Martel Mailbag – Dissecting Game 1, Preds physicality, and the nuclear option?

It’s that time again for another Martel Mailbag! 

After an interesting week that included a shutout exhibition win over Dallas and a penalty-laden Game 1 loss to the Coyotes, Nashville faces a must-win in Game 2 to even the series up without facing the prospect of having to win three straight games to advance to the next round.

What concerned most of us, however, was the fashion in which the Predators fell behind during Game 1 before climbing back and nearly tying it. 

Seven penalties (six of which I thought were avoidable), poor defensive coverage, and an apparent lack of mental acuity after the first five minutes helped Arizona climb to a 3-0 lead over a span of eight minutes in the first.

The third period provided a lot of promise for Predators fans, but we’ve been here plenty of times before — showing plenty of promise at the end of a game and not following through with it in the next one.

What can we expect next?

What most impressed you about Arizona’s performance in Game 1? Do you think the Preds are more focused on internal adjustments as they prepare for Game 2 or adjusting to what the Coyotes did in Game 1? – Matt D.

I thought the Coyotes did a fantastic job of withstanding the initial five-minute push from Nashville on the opening puck drop and stuck with it until they lucked out from a fluky double-bounce into the Predators net.

And then, rather unsurprisingly, they upped their pressure and were awarded with two more goals in a rather quick span.

Nashville, on the other hand, had no answer for Arizona’s full-court press after going down 1-0, which is incredibly disconcerting. They took stupid penalties and continuously shot themselves in the foot. The Coyotes just did what any smart team would do — they took advantage of obvious mistakes.

Based on some of the comments from their media interviews today, I’d say the Predators know quite well what they did wrong and what they need to do better for Game 2. Personally, I believe they’re more focused on the internal corrections than adjusting anything to change their approach regarding the Coyotes.

When they played well in Game 1, they dominated Arizona. It just didn’t happen for a full sixty minutes. Same song, different dance, like usual.

Other teams are saying Nashville doesn’t scare them because they aren’t physical enough. Is this a fatal flaw with the roster when it comes to playoff hockey? – Phillip D.

Very much so. One of the things that I’ve often wondered over the past couple of years is if the change in physicality was a shift in team-oriented on-ice strategy, but I doubt that’s ever been the case. I can’t see a single coach ever telling a player to not be physical against the opposition.

So what’s wrong? Is there an underlying fear that being overly physical would hamper their ability to maintain puck possession and offensive zone time? I’d be more willing to believe something like that would be the case for Nashville.

For the last handful of seasons, this team has prided itself on its ability to be one of the best puck possession teams in the NHL and, when they don’t have the puck, prying it away from the opposition. Unfortunately in just the last couple of years, they’ve had trouble keeping up with other teams that have increased their overall level of physicality.

Dallas took advantage of it big time last season in its first-round series against Nashville.

Until the Predators dig a little deeper and start putting forward more of a physical presence during the playoffs — and we won’t talk about the regular season now, we’ll touch on that down the road — it could be one and done, or at the very best not advancing into or past the semifinals.

Will this team get blown up this offseason? Also was John Hynes the wrong hire? – Kristofer G.

This seems to be a normal question that I get every year when the season is nearly over for Nashville and every year I normally say the same thing — nope.

It’s not to say that there won’t be changes to the team. I would say with about 90 percent certainty that one of either Mikael Granlund or Craig Smith won’t be on the roster next year, mostly just a money issue and Predators general manager David Poile probably having a near-impossible time trying to sign both to good contracts.

The majority, however, will return to Nashville’s line-up. Poile has never — and I mean never — been one to just shrug his shoulders, ship all of his high-money, high-talent players out for draft picks, and perform a full rebuild.

As for the question about Hynes, I think the jury is largely still out on that one. We can’t really judge what he’s done so far with the Predators after 28 regular season and one postseason game. That wouldn’t be fair.

Let’s revisit that question after next season. Then I can tell you whether or not it was a good idea or not.

Top Five Current Bourbon Power Rankings – Dr. B 

I really love getting questions about bourbon and I keep getting more of them, but I’m going to keep this one short for this week. So, if you’re a Predators fan and need to drown your sorrows in alcohol, namely bourbon, this list is for you:

5) Weller Antique 107

4) Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel

3) Midwinter Night’s Dram

2) Weller Full Proof

1) Nashville Barrel Company Straight Rye Whiskey

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Thanks for the questions this week, folks! We’ll run another mailbag next week. If you have questions, send them to me on Twitter @kmartel_sports and use the hashtag #MartelMailbag or email them to me at kmartel.sports@gmail.com!

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