After a mind-boggling loss to the worst team in the NHL, the Nashville Predators rebounded with a win in Los Angeles. Is relief in sight?
We have said it from the very beginning of the season. Our words are proving to be true. The Western Conference is going to be tough, especially the Central Division. All the work to start the season seemed to be wearing the Nashville Predators down. They were slumping.
Losing at home three times in a row? That is out of character for the Predators. Losing on the road to Vegas? Well, that is understandable. But, leading a game and then losing in overtime to the team labeled as the NHL’s worst? Fans were left dumbfounded.
Thankfully, the Predators followed up the loss to the Arizona Coyotes with a win in Los Angeles. It was a game that almost got away from them. Almost.
While this does not mean a new winning streak or the Nashville Predators are returning to their successful ways, there are some things we can takeaway from this win.
Scoring first matters
Seeing Roman Josi blast a puck into the back of the net was refreshing. While it is his eighth goal this season, it was the first Josi has obtained since December 14. That in itself is good to see.
However, the main point for this tally is the success of the Predators when they score first. On the season, the team is 19-2-3 when finding the goal first. Additionally, when leading after the opening period, they have an 11-2-2 record. The Predators do not score often in the game’s opening frame, but when they do it usually leads to a win.
Let’s hope they keep that up.
Executing on offense
I grew up in Kentucky and love the Wildcats. Of course, they lost to that team from Knoxville last night. I digress. Kentucky will often use a motion offense, or a high weave to start their half-court sets. Ideally, the motion creates opportunities to drive to the net and find an open man. Hockey bares some similarities.
Last night, the Predators took time to find an open player when someone else could take a shot. It happened on Josi’s power play goal in the first period. The puck made its way to P.K. Subban, who sent it diagonally to Kyle Turris. Turris could have taken a shot, but Josi had more space and a better angle, especially with Viktor Arvidsson blocking at the net.
Turris executed a touch pass to Josi, who slammed it home.
Another example was the goal by Scott Hartnell. Ryan Johansen skated toward the net and could have taken a shot. As the defense followed, Johansen pushed the puck to the other side. Hartnell put it into the net giving the Predators a 2-1 lead.
Finally, even though it was unsuccessful, a four-player weave at the top of the offensive zone lead to Johansen sneaking to the net. The Kings’ goalie lived up to his last name and quickly closed the opening.
Still, it was nice to see some offensive work.
Nashville gets outshot almost every game. Good thing they are 16-7-2 in that situation. That includes last night when they were outshot 29-20. What concerns me is allowing space to a skater and letting them shoot. For example…
First of all, the Nashville Predators failed to control the puck in the defensive zone. That is something else that bothers me. But, if you stop the video at the 11-second mark, you will see all five skaters of the Predators watching the puck. Then, Nick Bonino fails to hold back one skater and Alexei Emelin is forced to pressure the attacker. Colton Sissons is just hanging out on the side-wall, watching. Hartnell is looking at the puck.
And Trevor Lewis is left free and open. He shoots, he scores.
Road win against good team
The win is important for several reasons. First off, it helps the Predators keep pace in the Central Division. As it stands today, the Winnipeg Jets lead the division with 55 points, with the St. Louis Blues and Predators right behind with 54 points. