The Predators will have to play three of the best games they have played this season, with two of them being on the road, to move on to round three. No one in the Predators dressing room or Barry Trotz is ready to roll over and say that it cannot be done.
The Predators have made a career of coming back from completely untenable situations so they are in perfect position for a miracle finish, down 3-1 to the Canucks and facing the possibility of having to win three straight elimination games.
Barry Trotz explained, "I've seen it. I could give you 'coach talk' and say 'we're never out of it,' but I've seen it all year. I've seen it when our backs are against the wall. I've seen it in the playoffs. As our staff calls it, we've been on 'death's doorstep' a couple of times."
"In the Anaheim series we were there and found a way to come back and win. In Vancouver, we were there. We find ways. We've dug ourselves a hole, but we've been in a few holes this year. This group has been doing it all year. All I can say is that we have history with that this year, and with this group. It is a special group for resiliency and backbone."
I hope Trotz is right and that the Preds do have one more miracle run left in them. I want to see hockey in June. I would like to have a chance to exorcise more demons against San Jose. I would like to be in the finals and see the media crush in the basement of Bridgestone Arena. I really would like to see Shea Weber skate the full oval of the rink with the Cup in the air and sport his playoff beard on the cover of NHL 12.
I'm not convinced that any of those things will happen. It would be a tough task for any team to win three in a row against a Vancouver team that appears to be hitting their stride and still hasn't gotten any meaningful scoring from one of the two or three top lines in the NHL.
The Ryan Suter penalty, where he horse-collared Ryan Kesler, was somewhat telling last night and may have been the defining moment in the series. That was a very uncharacteristic move by Suter who is usually calm and collected at all times.
Vancouver has plenty of very irritating players. Alex Burrows is one of the worst pests in the league. Ryan Kesler, while being one of the best players in the league, is not above pushing the limits of the rules at any given time if it gives his team an advantage. His "chicken wing" move that drew the penalty in game three is fairly typical.
Last night, Kesler getting his stick up in Mike Fisher's face and having a no-call by the officials was Ryan Suter's breaking point. He admitted after the game that it was a mistake. Trotz was surprised by the move too saying, "You have to have composure. You don't know what's going to change the course of a game."
One of the biggest losses of the evening last night was losing Jerred Smithson at the end of the first period during a huge scrum when he received an "upper body" injury from a punch to the nose from Kesler. That was a more specific assessment from a television commentator than the Preds would admit but it does seem to make sense.
J. P. Dumont may replace Smithson in the lineup but is not capable of replacing Smithson on the ice. The Preds need players that have grit and are willing go toe to toe on battles in the corners and in front of the net. J.P. is not known for those characteristics.
So there it is. The Nashville Predators are in position for a storybook finish and once of the greatest miracle comebacks of the year. I'd love to be able to write about it. It will have to start at Rogers Arena tomorrow at 7 p.m. CDT. Let's drop the puck and see what happens.
Preds-Canucks Game Four Round-Up...
Here is our game story from last night with post game video.
Josh Cooper had his game story, notes column, and postgame ponderings.
Jim Diamond touches on Alain Vigneault firing back at Barry Trotz after the game.
David Boclair has his story at The City Paper as well as an extended notes column..
Adrian Dater has a great account of the game at Sports Illustrated.
John Manasso has his thoughts on the game at FS TN.
Joe Biddle looks at the Preds' failed chances.
From the blog world reports come from Amanda DiPaolo, Mark Willoughby, Jeremy Gover, Predatorial, Fang Finger Fever, Preds Light District, and Hockey Night in Nashville.
The Green men made a brief cameo with Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban.
The other side of the story comes from all the fine media links in the right column.
Audio from the Predators comes from Ryan Suter, Patric Hornqvist, Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and Joel Ward. From Vancouver comes Alain Vigneault, Ryan Kesler, Christian Ehrhoff, and Dan Hamhuis.
Here are the highlights from NHL.com.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass