Coming in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Predators apparently had laid the groundwork for a salvation effort that would see them traveling to the Stanley Cup Final again, and possibly even snag the hardware at that time.
They owned the best record in the regular season, owned the soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner and trotted out the best defensive corps in the NHL in the opinion of many.
And They had the encounter. You must lose before you can win, right? At least based on sports’ publication of unwritten rules.
— #BelieveInTheJets Nation (@NHLJetsNation) May 11, 2018
Nashville had a deep team, capable of scoring, protecting and quitting aims — a group bred for success and with a roster chalk full of resumes to back it up — and better than almost anyone.
Virtually, because on Thursday night that the Predators’ season, with all its expectations, the hopes and dreams and everything they had learned from a year ago, ceased to exist.
“I feel very much responsible for our season end at this stage,” Rinne said on Thursday after allowing two first-period targets and getting pulled in record-time only 10:47 to the opening frame. “Tough to swallow, tough to comprehend. I can’t point anything out. Felt great, and no injuries and totally healthy. But overall ups and downs through the playoffs. The greatest moment of the season, it is a terrible feeling. You let your teammates down, and that is what happened tonight. That’s difficult to swallow.”
Rinne, 35 and scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after next year, fought at times and was on fair (save for Game 6) in the others.
In Bridgestone Arena, where Nashville was so great during the regular campaign, Rinne was at his worst, losing three of our in the show — pulled twice (and three times total) — and submitting a horrendous.
Nashville Predators had their first home game 7 in franchise history & failed to live up to expectation
“Critics who wish to criticize (Rinne) do not know what they are talking about,” Subban stated because he vehemently defended his goaltender. “I do not care if they played in the NHL or not. He is the backbone of the hockey team. He is one of the primary reasons why we are here. Could we have been better tonight? Yeah. We did not do enough. I felt at times they had their entire team going; we did not. I believe everyone could have played better, could have given more. I am sick and tired of people constantly talking about (Rinne).
— #BelieveInTheJets Country (@NHLJetsNation) May 11, 2018
The NHL has had 171 game sevens in league history, and house teams are currently 101-71 all-time in them. This was Nashville’s third game seven in franchise history overall, and the first in the home. But home wasn’t where the heart was for Nashville in this sequence.
In the early going in game seven, the Jets put the pressure on and kept it there,
jumping on Nashville and forcing Predators goalie Pekka Rinne to be hauled in the first phase.
The hook was fast because the goals were so soft. The opener started things moving in the wrong direction on a terrible error from the usually stout Rinne.
Stasny assisted Tyler Myers’ opener and could score his second goal on a power play in the third period to genuinely put the game out of reach. Mark Scheifele’s empty-netter 17:27 to the third was salt in the wound of an outcome which was purely academic at the moment.
The Jets were competitive all day, and the Predators bumbled — particularly in the neutral zone.