Give me a date.
Tell me when it is safe for me to throw in the towel. When can I safely settle into a reality where the Predators are a sub-par team whose games are 60 minutes of pure folly and not, as we're lead to believe, competition? I am out of carrots, I am out of sticks.
Tonight's 6-4 loss in Pittsburgh started out bad (going down 3-0 before the halfway point of the first period), then got better (coming back and tying the game from a 4-1 deficit), then ultimately got worse again (allowing two goals in the last minute of regulation). The Preds dropped both games of the home-and-home with the Penguins, allowing 11 goals in just those two games. Just about the only remotely good thing to come out of this pair of matches was that Roman Josi's point streak remains alive at seven games, putting his season's total at 39.
After allowing three goals on just eight first period shots, Pekka Rinne took over for Juuse Saros coming into the second. Rinne finished with a respectable 25 saves on 27 shots for a .926 save percentage, but Matt Murray simply outperformed the tandem's dual effort. Murray faced a blistering 48 Predators shots and saved 44 of them.
The penalty kill reached an all-time low tonight, with the Preds only managing to successfully kill one of Pittsburgh's four power play opportunities. It's not like the Penguins are a top five PP team either; they ranked 16th overall with a 19.2 percent conversion rate before tonight.
Mikael Granlund seems to have obtained a knack for scoring goals in games that the team eventually blows. He has six goals so far this season, with just one of those coming during a game which the Preds won. Granlund brought the game to a 4-4 tie with a subsequent pair of gritty, near-net goals after being down 4-2 near the end of the second period- the tying goal being his 100th in the NHL. As they outshot the Penguins 38-19 in the last two periods, you got caught almost believing that this Preds team was capable of an improbable comeback. Then Austin Watson took a boneheaded goaltender interference penalty in the waning minutes of regulation, and that was that.
These Preds, as they so painfully often do, took three steps back after taking one step forward. They let five different Penguins collect multipoint evenings: Bryan Rust (4), Jake Guentzel (3), Evgeni Malkin (3), Juuso Riikola (2), and Alex Galchenyuk (2).
It's the coaching, but it's also the goaltending, the defense, and the special teams. It's easy to say there is no one answer to the problem- except that there is: an utter and complete lack of urgency. If you were to play each postgame Peter Laviolette press conference of this season back to back, taking a shot every time he regurgitates a platitude to the effect of "this game is a wake-up call", you'd be hammered before you got to November. Even the toughest liver would be in the throws of full-blown alcohol poisoning if you managed to get to tonight's press conference.
Would it be bad PR to fire a coach days before a team's first outdoor game in franchise history, let alone the Winter Classic itself? Probably. Would it be even worse PR to hang on to the same increasingly futile coach until you've bottomed out in the division and lost all reputability with your loyal, yet frustrated fans? Without a doubt.
As the Preds prepare to face off against the Dallas Stars in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day, they find themselves in the midst of one of their most tumultuous seasons in recent memory. The Stars are battling hard for a seat at the top of the Central Division, and they're turning in steadily successful games. The Preds- to put it bluntly- are not. To make matters worse, Friday's game in Nashville saw Colton Sissons and Dan Hamhuis go down with injuries.
At least our jerseys are objectively cooler. Hooray for something!