Sunday, April 30, 2006

Game 5, Series, Go to Sharks

So, the Predators wrapped up an impressive season with another frustrating, listless playoff loss to the dominant San Jose Sharks, 2-1. The Predators were outscored 17-10 in the five games, and in the last two playoff games at home, 5-1. It took six combined periods between home games 2 and 5 for the Preds to score one goal. I have never witnessed such futility. I felt dizzy with the amount of time we fans were forced to sit in our seats as scoring opportunities fell by the wayside.

The Predators failed on many counts:

1. Puck Handling.

By far the most frustrating aspect of the entire series was missed passes, whiffed scoring chances, allowing the puck to go outside the zone, and the inability to clear in the defensive zone.

2. Lack of Physicality

Opposing players allowed to stand in premium scoring areas, and a tremendous amount of players allowed to enter certain areas because they are apparently not considered a threat (like behind the net).

3. Lack of Shots

I can't tell you how many times players had open lanes in which to try shots and instead decided to pass, or how many times a player decided to wait too long to shoot so that defensive players could break up the play. Marek Zidlicky had the right idea in the third period--his presence is an absolute must in the Preds scoring schemes and it was good to see him there tonight.

4. Players Coming Off Injuries Had No Business Being There, But It's the Playoffs

Steve Sullivan looked thoroughly confused, disoriented...and plain bad, this entire series. The Preds needed him, but needed a healthy guy. And as must as it warmed my heart to see him play in Game 1, he became a liability. His puck-handling was atrocious in this series. The Preds also had issues with Scott Walker, Zidlicky, David Legwand, and Brendan Witt (there was speculation he was roughed up pretty bad in a Phoenix game late in the year--even so, he gets my vote for Goat of the Series with his bad play and penalty minutes). This all in addition to having no Vokoun, who I think we missed more in Game 4 than anytime else.

5. Overall Lack of Hustle

Sure, there are some usual good players in this area--Walker and Legwand always seem to be trying their best--but in the three games I watched I saw Preds players not going after the puck with any urgency while Sharks guys zoomed in and took it. In other words, the symbolic nature of this entire series. Man, did I love seeing Scott Upshall in Game 5. This dude got me excited more than any other player had this entire series. I can't wait until he's a regular fixture in the lineup. It's gotta be next year.

6. Other

The refs do not get a pass. In addition to the five other points I have, which clearly are the overwhelming reason why the Preds lost this series in 5 games, the refs piled on with their inconsistent calls. Every sport's performance gets the magnifying glass treatment come playoff time, and it never seems to fail that refs also seem to be battling nerves trying to step up on a bigger stage. The last couple of playoffs--baseball and football, were not immune to the Awful Call Syndrome. So with Gary Bettman in the house for many of these games, refs go overboard. The integrity of the games were in serious danger in this series. One of our local hockey analysts made note that hockey is one of the most difficult sports to ref because the game is so fast. I would counter that if that's the case, then why are so many penalties where there isn't any overwhelming evidence being called?

I really don't think that the penalties are being called for what happens during the play, but the aftermath of a play. I think the players are battling what happens in the corner of a ref's eye, which isn't truly focused on the entire play. And as luck would have it, the Preds really didn't get many calls, either. Which makes me wonder if a team's reputation weighs heavily in the decisions--the Preds, one of the most penalized teams in the season, the Sharks, one of the least.

And then, the Preds, with factors #1 and #2 outlined above, got destroyed on the power play.

Oh yeah, by the way--Jordin Tootoo, who often helps out with hitting and drawing penalties, played in Milwaukee's 4-1 win over the Iowa Stars in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs and scored a goal as the Admirals won the series 4-3 and advance. A continued sign of the Preds future are the Ads, who have been storming the AHL for the past three years and have some dudes I'd love to see play regularly for the Preds.

Anyway, more playoff frustration for me personally (Braves, Titans, Preds, among others) and I've gotten far too used to it. It seems like every time one of those teams above make the playoffs, there is always a team better prepared. But of those three major teams above, I have more hope for the Preds than any of them because of the way they run their organization. And here's hoping they improve even that stellar record, because I'd like to never see a playoff series like this again. Next year, peace.


At 5/01/2006 12:20:00 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I'm glad you got to this, because I didn't feel like writting it. It was just too painful, as we discussed at the game. I think a lot of people didn't give us a chance when Vokoun went down, but there isn't a goalie that could have won this series. "Listless" is the right word. We lacked spirit, and I think we weren't prepared. I'll be ready to do it again next year, but right now I'm happy to see it over with.


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