Over the last five seasons, the Nashville Predators
have been one of the NHL's most successful regular-season franchises in that they have made the playoffs four times -- only three teams have made it all five.
However, the Predators never have advanced beyond the first round. And with the exception of the first season they made it, 2003-04, they have had injuries to key players.
This year, that player happens to be right wing Patric Hornqvist
, whose team-leading 30 goals represented 13.8 percent of Nashville's total of 217 this season. An examination of the Preds' power play reveals how Hornqvist's absence exacerbates the problem: His 10 power-play goals represented 21.3 percent of Nashville's 47 during the regular season.
With Hornqvist having missed Games 2, 3 and 4 with an upper-body injury, should it be any surprise that low-scoring Nashville has been shut out twice and that its power play is 0-for-14 in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks
The series is tied, 2-2, with Game 5 Saturday in Chicago (3 p.m. ET, NBC, TSN, RDS).
Hornqvist skated for the second straight day Friday, but Predators coach Barry Trotz
could not give a definitive upgrade on his status for Saturday's Game 5.
"By tomorrow he might be ready," Trotz said.
Asked to walk a painful road down memory lane, Trotz agreed that Nashville's postseason injury history has perhaps been disproportionate.
Some of injuries have been bizarre -- like goalie Tomas Vokoun
, with a .919 save percentage at the time that ranked fifth in the NHL, coming down with a rare blood disorder that ended his season early, and a concussion suffered by Jason Arnott
after an ebullient Alexander Radulov
injured him during a celebration.
"The two times against San Jose (2006 and 2007), we had too many guys hurt," Trotz said. "And we really couldn't compete against San Jose when they were healthy and we were hurt. We had a lot of key guys out. (David) Legwand, (Martin) Erat and (Jordin Tootoo
) at the time was having a real good series and got hurt."
Vokoun, defenseman Marek Zidlicky
and Steve Sullivan
also missed some, if not all, of those series.
"Those two San Jose series were tough to swallow because we weren't able to see what we had," Trotz said. "Even the year we had (Peter) Forsberg (2007), we had guys hurt. Foppa was a lot more hurt than people knew. Those two series and then last series against Detroit (2008), well, Arnie got hurt real early. And then Legwand did."
Trotz recalled losing Game 5 1-0 to the Red Wings that year and thinking that both Arnott and Legwand would play the next game.
"By about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we didn't have Arnie or Leggie, so we were making up guys who hadn't played center in a while," he said. "So, yeah, we've had key guys (hurt). But they have key guys out, too. We were just unfortunate the last couple of years with some of those key guys -- Rads running over Arnie, stuff like that."
Such is the tough-luck history of the Predators. But they can begin to make a new history for themselves by winning Game 5. They never have won three games in a series.
One way would be to get some production from Arnott, who had a highly productive regular season with 19 goals in 63 games, but has yet to land on the score sheet in this series.
"It's frustrating, no question," Arnott said. "Just to pick up an assist here or there would be really nice. In the playoffs, it's hard not to get on yourself. You have to stay positive and try to do the little things right. Hopefully, pucks will go in.
"For me especially, faceoffs, playing against their top guys, I've got to make sure I'm focused in on doing the little things right and hopefully the points will come."
The power play really has become a trouble spot for Nashville. Failure to convert on a five-on-three in the first period of Game 4 caused a major momentum shift in Chicago's 3-0 win.
Arnott said that maybe the power play failures are starting to become mental.
"It might be," he said after pondering the question for a few seconds. "A goal would be a huge confidence booster for us. I think it would be a huge relief. We've looked at the video and reviewed it and now it's about execution."
Trotz is frustrated by that lack of execution. He said when the coaching staff reviews the power play with the unit, it shows where the openings are. But the Predators are not taking advantage of what Chicago is giving them, Trotz said.
He said if the failure to convert has become mental, then the Predators need to change their mindset.
"If you say it's a mental thing, it's a mental thing," he said. "If you believe it is, it is. I always tell guys all the time, 'You can have a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe the power play isn't working, then it won't work. You can either be the cure of the problem or you can be the problem.'
"Everything you do in life, it starts with the mental approach. If you believe you can do something, you can do it. … When you ask about that -- would we like to score a goal on the power play? Yeah, it would give us a better chance. ... I always say there's portals of opportunity and you have to step through that portal of opportunity to get through to everything else. If you're late getting there or late executing it, then everything will shut down on you and we're just trying to over-think it. We just have to be firm in our convictions and just do it and not try to complicate it."
Getting a healthy Hornqvist back wouldn't hurt, either.