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Nashville Predators

Predators-Canucks Series A Story Of Relentlessness vs. Resiliency



Photo of Luke Evangelista, right, by John Russell/Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators suffered a heartbreaking loss Sunday night to the Vancouver Canucks after giving up a 3-1 lead with under three minutes remaining in regulation to lose less than a minute into overtime.

The mental errors and poor defensive-zone coverage that led to a blown two-goal lead were virtually unfathomable with just minutes to go in regulation.

The Predators players were understandably shell-shocked during postgame. Forward Gustav Nyquist was at a loss for words, but I’m not sure what could have been said in such a moment. Nyquist was straight forward and short in his responses.

“Yeah, we like our game, I think for the most part of this series, especially here at home,” he said. “There’s lot to like in our game, and we’ve just got to flush it and keep going.”

Roman Josi, with fresh stitches in his right ear, was equally firm in his reflection.

“Yeah, I thought for 55 minutes we played really well,” Josi added. “Even in the third period I thought we, obviously 2-1 lead, we get a goal early. I felt like we kept pushing, kept being aggressive. We didn’t give them much. We couldn’t get that fourth goal and, obviously, crazy ending. They score two with the empty net and then quick in OT. But yeah for 55 minutes I thought we played a really good hockey game.

“…I feel like we’ve been getting better and better in this series. I thought tonight was our best game probably. We definitely deserved to win the game, but once we go on that plane to Vancouver, we’ve got to forget about this one.”

Down the hall, the Canucks’ locker room was in much higher spirits after completing the thought-to-be impossible comeback based on the way the Predators were playing and how the game had played out through the evening.

But Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet spoke to reporters as if he’d just lost the game.

“Well, I mean listen, they played really well the last two games,” he said in response to Nashville Hockey Now’s question about what he learned during the two games at Bridgestone Arena. “Nashville, who’s kidding who? We had some moments the last two games where we hung in there, but we definitely have to correct some things.

“You know, I’m trying to be as honest as possible. I’m happy for the guys, I’m happy, but we know we got to play better. We’ve got to get some guys going, you got to start to win some battles. I mean, it’s not about hitting, it’s about actually holding on to pucks and winning battles because they play a style, if you can win some battles you’re going to get some looks. But if not, you’re not going to get looks, so I think that’s what it comes down to.

“We’ve got to get some guys to understand that. You’ve got to start to really, you’ve got to step up your game a little bit, you have to. If we, you know, because they’re going to play like this again. They’re coming into Game 5, they’re not changing. I know Bruno, he’s a hell of a coach. His gameplan is there. They’re sending three at us, and if we’re not ready for it, you know, we might not be able to be as resilient next game.”

That term resilient stood out, in particular.

Especially since it’s similar to relentless — the Predators M.O. since their 18-game point streak from mid-February to mid-March.

Tocchet elaborated and gave further context to why that phrase is near and dear to his players.

“Before we started the playoffs, I asked a couple guys what word would you describe this team all year and you now we wanted to put it on a t-shirt or our hoodies, and they said resilient,” Tocchet stated. “So that, that’s our word. So that word, tonight, on that t-shirt, that word for us, it’s been like that all year. Certain spots we’ve been put in, somehow we get out of them. Might not look pretty, you know, like tonight wasn’t pretty, and we got out of it somehow.”

To my knowledge, the Canucks never actually had shirts or hoodies made with the term resilient on them, but the Predators did have something similar done with their relentless mantra.

Relentlessness is never wavering, while the Predators’ resolve has undoubtedly wavered. 

The Predators will need to find this self-defined relentless mentality in Vancouver as they now face elimination in Game 5.

As Tochett has pointed out, Brunette’s system will not change. His gameplan is there. Absent last-minute injuries, the lineup should (and probably will) remain the same with the 20 players that dressed for Game 4 taking the ice in a win-or-go-home situation.

Leading into the second intermission Sunday night, I tweeted:

The Predators personified relentlessness for 17 minutes in the third period, but losing the small battles such as permitting defenseman Quinn Hughes to hold the blue line on the game-tying goal, or the mental lapses such as leaving Brock Boeser wide open at the backdoor on Vancouver’s first and second goals, or leaving Elias Lindholm wide open in the slot on the game-winner proved fatal and overshadowed any sort of mercilessness that may have existed during the first 57 minutes.

Brunette’s responses following the loss were as stoic as usual.

“It happens,” he noted. “This one was tough, especially the way we played, I think, all game, and I really liked our third period. We just kind of broke down and lost a little composure there.”

Echoing Tocchet’s earlier statement about his coaching style, Brunette admitted that because of how Tocchet coaches, the Canucks are going to get their looks offensively. But because of Vancouver’s pressure, the Predators need to start cashing in on their chances.

“I think we’ve probably gotten better as the series has moved along, so that’s why it’s a little disappointing that you don’t get rewarded for it,” Brunette added. “Usually when you do the things we’ve been doing if we can clear our mind and go back to work, the hockey gods may give you a little bit of a break here. Because I thought we did a lot of good things in both of these home games. We probably should have at least won one, maybe two.”

Now that the Predators face elimination, Brunette doesn’t deem it necessary to change his message now, especially since the Predators are a few lucky bounces away from being up 3-1 in the series themselves.

“I think the message is always the same; I don’t think it’s changed,” he said. “I think you should feel really good about your game. There’s some things we can learn from, things we can be better. You know, I think the composure late in games and just a little bit of the attention to detail needs to be a little sharper. You know, I say etch-a-sketch. We’ve done a great job, win or lose, we move straight ahead, and we’ve been us the next game. So the next game’s going to just kind of go out and win a game.”

Indeed, the next game is critical. Either the Predators’ season ends or it lives to see another game back in Nashville.

Though I’d second the sentiment felt in the Predators locker room following Sunday’s loss that they were the better team overall, I would like to see the Predators make slight lineup changes, like the ones I proposed going into Game 4.

Perhaps it has, at times, come down to the coaching chess match between Tochett and Brunette, but ultimately, it boils down to the players on the ice.

Game 5 could come down to whether relentlessness or resiliency wins out. Puck drop for Tuesday’s game is 9 p.m. CT.

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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