NASHVILLE — So what’s worse?
Falling off the tightrope three steps from the end? Or never climbing the ladder at all?
The Ducks limped their way out of Bridgestone Arena, the loudest and happiest roadhouse in Nashville on Monday night.
Their 17-game run toward the Stanley Cup had been adjourned by the Predators, 6-3, although it was tied 3-3 until Colton Sissons scored his third goal of the game with six minutes left. Nashville won in six games and plays either Ottawa or Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the Final on May 29.
When you don’t make the playoffs whatsoever, you normally see the end coming long before it arrives. When you get eliminated in the playoffs, particularly when the series was 2-2 just 96 hours ago, it’s an emergency brake.
Terry Francona, the manager of the Indians, used to relate those endings to running into a brick wall. There’s a concussive effect to the spirit.
“That’s how it goes, you capitalize on your opportunities, and when you don’t, the game is over and the season is over,” Andrew Cogliano said. “To go out like that, it’s a joke.”
The Ducks went out in the most enervating way possible. They were by far the better team in Game 6 from create to crease. If they gave out awards on style points, they would be heading back to Honda Center for Game 7 on Wednesday. But the league goes by goals, and Nashville got four pucks past Jonathan Bernier and needed only 16 shots to do it (the fifth and sixth goals went into an empty net).
Meanwhile, the Ducks ranked 41 shots on goal, had 22 others blocked and missed the net 10 times. They launched 73 pucks toward Pekka Rinne. Nashville shot only 35 more times. So much for Corsi and Fenwick, the metrics that measure such things. Of course, the Kings led the league in Corsi this year. Monday night was Christmas in May for their fans, since it marked the Ducks’ demise, but the Kings themselves never got to Game 1.
It’s difficult to justify copping a plea. Nashville didn’t have Ryan Johansen, who left the arena in an ambulance after Game 4. Johansen did show up Monday night with his crutches, and that brought the loudest boom for the fans, who had also celebrated Trisha Yearwood’s rendition of the National Anthem.
But the Ducks borrowed a Yearwood lyric: “Don’t come cryin’ to me.” In the end they were missing wingers Rickard Rakell and Patrick Eaves. Only 12 players in the NHL regular season scored more goals than Rakell (34), who had 13 points in the 15 playoff games he played. Only 16 players in the NHL regular season scored more goals than Eaves (32).
Then John Gibson (hamstring) couldn’t get through the morning skate and gave way to Jonathan Bernier, who had never started a playoff game even though he’s played 255 times in the regular season. The first Nashville goal went off Brandon Montour’s skate and past him. The other three weren’t easy, but at least a couple could have been stopped, at least by a Western Conference championship-caliber…