An uneasy off-season begins for Predators with Nashville’s 2-1 loss to Phoenix
The Nashville Predators did all they could but score in a 2-1 loss on Monday night to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes win the series 4-1 and move on to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history. Phoenix will play the Los Angeles Kings for a chance to compete in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Two second period goals were enough for the Coyotes to get past Nashville in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal picked up the tallies for Phoenix. Colin Wilson scored his first goal of the postseason to cut the Coyotes lead to one late in the third period, but Nashville was unable to find the equalizer.
The Predators entered the postseason as one of the Western Conference favorites. The handshakes were barely finished before the ‘what ifs’ began.
“We had some great chances,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “We rang one off the post, we had a secondary chance off the side. [Alexander] Radulov pushed it over the other side of the net and there was an open net. I think [Roman] Josi shot it into their guy sliding. So, it’s sort of the way the series went, we just couldn’t bury our chances.”
The Predators were seen as winners at the NHL’s trade deadline, bringing in Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad. The Predators had also traded for Hal Gill, and before the end of the season brought Radulov back into the fold. But at the end of their postseason, the Predators ended right where they did a season ago, losers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
“The Nashville Predators are committed to winning, and that was with the ‘all in’ factor. We’re past the expansion stage, we’re past that, and you’ve got to go through these hard lessons sometimes. Chemistry is a delicate thing. As I say, sometimes you can add skill or talent and all that. Does it come together at the right time? Or does it not come together at the right time? You can be a chemistry professor all you want, but you’re dealing with human beings and the human factor on both sides,” Trotz explained.
With the end of the season comes a renewed sense of urgency in dealing with star players without a contract for next year, most notably, Ryan Suter.
“You don’t think this is how the year is going to end. The power play couldn’t get a goal when we needed one. We just couldn’t bury our chances. We had a lot of chances,” Suter said after the game.
When asked whether he has thought about his future, the defenseman was brief.
“No,” he replied.
Pressing the issue, Suter was asked if he wanted to be back in a Nashville uniform.
“Right now, I am kind of disappointed with how tonight went, and I haven’t really thought about it.”
Unrestricted free agents are free to sign with whatever team they choose starting on July 1, 2012.
Suter is not the only high-end talent Nashville needs to re-sign. Among others, Shea Weber and Alexander Radulov are both restricted free agents.
An uncertain, and even uncomfortable, off-season for the Nashville Predators has officially begun.
*special thanks to the Coyotes PR department.