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Nashville Faces 0-1 Series Deficit Despite “Playing The Right Way”

The Preds lose a game in which they out-shot the opponent by 29. You may be surprised to hear this, but that doesn’t happen very often.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Winnipeg Jets at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators lost Game One against the Winnipeg Jets, getting the 2nd leg of their quest for the Stanley Cup off to a rough start. We all knew this Preds v Jets playoff matchup was bound to happen at some point, and we all knew the series would probably go the distance. Well, the matchup is here and the Preds are staring at a one game deficit after 60 minutes.

Last night left us all with such an empty feeling, like we’d been cheated by the hockey gods. Or maybe like we’d make the wrong sacrifice to the wrong hockey god on the wrong night. Why didn’t this performance show up in Game Three in Colorado? Or in Game Five? Or any other game for that matter?

The Preds played so well for them to lose by three on home ice.

Let’s put this in perspective. The Predators put up 48 shots on the Jets, only getting one goal by Connor Hellebuyck. It’s frustrating as hell to put up that kind of shot production and come away with a loss. These shots were coming from all over the place, too:

I mean, that’s an absolute mauling in the Jets’ defensive zone. Shots from all angles, shots from all distances and varying shot types, and shots from nearly every Preds skater.

All of us realize that putting up 48 shots in regulation is most certainly going to lead to more wins than losses in the long run—and over the course of a best-of-7 series—but it doesn’t make the loss any easier to bear.

By the way, what’s the precedence here? Since 1990, only 10 teams have put up 48 shots or more in a regulation-length playoff game and still lost. Here they are:

Since 2010, it’s happened almost once a season, most recently in the Blue Jackets series with the Penguins last year. Incidentally, the Penguins did the same thing to the Capitals in 2016 (it’s what they do).

But only 10 times? In 28 years? That certainly qualifies as a rare event. You’ll also notice that the Preds were only the second team on that list to lose while giving up less than 20 shots. That’s even rarer.

So this might explain the Predators’ cavalier, even bubbly, attitude in the locker room after the game. Especially P.K. Subban’s:

I realize “playing the right way” could sound like moral gesturing, but in context Subban was talking about the pace at which they played while also trying to capitalize on opportunities. He really meant this more as “playing the way that usually wins games” rather than “playing a clean game” or even “playing better than the opponent.”

I’m sure plenty of folks will interpret this as Subban overvaluing the team’s performance—or even as arrogance—but he wasn’t alone in his praise of how the team played. His attitude mirrored that of the rest of the locker room.

I’ll add these two quotes which didn’t make the rounds on Twitter:

  • Turris: “We’re just looking forward to Game 2. I think we created opportunities and we were buzzing in the offensive zone at times, we just couldn’t bury them.”
  • Josi: “I thought we played well. I thought we started well. We had a good first period and we followed it up...we had a lot of shots, a lot of zone time and a lot of pucks our way.”

Again, I don’t think these are the words of some aloof know-it-alls who don’t understand what they are up against. They just know how thoroughly they dominated huge portions of that game. And they know if they continue this play on Sunday (and beyond) they will win some games.

Take a look at how often the Preds reached or exceeded the 110 shots per sixty minutes mark on the shot tide by HockeyViz (text numerals added by me):

Generating high intensity pressure in the opposing zone seven times for every one time you allow it in your own zone? Yeah, that’s gonna win you some hockey games.

I should mention that by far the most frustrated Predators player after the game was Pekka Rinne (he was not available for questions). He should have played the Mark Scheifele goal better than he did, even if the other goals were less his fault.

Rinne’s frustrations, as best I interpret them, stem from this: he knows he’s the best player on the team and he knows he is routinely called upon to be that best player. Not getting the results to match that belief can be frustrating. He usually makes those other worldly saves when things break down, but last night, he just didn’t.

Last night was certainly frustrating, but I think Rinne bounces back Sunday night. If the rest of the team repeats Friday’s performance, the Preds will more than likely even up the series in Game Two.