Nashville Predators: Five thoughts for Friday, November 3rd

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 25: Logan Couture
NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 25: Logan Couture /

The path through California used to be known as death valley, and with good reason. The Nashville Predators have not started their trek off on a good note.

The California teams may not be as scary as they used to be, but they’re no pushovers. We saw that the Sharks can grind teams into dust and they did so. The Predators started off strong and controlled possession but the Sharks slowed the game down. It completely took the Nashville Predators’ off their game and the Sharks never let them back in.

The bad news is that the Sharks were probably the worst team that the Predators will face in California. The good news is that the Anaheim Ducks are heavily injured and the LA Kings can be inconsistent at times. It won’t matter how the Ducks or Kings play if the Predators come out with a performance like they did in San Jose. The next two games will be very telling of this team.

5. Take Ekholm off the power play

This has nothing to do with stats or percentages or anything. The Nashville Predators play Mattias Ekholm 25:24 minutes per game, a whopping five minutes above his career average. I think Ekholm does a great job but the Predators already have some great offensive defensemen who can quarterback the power play. The guy deserves a rest, but the question is who replaces him?

I would have the Predators run a four forwards and one defenseman strategy, with Roman Josi and P.K. Subban as the quarterbacks. From there, the JoFA line and Fiala are group one while the next four are Hartnell, Smith, Sissons, and Bonino.

Let Ekholm take a rest so that he focus on his defensive match-ups and the penalty kill. Obviously, this second power play unit will change once Ryan Ellis returns, as he is a top power play defenseman in the league.  But for now, maybe Ekholm should get a break for two minutes a night so that he’s fresh for the latter part of the season.

4. The Central Division is a bit of a mess

The Nashville Predators are last in the Central division as I write this on Thursday night. Even though they’re last, they’re not out of it by any means. The top team is the St. Louis Blues who have 21 points compared to the Predators who have 12. The in-between isnot pretty, here are the standings:

St. Louis-21







The Predators could jump into a “playoff spot” with a win tomorrow as two points would tie them for third with Chicago, Colorado, and Dallas. A strong rest of the road trip could even see the Predators jumping close to second.

The point is that the Predators chose a good time to play poorly. They’re by no means out of it and a simple four game winning streak could put them on the right path for the rest of the season. For as much as we all like to freak out, this season is not over. Some strong play would be very much appreciated by the management and the fans though.

3. Send Saros to Milwaukee… to get him away from this defense

Juuse Saros is the goaltender of the future and should be treated like gold by the organization. Unfortunately, the team has failed him as they’ve hung him out to dry in almost every game Saros has played. The defense has surrendered too many high danger chances while the offense has scored less than a goal per game in each Saros played in.

Send Saros to Milwaukee, let Saros build some more confidence and let him play behind a team that can defend him. Not only that but the Admirals can actually score more than two goals a game! Let the 22-year-old sort his stuff away for the inconsistent enigma that is the Nashville Predators.

2. A disappointing year for rookies

It may not be that bad of a year for rookies but it feels like it compared to the last few years. The only rookie standouts, in my opinion, are Clayton Keller of Arizona, Mikhail Sergachev of Tampa Bay, and Will Butcher of New Jersey,

Keller is the obvious choice as many people have dubbed him, “Clayton Calder” because of his performance so far. He’s been incredible with nine goals and six assists for 15 points in 13 games. An especially incredible performance when you remember that the Arizona Coyotes look like they have their eyes set on projected first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin.

Sergachev has been a steadying presence on the Lightning’s second pair and has contributed offensively as well. The only qualifier I’d put for him is that he’s benefited from backing up the Stamkos and Kucherov line quite a bit. I had Victor Hedman as my pick for Norris but Segachev could in the running within the next few years.

Then there’s the college standout, Will Butcher. College free agents rarely live up to they hype so it’s nice to see one make a big impact immediately. Butcher currently has 11 points, all assists, in as many games. He’s been a godsend for that broken and shallow blueline, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

I don’t want to say that the rookies have been sub-par this year, but they are compared to the last few years. The last few winners have been Auston Matthews (elite center), Artemi Panarin (elite winger) although it should’ve gone to Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad (top 10 defenceman in NHL), and Nathan MacKinnon (shown signs of greatness but bad supporting cast). It’ll be curious to see how the narrative changes as the season continues and favorites become clearer.

1. Johansen needs to keep his cool

The title says it all eh? Some players can play angry and others can’t, it’s just a part of hockey. The best example of an “angry player” was Jarome Iginla back in the mid-2000’s, especially in the cup run. Teams would play chippy with him to try and knock him off his game, but Iginla seemingly only got better. Iginla would feed off his anger and turn it into goals, he was one of the overlooked superstars of the mid-2000’s.

Alright, enough of my love of 2000’s power forwards and their almost lost art. What I mean to say is that Ryan Johansen is almost useless if he becomes agitated. One of the smartest plays by the Sharks was Joe Pavelski fighting Johansen and taking him off the ice for five of the last ten minutes in the third period. It almost seems as if Johansen loses interest in playing hockey after he feels a game is over, which can’t happen from arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon on the team.

Next: Analyzing the team's worst loss so far

Johansen needs to keep his cool or teams will continue to exploit his temper. It won’t be hard for vets to bait Johansen into stupid penalties if he gets wild. I have faith that Johansen will be able to keep his composure in the coming games, but when things get ugly for Johansen, they get ugly for the Nashville Predators.