SAN JOSE, Calif. – Shea Weber took the blame for his poor Game 7 performance.
He knew after his Nashville Predators were downed 5-0 by the San Jose Sharks that only he could answer for his showing, which included a minus-3 and being on ice for all of the Sharks’ goals in the loss.
“It was tough. It was a tough night,” Weber said. “We’re expected to log some minutes and play some good hockey and I don’t think we were at our best. It’s tough, it feels like we have let each other down. I know that I could have been better and it’s hard.”
Weber’s play wasn’t the only reason Nashville lost this game and was eliminated from the postseason in the second-round. The team was done in by a weak first period and a Sharks group that was ready for the challenge of closing out the Predators.
But his troubles were clear and costly.
On the power play with 10:58 left in the first period, Sharks forward Joe Pavelski took a feed from Patrick Marleau in front of the Nashville net and buried a shot past goaltender Pekka Rinne. Pavelski was open in part because Weber dropped to the ice rather than playing Pavelski. This made the score 1-0.
In the second period Weber turned the puck over to Sharks forward Logan Couture in the defensive zone. Couture then buried a shot past Rinne's five-hole to make the game 3-0.
Joe Thornton's power play goal early in the third period, came after Weber fell down in the offensive zone, which led to a 4-on-1 rush. This made the game 4-0.
Marleau's goal in the third period came after a pinch by Weber sent a 2-on-1 going the other way for the Sharks. This put the game at 5-0.
On Joel Ward’s first period goal, Weber was on the ice, even though it was Roman Josi’s mistake that led to Ward’s opportunity.
Predators players and coach Peter Laviolette had Weber’s back after the game, noting the entire team could have played better.
“It’s never one guy. You lose as a team. He’s our leader and our captain,” Rinne said.
Said Laviolette, “We’re going to look back and we are not going to like the game we played. It has nothing to do with our top pair, top line or third line. We know that we are capable of more as a group and capable of playing better than we did.”
Weber’s play has often been under the microscope in Nashville. He’s the team’s highest-paid player at a $7.857 million salary cap hit and he received this contract based on an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. That stigma has followed him around since Nashville matched the contract. That deal also runs through 2025-26 when Weber will be 40.
The team has reached marks it never hit in its history with him as captain, but ultimately they’ve never reached a conference final. Reaching this Game 7 of this series in the second-round is the furthest Nashville has gone with Weber wearing the 'C.' And at age 30 there are questions as to whether he's started to decline.
In the seven games he had one goal and one assist and was a minus-4. According to War on Ice, he was a minus-4.6 CF% Rel when his team was 5-on-5.
He often drew the Sharks’ toughest matchups and found himself playinf more defense than offense, but he didn’t use that as an excuse.
“It’s hard to look at anything. We had a chance to move on tonight. They deserved it. They were the better team,” Weber said. “Obviously, it was a great series, back and forth, but when it came down to it, they played better.”
Other important Nashville players also had difficulty finding their games this postseason.
Filip Forsberg, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season, had four points in 14 games and was a minus-11.
Forward Mike Ribeiro, one of the team's better offensive players, had two points and 16 penalty minutes in 12 games. He was a healthy scratch twice. Forward Craig Smith, a top-six winger who has scored over 20 goals three straight years, played through injury but had two points in 11 games.
Rinne, the team’s All-Star goaltender and a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, finished the postseason with a 2.63 goal-against average and .906 save percentage.
Weber’s mistakes just happened to come in the biggest and most important moments of the season.
"Shea’s unbelievable. He’s probably the hardest defenseman to play against in the league," Thornton said. "He’s so big and so strong. He’ll get his cracks, that’s a good team over there we just beat."
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