The Nashville Predators dropped Game 1 to the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-3 double overtime loss on Wednesday night. There are a lot of reasons as to why the Predators disappointingly lost the game, despite having a 3-0 lead after the first period.
Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling was fantastic in relief of Corey Crawford, stopping all 42 shots in 67:44 of play; the Predators were without second line center Mike Fisher (lower-body injury) for a majority of the game; arguably, the referees cheated Nashville of a few calls, none more prominent than a Duncan Keith breakaway trip on Taylor Beck with under five minutes left in the first overtime; and Nashville unsurprisingly continued to be absent in the second period.
However, it is Predators head coach Peter Laviolette who should carry much of the blame for the team’s Game 1 loss.
A timeout in the NHL is the most underrated, effective coaching tool. It allows the coaching staff to round up the players to figure out a way to regroup. It is not like the NFL, where there is three timeouts a half, so an NHL coach has to use his timeout effectively.
Laviolette is famous for his timely timeouts. It began with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals in a series against the Boston Bruins. Trailing 3-0 in the first period of Game 7, Laviolette called a timeout that motivated the Flyers enough to pull off a 4-3 comeback win.
Nashville has seen several of Laviolette’s timely timeouts this season that proved to amount good results. The most notable timeout turned victory was against the Bruins on December 16.
From The Tennessean:
When the Predators are not playing well, Laviolette is not afraid to stop the game with the only bench timeout afforded in a hockey game.
This time, it came during the second period with the Predators trailing 1-0.
“I was mad, hoping they were mad, too.” Laviolette said. “What’s impressive is the response by the players.”
Boston’s Milan Lucic had scored two minutes earlier as part of a sluggish start to the second period. It was a period where the Bruins ultimately outshot the Predators 15-11.
The Predators went on to defeat the Bruins 3-2.
Lately, however, Laviolette has pocketed his timeouts when they are most needed.
Prior to the playoffs, Nashville blew leads in three of its last five regular season games. Despite the Predators’ lead being decreased or erased, Laviolette did not use a timeout in that stretch to help slow down the other team’s momentum. Oddly enough, the Preds ended up losing the three games they should have won.
The questionable strategy carried over to the postseason for Game 1. Though Chicago scored three unanswered goals in the second period to tie the game, Laviolette did not take a timeout to hit the reset button.
The best time for Laviolette to have taken a timeout was at 12:53 of the second period when the Blackhawks were pressuring in their offensive end, and the Predators still had a 3-2 lead. Moments later, Mattias Ekholm went to the penalty box for cross-checking, and Jonathan Toews potted the game-tying goal at 13:50.
A timeout at 12:53 likely would have changed the game, but I guess we will never know. It is time for Laviolette to use his timeouts. You can’t bring them home with you.
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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.