Nashville Predators couldn't buy a goal in Game 2 playoff loss — and that's the problem
Money can buy a lot of things. Goals for the Predators don't appear to be one of those things.
The more things changed with the Nashville Predators’ lineup Wednesday, the more things stayed the same.
Eeli Tolvanen and Brad Richardson were in for Game 2 of the first round series against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, North Carolina. Calle Jarnkrok, who was sick, and Mathieu Olivier were out. Defenseman Matt Benning also made his first appearance of the series in place of Ben Harpur.
Not to mention Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis were split up on defense.
Those names aside, two that matter the most — Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene — and make the most were nowhere to be found. Two $8 million-a-year men who have not been the big players making big plays in big games.
"There's a lot of discussion about lineup changes," Hynes said before Wednesday's 3-0 loss that put his team behind 0-2, "but there are guys that I'm sure you expect ... to be big-time players in big-time games and drive the team, and that's the expectation."
An expectation that hasn't been met during the last two seasons, let alone the first two games of this series.
Johansen, who had seven goals and 15 assists in 48 regular-season games, tried to show some fight less than six minutes into the second when he exchanged a few blows with Andrei Svechnikov and encouraged him with a few taunts of "Let's go!"
The only place either went was to the penalty box with matching roughing minors. Johansen finished with one shot on goal. And the Predators boarded a private charter for Nashville.
"That's how sports is; that's how championship teams win," Johansen said after Wednesday's game. "The big boys do big things on the ice. Obviously down 0-2, our group can do more, including myself."
Duchene, who had six goals and seven assists in 34 regular-season games, played just 10:38, second-to-last on the team in Game 1. He played 17:23 Wednesday and managed four shots on goal.
So the Predators have had to rely on the Juuse Saroses and Mikael Granlunds and Jarnkroks to help Josi and Filip Forsberg and Arvidsson.
Whoever the Predators throw out there won't much matter unless the Johansens and Duchenes do their jobs.
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Unless the Predators can do better than 0-for-10 on the power play, including 0-for-7 Wednesday, when they allowed six shorthanded shots on goal while managing just 10 while they had a man advantage.
"There's a lot of belief," Hynes said. "Sometimes it's how you get here. We had to fight to get here. We had to scratch and claw. We had to play in adversity, we had to coach in adversity, we had to manage in adversity. You had to block out the noise.
"We didn't get here because we were the darlings of the league. ... We believe in what we do. We're a little more of a hardened group, whether that's accepting criticism or having to win."
The Predators need to win now more than at any point this season. They need to start scoring power-play goals.
The time for talking and learning is running out.
Believing is the standard. Seeing is fact.
Teams that have lost the first two games of NHL playoff series are 51-330 in those series.
We'll see from the Predators in Friday's Game 3 and Sunday's Game 4 whether their money players can buy them more time in this series.
Reach Paul Skrbina at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.