Nashville Predators: Maximum Entertainment, Minimum Points

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Winnipeg brought the intensity to Bridgestone Arena last night. The Nashville Predators took their first regulation loss at home in a ten-goal barn burner.

Believe it or not, I have fewer complaints about last night’s loss than I have after many wins. Take the recent road trip for example. Arguably, both the Oilers and Flames outplayed the Nashville Predators, but ultimately lost. Against the Jets, Nashville put together one of their most impressive offensive performances in recent memory.

Defensively, concerns certainly linger. For a good portion of the game, both teams’ forwards had unrestricted lanes to attack the zone. From a fan’s perspective, the back-and-forth action provided an extremely entertaining hockey game between two Western Conference powerhouses.

Had it, lost it

With a couple games in hand, a single point in regulation was a perfectly acceptable result last night. After a quick goal to kick off the third period, Nashville began to drag possession back towards their advantage. At five-on-five, the home team dominated the final twenty minutes.

Unfortunately, the period was disrupted by penalties. Just under halfway through, Austin Watson and Bryan Little had an altercation in front of the benches. Little hooked Watson’s leg and pulled it out from under him. Watson did slightly sell the fall.

Don’t attack me, just go back and look at the play objectively.

The result – incidental minors – turned out to be a big factor in the game’s momentum. Especially after Alexei Emelin hooked Nikolaj Ehlers to prevent a hat trick, Winnipeg held all the cards.

Even so, the game remained tied until fewer than two minutes remained. Brandon Tanev gained an edge down the left side, caught Pekka Rinne cheating in the crease, and gave his team the game-winning goal.

Credit to Tanev where it’s due, but the Nashville Predators were just 1:27 away from a huge point in the standings. They simply needed to hang on to the tie through regulation.

Normal service resumes

On a positive note, Nashville’s forward lines resembled their standard layout, and looked very good indeed. After a few games with Nick Bonino featuring on the first line, the combination of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson made its return. Using Fenwick percentage (FF%), high-danger chances percentage (HDCF%), and offensive zone start percentage (oZS%), here’s how their renaissance panned out:

Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson

Peter Laviolette certainly sheltered this line, with nearly three-fourths of their faceoffs in the offensive zone. However, Nashville dominated unblocked shot attempts and kept things even in high-danger areas when JoFA featured. It’s hard to criticize a line that controls possession so effectively.

The second line, as usual, retained its lethal combination of players. Craig Smith, Kyle Turris, and Kevin Fiala kept the points flowing. In terms of possession, here’s how they looked:

Smith – Turris – Fiala

Like the first line, these players had an awfully friendly assignment last night with 70% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone. However, their possession numbers look a little worse. Unblocked shot attempts were dead even at 50%, and they produced one high-danger chance to Winnipeg’s two (remember, these are only five-on-five numbers). They did combine for three points, however, so they still got the job done offensively.

Stay the course

Unfortunately, Nashville is no longer unbeaten at home in regulation. Still, they are tied for first in the West with Vegas (that’s a story in itself). Occasionally, they will lose games. Luckily, at the moment, regulation losses are very much the exception to the rule.

In terms of this franchise, the Nashville Predators have an unprecedented combination of skill, speed, and depth. The players certainly realize it, and simply need to keep their heads down and play the game.

Winnipeg is a very tough opponent, and a close loss should not discourage anyone. Nashville is very close to a fully healthy roster, which can simply steamroll any opponent on any night, so long as they stick to their game.

Next: Embellishment Is Ridiculous And Needs To Be Fixed

Worry not, Smashville, this team is an absolute gem. Stay buckled in for an explosive remainder of the season.