I wasn't ready for it to end tonight, but end it did. The Nashville Predators were eliminated from the 2010-11 NHL playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks, losing in the Western Conference semifinals that the Canucks won 4 games to 2.
There are many ways to characterize the year, and the playoff run, but Barry Trotz's catchphrase returns to mind once again: resilience. That's what this short on offensive talent but long on heart team has in spades, and that, friends, can't be said of many other NHL teams.
Further reaction can be found after the jump. To congratulate the Canucks, head on over to Nucks Misconduct.
Ten thoughts on tonight's game:
- All year, Nashville's relied predominantly on three players who perform at an elite level in each game - Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Pekka Rinne. Suter had a particularly rough outing tonight, but Weber went scoreless over six games, which is unacceptable any way you look at it. The captain played good defense, but the fact is the Predators needed more out of Shea Weber were they to advance.
- On the other hand, though, David Legwand and Joel Ward did everything they could to will the team to victory. Ward was the surprise, but Legwand was perhaps just as good, picking up where he left off from last year's series against the Hawks. Put it this way: David Legwand has played to his salary level in the 2010-11 NHL playoffs. Ward has seven goals, but Legwand is right behind him with six.
- The Preds' power play has been their Achilles' heel for as long as I've been a fan, particularly in last year's playoff series against Chicago. It improved against the Ducks, but the wheels came off the bus in the semifinals. Nashville had four power play opportunities in the first period alone tonight, and were unable to convert on any of them. Fixing the man advantage needs to be a primary focus over the summer ahead.
- There's been a lot of discussion based around diving and embellishment in this year's playoffs, with most of the accusations being levied at Vancouver or the Anaheim Ducks. Tonight, though, it was Jordin Tootoo who was whistled for embellishment after it appeared he was interfered with by Christian Ehrhoff. A ticky-tack call, perhaps, but when you can't kill off the subsequent penalty, you can't really complain.
- A lot of Nashville fans will come out of this series despising Ryan Kesler, and perhaps justifiably so, but Kesler is playing on an entirely different level than his teammates. Given the choice, I would take the American Olympian over either Sedin twin each and every time.
- The Predators failed to shoot the puck often tonight, and they lost the game. The correlation is obvious, and something else that needs to be fixed, particularly if Sergei Kostitsyn is to return to the team.
- Speaking of Kostitsyn, much of the good will earned during the regular season in which he led the Preds in goals will probably be for naught, as his postseason was, quite frankly, horrible. Five assists in 12 games playing on Nashville's de facto is, much like Weber's offensive performance, unacceptable.
- If this was indeed Brent Peterson's last rodeo behind the bench, it was good to see him taste some of the success that he and the rest of the team's coaching staff has worked so diligently for over the years.
- Perhaps one of the best things to come out of this series was the positive publicity that Nashville's crowd has received over the past few weeks. Case in point: after the horn sounded tonight, signaling elimination, you could hear "Let's go Predators" echoing throughout the arena, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't choke up just a bit. A classy team deserves a classy fanbase, and that's what we've got here in Nashville.
- And so, the ride that lasted 12 games longer than many pundits predicted is finally over. There will be quite a bit of time to evaluate what went wrong in this series, but for now, take time to consider what an amazing year it was. Undoubtedly the best year in team history, I'll have my head held high headed into the offseason.
Series win? Check.
Game 5 win? Check.
Overtime win? Check, times two.
Norris Trophy nomination? Check.
Vezina Trophy nomination? Check.
General manager of the year nomination? Check.
Jack Adams nomination? Check.
Write the eulogies, certainly, and pick things apart, but make no mistake - this team will be back. Let's go Predators.