Now’s the time, plain and simple…

Whether this team is ready for the playoffs will be answered tonight.

Period.

After the embarrassing debacle that was last night, the Nashville Predators have the rare opportunity to come right back 24 hours later and use that embarrassment as motivation. The Preds play guest to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center. Puck drops at 9:00pm Central.

Playoff-ready teams overcome adversity and excel in clutch situations. Playoff-ready teams know how to move on from a bad loss and not fold under pressure. Playoff-ready teams listen to their coaches and buy-in to what they’re trying to do.

In a nut shell: if they blow away Anaheim tonight and show no mercy in doing it, Nashville is a playoff-ready team. If they come out flat or listless, especially in the first, put a fork in them cause they’re done.

Predators blogger Mark Willoughby probably said it best in his blog this morning: “The first 40 minutes of this game were exquisite hockey. You stunk it up in the last 20. Beyond anything I could imagine. I’m disgusted with the performance in the third period.”

If this was an isolated incident against a superior team than fine. But it wasn’t. It’s becoming a trend for the Predators. Last Sunday afternoon, they lead Vancouver 2-1 heading into the third period but let the Canucks come back and beat them in regulation, getting nothing out of their solid two periods. Then, on the road in Atlanta on Tuesday night, Nashville dominated the opening stanza to take a 2-0 lead but came out flat in the second and third periods, almost saying to themselves “this is Atlanta. We got this in the bag.” Unfortunately they were right, setting themselves up for a disaster against the Western Conference’s best team on Thursday.

And, once the final 20 minutes started, a disaster it was. In the first two periods, Nashville looked like a completely different team than the one we’re used to seeing in Music City. They were peppering the San Jose net with shots, they were making all the right decisions and — *gulp* – they actually had constant pressure on the power play. But then the second intermission was over and the Sharks came out flying.

And the Preds didn’t.

They came out overconfident and lackluster, just as they had five days ago against Vancouver and just as they had two nights ago in Atlanta. In both cases where they were playing better teams, it came back to bite them.

There is absolutely no excuse for the Preds to lose that game after being in complete control through two periods of play. I don’t want to hear that the Sharks are an offensive powerhouse. I don’t want to hear that Nashville had two unfortunate goal review calls go against them at critical points of the game. And I certainly don’t want to hear that the Hockey Gods just weren’t on their side tonight. All of that is bull and doesn’t help win hockey games.

Yes, the Sharks are a potent offensive team and, when given the opportunity, they can sink anyone. But when you’re leading 4-2 and playing your best hockey of the season for the first two-thirds of the game, there is no excuse to be arrogant when you leave the locker room on your way out for the third. I don’t care if you’re playing the Edmonton Oilers. This is the NHL and you’re going to get burned with that attitude.

Yes, the Preds did have two unfortunate (read: “wrong”) goal reviews go against them. One in the second period when Dustin Boyd had his left leg kicked by Kent Huskins and the puck went in, later called no-goal because of a “distinct kicking motion.” And then later in the third period when Sharks forward Manny Malhotra turned his right skate to angle the puck in but accidently picked it up off the ice and kicked it in, later ruled a good goal because there was no “distinct kicking motion.” The bottom line is calls don’t go the way you’d like them to in almost every game. You need to get over them and play through them because all that matters is the final score.

And no, I’m not even going to consider the Hockey Gods notion.

Twitter user @racheladdison tweeted that maybe the Preds needed this loss as a necessary failure to energize them for the postseason. Well that’s what’s going to have to happen if they even want a prayer of making the playoffs. They need to take last night’s loss, let it piss them off, and then harness that energy and come out flying – for all 60 minutes – against the Ducks tonight.

And then against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

And then against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

And then against…

One Comment

  1. Robby

    March 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    100% agreement. It’s time to see whether or not this team has enough heart and self respect.