It's was a year ago last Thursday that the Nashville Predators dropped Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinal 1-0 to the Vancouver Canucks. Playing their first-ever game past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Predators didn't show up for two of the three periods against the Canucks and it more than frustrated head coach Barry Trotz.
After the game, he tore into his team after a lackluster effort:
"The biggest disappointment you can have is when you have an expectation from someone who you want to go to war with every night, and they're letting you down," Trotz said. "Too many passengers, not enough guys pulling on the rope. I mean we're in the conference semifinal. Are you kidding me? Not acceptable."
Nashville would win Game 2 in double overtime before falling in six games.
Fast forward a year later, Trotz could have used that same speech after the first two games of the Predators' second-round series with the Phoenix Coyotes, a series they find themselves down 2-0 and heading home for Game 3 on Wednesday night.
In fact, he sort of did.
"There are guys that haven't contributed in any significant way in the last couple games here, be it scoring chances, be it defensive play, be it momentum, be it physicality, all the things. … It's just not good enough. We just have to up our game, plain and simple."
Pekka Rinne has allowed nine goals in the opening two games. He'd allowed that many in the entire five-game series against the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round. The defense in front of him has had too many breakdowns. The offense couldn't get that goal when it needed it. Alex Radulov has been pedestrian and Keith Jones of NBC showed everyone during Game 2 just exactly how. David Legwand ... well, David Legwand didn't help things either.
And now they have to put aside the distraction of the Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn suspensions and find a way to avoid facing a quick elimination on Friday night. (Of course, forcing Trotz to now mix up his previously unsuccessful lines from the first two games might force a jolt offensively.)
In the span of two nights, the Predators have gotten away from who they were through 87 games this season: defensively responsible and sound, with timely goal scoring. The only example of a team-first mentality they've shown this week has been their failure to keep the puck out of their own net. Trotz and his players have stressed a renewed commitment to finding their defensive identity again.
In the playoffs, mistakes are magnified. Taking an opponent too lightly can make your summer arrive earlier than anticipated. It's desperation time for the Predators. GM David Poile didn't make some aggressive personnel moves -- including Radulov and Kostitsyn -- this season for things to be derailed this way. Radulov's and Kostitsyn's absences can become the storyline for the pregame build-up, but as Trotz desired a year ago, Nashville needs more than a couple of players to pull the rope and drag the Predators back into this series.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy