but now it's done."

Nashville brought in defenseman Hal Gill, center and faceoff specialist Paul Gaustad and a scorer in Kostitsyn at the deadline; they brought Radulov back from Russia to beef up its team for the postseason. But the Preds' work ethic wasn't there in the first two games, and the distraction of the Kostitsyn and Radulov suspensions hung over the team the rest of the way.

But Smith stoned Nashville at every turn, and the Predators allowed the first goal in all four games they lost – and never led in any of them.

"As (general manager) David (Poile) said, he was 'All in,' " Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We gave up some draft choices to get some pieces that we needed -- the Hal Gills the Gaustads -- and they were big pieces. We had high expectations as an organization and we didn't get it done.

"I don't want to take anything away from the Coyotes. They found a way to beat us and they've beaten two pretty good hockey teams now. [The] Chicago Blackhawks are a good hockey team. We're a good hockey team, and they found a way to get it done with a really good goaltender, a strong defensive commitment and some timely goals and they got it done."

Nashville captain Shea Weber said the first two games in Phoenix -- where Nashville lost 4-3 in overtime and 5-3 in an uncharacteristic, high-scoring affair -- was where the series was lost.

"We didn't play our style early in the series and they took advantage early and we dug ourselves a big hole. After that, it's tough to beat a team like (four times five games)," Weber said. "In Game 1 we deserved a better fate, even though they played well defensively. In Game 2, we weren't ourselves at all. They definitely deserved that game."

Now the Predators have decisions to make. Weber is a restricted free agent, while defense partner Ryan Suter is unrestricted. The draft picks cashed in for immediate help are gone. And there are no assurances those rent-a-players acquired at the deadline will be re-signed.

"You know that every year it's going to be a different team and it's always one of the things that stings the most," Rinne said. "You battle for your teammates and then next year, maybe they aren't here. You never know."

Author: Jerry Brown | NHL.com Correspondent

SMASHVILLE CENTRAL

SCHEDULE
 

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS
 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 55 35 16 4 153 127 74
2 DAL 52 33 14 5 169 137 71
3 STL 54 29 17 8 128 128 66
4 LAK 51 31 17 3 135 117 65
5 SJS 50 27 19 4 145 132 58
6 COL 54 27 23 4 146 148 58
7 ANA 50 25 18 7 111 115 57
8 NSH 52 24 20 8 130 137 56
9 MIN 51 23 19 9 126 122 55
10 ARI 52 24 22 6 138 161 54
11 VAN 51 20 19 12 119 138 52
12 CGY 50 22 25 3 130 147 47
13 WPG 51 22 26 3 132 148 47
14 EDM 52 21 26 5 130 151 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
R. Josi 52 10 27 -4 37
S. Weber 52 13 20 -6 33
J. Neal 52 18 13 16 31
M. Ribeiro 52 6 25 1 31
F. Forsberg 52 14 16 -9 30
M. Ekholm 52 6 16 1 22
R. Ellis 51 6 15 0 21
C. Smith 52 11 6 -1 17
C. Wilson 36 4 12 0 16
C. Jarnkrok 51 8 7 -3 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Rinne 19 17 7 .903 2.51
C. Hutton 5 2 1 .916 2.36