It goes without saying that the past couple days have been a real bummer.
On Monday, the Predators were eviscerated 8-3 at home by Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers.
Several hours after the Oilers game came to a blessed end, Middle Tennessee- largely honing in on East Nashville and Nashville's northeastern suburbs- was struck by a rare, unexpected, and ultimately disastrous tornado. Now with an estimated 24 lives lost in the storm, the tornado's collateral damage included the destruction of thousands of homes and structures that housed many of East Nashville's famous establishments.
In the midst of a back-to-back, the Preds arrived in Minneapolis-St. Paul before any travel complications emerged. As the players, coaching staff, and front office executives sent their best wishes via Twitter and Instagram (Bridgestone Arena staff opened up the venue and served pizza to affected families), the Preds' game plan against the Wild last night became to exorcise not only the destruction of the tornado back home, but the demoralizing two-game losing streak they were nursing. It took only about 20 minutes of hockey to realize that plan was not going to be carried out.
Monday's loss to the Oilers was one of the most nauseating games a Preds fan could ever witness. Nonetheless, it was a classic, tried and true script straight out of Preds hockey lore.
First, go down 2-0 by the end of the first period. Then, bounce back and tie the game with two goals early in the second period- giving fans a false sense of hope in their hockey team- eventually closing out the middle frame knotted at three goals apiece. Alas, the grand finale: give up five unanswered goals in the third period- three of them belonging to the NHL's points leader, Leon Draisaitl, bringing his evening's goal total up to four. Connor McDavid accounted for another five points of his own, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse each skated away with three.
It's easy to get mad at Pekka Rinne, but don't. The man is clearly having a record bad year, and blaming him for allowing arguably the NHL's two best players to rack up five points against him is just irresponsible. Here's what you can blame: the fact that, in all but the two minutes when Mattias Ekholm was in the penalty box, Rinne had five professional hockey players in front of him charged with, a) preventing as many shots from reaching Rinne as possible, and b) creating enough offense to offset a poor goaltending performance.
The Oilers outshot the Preds 35-30, creating 15 high-danger scoring chances while the Preds struggled to piece together just eight HDCF. Sure, Rinne let a few soft ones by him, but his teammates' coinciding effort left a lot to be desired.
As the sun rose yesterday morning, the NHL was still exalting Draisaitl's four-goal performance against the Preds. Meanwhile, the tornado's furious results became bathed in light in Nashville. Word of the devastation spread, and a profound sadness settled over the already agonized Preds fanbase.
It wouldn't have done much in terms of physical restoration, but the Preds winning the Wild game would have at least bumped Nashville's self-esteem a touch. In any case, the organization publicly roused the notion that the team was on a warpath to avenge their city's pain.
Instead, the Preds converted on just one of their five power play opportunities, allowed ex-Predator Kevin Fiala to record a multi-point night, and slipped out of the playoff picture with their third straight loss.
Juuse Saros gave it a good effort, but couldn't keep pace with the red-hot Alex Stalock- who is 7-2-1 in his last 10 starts.
The road doesn't stop here, though, and the Preds are going to have to battle the Stars in a home-and-home series tomorrow and Saturday. The Preds are 0-2 against Dallas this year and have not only the healing of a city to weigh on them for the next two games, but also their displaced dignity from the Winter Classic.
Just when they had you fooled with three wins in a row, the Preds turned around and lost the next three. Three steps forward, three steps back. And the devil laughs.
You know what would make a great narrative? Sneaking into the playoffs, getting through the first and second rounds, and vying for the Stanley Cup two and a half months after a tornado ripped apart a chunk of your city.
Whether they take it the distance or not, the Preds need to fight for their city.