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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville Predators had every piece in place for another long playoff run chasing the Stanley Cup.
So they thought.
Now they have a longer offseason to fix the NHL’s worst power play and the issues that proved so costly in being ousted in the first round for the first time since 2015.
”It is disappointing that for so many people for us to be here today,” general manager David Poile said Wednesday. ”Everything seemed to be in place in my mind. On paper, I believe we had a team that could compete for the Stanley Cup.”
Poile didn’t have any answers for what went wrong when he and coach Peter Laviolette met with reporters. Last summer, the Predators asked Poile to keep their team together after the Presidents’ Trophy winners lost a Game 7 in the second round. Poile said he believed they had reason to give that group another opportunity.
The Predators became the first to repeat as Central Division champs in a decade only to lose in six games to Dallas.
”We targeted this year to be our year, to obviously take another step forward and to get to our ultimate goal of winning the Cup,” defenseman P.K. Subban said. ”Our trajectory sort of went the other way where we went to the Cup Final, then second round and now obviously with a first-round knockout it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Poile said he plans to look at himself and management, Laviolette and his assistants and the players themselves. Laviolette took responsibility for the power play woes and graded himself poorly.
”Our objective is to be successful in the playoffs, so ultimately it’s not good enough,” said Laviolette, who’s under contract through the 2020-21 season.
Some things to know about the Predators going into this offseason:
FIX THE POWER PLAY
Not only were the Predators the NHL’s worst with the man advantage in the regular season, they went 0 for 16 against Dallas. Four power plays came in Game 6, including in the final two minutes of regulation, yet they didn’t convert. Laviolette said he tried everything from switching the assistant in charge of the power play two-thirds of the way through the season, to team meetings and even hired an outside consultant.
The top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson had quite the regular season. Arvidsson set the franchise record with 34 goals in just 58 games due to a broken thumb, while Johansen had a career-high 50 assists. But the trio combined for four points against Dallas, and Arvidsson was held scoreless. The contrast with Dallas’ dominating top line was stark. The JOFA line remains under contract together at least through the 2021-22 season with Arvidsson signed for the next five seasons and Johansen through June 2025.
Poile says he has enough flexibility under the salary cap but didn’t know if he’ll need more this offseason. He will be in touch with the agent for captain Roman Josi on July 1 to start talking about an extension with one season left on his current deal. Nashville has a lot of money tied up already in its defensemen starting with Subban, who’s due $9 million each of the next three seasons. Ryan Ellis is under contract through the 2026-27 season at $6.25 million. Rookie Dante Fabbro, signed at the end of the season once his college season ended, made a strong impression on his entry deal and is expected to get more playing time next season.
Kyle Turris was signed to a six-year deal when Nashville traded for him in November 2017. He had what he called a frustrating season with just 23 points in 55 games, making his $6 million salary very costly for the production the Predators have gotten.
SUBBAN AND TRADE RUMORS
With each offseason, rumors start swirling that Subban will be traded. The defenseman ranked ninth with 31 points but played only 63 games because of an injury. Subban said he understands the responsibility that comes with being the team’s highest-paid player and he knows the business-side of the NHL having been traded once in his career.
”All I can hope is to continue to try to help this team win a championship,” Subban said.
PENDING FREE AGENTS
Poile traded for both Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds to help the power play, which didn’t happen. Now both Boyle, who returned a week after having his appendix removed in the playoffs, and Simmonds will be free agents this summer. Boyle said he’d like to return.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker
What player surprised you most (good or bad) in Round 1?
SEAN: Entering Round 1, there wasn’t a whole lot of confidence in the Calgary Flames goaltending. They had enough talent to get by the Colorado Avalanche despite the up and down play from Mike Smith and David Rittich during the regular season. While they went out in five games, you can’t place any blame on the play of Smith, who posted a .947 even strength save percentage and a .935 high-danger save percentage, via Natural Stat Trick.
JAMES: Johnny Gaudreau, and frankly, the Flames’ top players overall, Matthew Tkachuk included. It’s one thing for Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen to dominate – they tend to do that when they’re even remotely healthy – but Calgary must be stunned by just how severely the strength vs. strength matchups went in Colorado’s favor. The Lightning getting swept was the biggest upset of Round 1, but the Flames’ play was the most upsetting.
