Game 3 was what we have come to expect from the Nashville Predators.
They capitalized early. They were perfect on the penalty kill. They were perfect in goal.
And they were as happy to win 2-0 as 8-0 in front of a rabid home crowd.
They also did it without two of their top six forwards in Alex Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, who were banished to the press box for breaking curfew after a late night escapade in Scottsdale last weekend.
Radulov had skated in 18 minutes a game in the first seven playoff games and still leads the Preds in postseason scoring.
Kostitsyn had added some much needed secondary scoring late in the year to the second line, including a pair of game winners.
It's possible neither will play again in these playoffs.
As Elliotte Friedman pointed out earlier this week, neither player offered much of an apology, with Radulov giving an odd interview with media prior to Game 3 and Kostitsyn a no-show completely.
Fourth-liners Matt Halischuk and Jordin Tootoo came in and played 10 minutes apiece in their absence, but what really happened was others forwards stepped up in the lineup.
Paul Gaustad picked up five more minutes. David Legwand got three. And depth players like Colin Wilson and Brandon Yip were used far more often by coach Barry Trotz.
And their foot soldiers gave them the kind of effort they wanted.
So do you now drop their minutes down, take long-time members of the franchise like Tootoo out of the lineup and bring the supposed game breakers back in?
Radulov and Kostitsyn took part in the morning skate on Friday, but it was revealed afterward that they would in fact stay sitting for Game 4.
"The decision for me was pretty simple: The group that went in there was very committed and got the job done, plain and simple," Trotz said ( via ESPN). "Alex and Andrei are good players; they’re top players. At the same time, I felt the group responded really well and I expect the group to respond again."
While that may seem like an easy decision at first, there are other things to consider.
For one, this decision is about more than this series and this next game. Nashville had high hopes for a Stanley Cup run after dropping out in the second round a year ago, and they still need another seven wins just to get to the finals.
With the stingy Los Angeles Kings looking all but guaranteed to move on in the other Western semi-final, can the Preds afford to keep sitting their scorers when they may need them down the road?
Can they win it all without these two?
Or is it simply better for team unity to move on?
The best bet here is probably for something in between, which is what it appears Trotz is aiming for. Sitting Radulov and Kostitsyn until the team's next loss makes sense, as at that point you can slowly work one or both of them into the lineup if they are committed enough to the cause.
If they aren't then we just may have seen the last of these two in a Predators uniform.
And their little sampling of the nightlife the day before a big game could cost them considerably come contract talks this summer.Report Typo/Error