ADAM: I almost think I have to go with Warren Foegele, even though I hate — HATE! — the play that knocked T.J. Oshie out of the series and thought he was fortunate to not get suspended for it. But if you would have told me at the start of their Round 1 series with the Washington Capitals that not only would the Hurricanes win, but it would be Foegele that ended up leading the team in goals I would have laughed in your face. He only had 10 goals and 15 total points all season and finished the first round with four goals and six points in only seven games. Totally out of nowhere for me.
JOEY: Jordan Eberle had a tough regular season, but he really came to play in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only did Eberle get his name on the scoresheet at least once in every single game but his team also controlled nearly 54 percent of the shot attempts when he was on the ice. He was also on the ice for 21 high-danger chances for compared to just eight against. The Islanders forward picked a heck of a time to put it all together, as he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. They’ll need him to keep performing at this level if they’re going to make it through to the next round.
SCOTT: Oskar Sundqvist. For a long time, Sundqvist was just that got that got pasted by Tom Wilson in the preseason. After watching him for six games in the series against the Winnipeg Jets, you start to see more than just that nasty hit. Against Winnipeg, he was physical, he produced, adding two goals and two assists in the series, and he played meaningful minutes alongside Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn on the second line (including a five-shot effort in Game 6).
RYAN: Warren Foegele had 10 goals and just 15 points in 77 games in the regular season, but he managed to be a factor in the first round. He had two goals and an assist in Game 3, scored just 17 seconds into Game 4, and chipped in another goal in Game 6. With six playoff points, he’s tied for second place in the Hurricanes’ scoring race, though I don’t expect him to be nearly as effective going forward.
Which Round 2 team do you believe faces the toughest route to the Stanley Cup Final?
SEAN: The most immediate challenge for the Colorado Avalanche is facing a San Jose Sharks team coming off the emotional high of a 3-1 series comeback and an epic Game 7 to advance to Round 2. That could benefit them early on in the series if the Sharks are still riding those emotional waves. But if Good Martin Jones is what we’re going to see, then the Avs are in for a challenge. The Blues and Stars would pose a similar challenge in going up against stingy defense and good goaltending. Plus there’s the change in play at how the Blues have played since January and the Stars finally finding an identity under Jim Montgomery down the stretch.
JAMES: The Blue Jackets, by a hair. I don’t think you can emphasize enough how unlikely that Lightning sweep was. We can dig through reasons all day, yet Columbus played at a high level — and the Blue Jackets had to. Next, they face a focused, versatile, and dangerous Bruins team. While a would-be third-round opponent seems less foreboding on paper, Columbus still isn’t in a spot to take anyone lightly. The West is likely to provide a robust opponent in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, too. There are plenty of other arguments because there aren’t many easy outs in this tournament (if Colorado goes deep, they’ll have a case), but the Blue Jackets get my vote.
ADAM: Honestly it is still probably the Blue Jackets for me, just because I think they have to play the most complete team still standing in Round 2. This was always going to be their issue for me in the playoffs, the fact they got stuck in the hardest bracket and that even if they got through Tampa Bay, they were going to have to face another top team in the very next round. If they get through this they will have more than earned their spot in the Eastern Conference Final and it would probably be one of the most impressive postseasons runs we have seen in quite some time.
JOEY: I have to go with the Carolina Hurricanes. Yes, they knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first round, but all that did was get them a date with one of the stingiest teams in the league. That’s not to say that Carolina can’t beat the Islanders over seven games, but their journey to the next round definitely won’t be an easy one. Also, if they do find a way to win their second-round series, they’ll have Columbus or Boston waiting for them in the next round. No matter what happens though, they’re playing with house money at this point.
SCOTT: Columbus. Sorry, but can lightning strike twice? The Bruins are going to grind much harder than Tampa, and they likely know that they’re the frontrunners now with Tampa gone and the rest of the division winners. That’s going to provide some extra steam in the engine. Can Columbus beat Boston? After Round 1, anything can be done. But if we’re talking toughest route to the Cup, it’s got to be the team that has to knock off the first- and second-ranked teams in the NHL to get there. It’s an incredible tale to tell if they do.
RYAN: The Avalanche. Although Martin Jones continues to give me pause, I still believe the Sharks are ultimately going to win the Stanley Cup and the Avalanche will have to go through them to get any further. Even if the Avalanche manage to pull off that, they’ll have to face the winner of the Stars-Blues series. The Blues are a great all-around squad while the Stars have an elite offensive core supported by a Vezina Trophy finalist in goal, so either of those teams would make life very difficult for the Avalanche even if they do manage to get past San Jose.
NHL players and coaches were split Wednesday on whether changes are needed to video review protocol a day after a major penalty played a dramatic role in San Jose’s Game 7 victory over Vegas.
Cody Eakin was assessed a major penalty for cross-checking and injuring Joe Pavelski in the third period, and the Sharks responded by scoring four times on the ensuing five-minute power play to set themselves up to win in overtime. The major was assessed after officials discussed the incident on the ice and a bloodied Pavelski was helped off the ice.
The Golden Knights were livid about the call, since Pavelski was not injured by the cross check. The NHL declined comment Wednesday, but the incident was surely discussed at league headquarters.
The league for five years has debated expanding video review beyond goals. There remains no consensus on potential changes.
”We’ve been saying that forever,” said Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour, whose team also dealt with a questionable major penalty given to Micheal Ferland in Game 2 against Washington. ”The game’s too fast. It’s hard on refs. I don’t know how they do it. I watch it live and sometimes I think the same thing they do and then I get to sit there and stare at a (tablet) and I can go, ‘It’s obviously the wrong call.’ So, I think they’re heading to that. The NHL has got to sit down.”
Eakin cross-checked Pavelski off a faceoff, and the Sharks captain bounced off Vegas forward Paul Stastny before his head hit the ice and blood pooled underneath him. Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said one of the referees told him it was a cross-check to the face. Series supervisor Don VanMassenhoven afterward said the officials judged it to be a penalty causing a significant injury and deemed it worthy of a major. The Sharks trailed 3-0 at the time and won 5-4 in overtime to advance to the second round.
There have only been two major penalties – not counting fighting – so far in the playoffs after 27 in the regular season. They are not subject to video review, which is limited to the puck going in or not on a goal or coach challenges for goaltender interference or offside, which have been around the past four seasons.
Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault after the game wondered: ”Why don’t you have hockey replay or something?” because it drastically altered the game.
The topic was broached as recently as March by league general managers after the missed pass interference in the NFL playoff game between the Saints and Rams prompted changes by the NFL.
Officials are ”only allowed to look at coaches challenges,” senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said at the time. ”We asked the managers, ‘Should they look at everything?”’
Not everyone is convinced. Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said slow-motion replays can distort what happens on the ice at full speed, and teammate Brett Connolly isn’t on board with adding to what’s already reviewed.
”I think that’s kind of the refs’ discretion,” Connolly said. ”I think you’ve got to let the refs make that call. I don’t know. It’s tough. You don’t want to be reviewing every play.”
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in San Jose, California, contributed.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
- The Washington Capitals blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads to drop Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Former Capitals player and frequent Game 7 star Justin Williams played a big role in Carolina’s 2OT winning goal.
- With Carolina’s victory, all four Wild Card teams have advanced to Round 2.
Hurricanes 4, Capitals 3 [2OT] (CAR wins 4-3)
The Capitals got off to a terrific start. Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson scored in the first 6:23 minutes of the contest, but rather than fall apart, the Hurricanes dug in. It wasn’t until 2:56 of the third period when the Hurricanes caught up thanks to a Jordan Staal goal. Washington battled hard for the rest of the third period, but once overtime started the game was all Carolina until finally they broke through when Brock McGinn tipped in a Jason Williams shot. With that, the defending Stanley Cup champions are done and a franchise that last made the playoffs in 2009 is going to Round 2.
1. Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes.
He got the series-winning goal and registered an assist on Teuvo Teravainen‘s marker. This was the 25-year-old’s first playoff series and prior to it he had 36 goals in 240 career regular season games. Of those 36 goals, only two were game-winners.
2. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes.
Assisted on three of the Hurricanes’ four goals. He also led both teams with 38:27 minutes of ice time in the 2OT contest. He finished the series with nine assists in seven games.
3. Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals.
Got the scoring started just 2:13 minutes into the contest off a superb steal. It was his first goal of the series.
One goal Dougie Hamilton will be happy is forgotten
It didn’t end up defining the game, but Alex Ovechkin outplayed Hamilton on this goal. If Washington won this game, this goal might have been a big part of the story.
Factoids of the night
Remaining NHL teams, last Cup:
San Jose never
St. Louis never
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 25, 2019
While this is only the #Hurricanes 4th playoff appearance since 2001, they are now 10-2 in series during that span including 4-0 in the 1st round and 8-0 between Rounds 1 & 2 series combined
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) April 25, 2019
Game 1: Blue Jackets at Bruins, 7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 1: Stars at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN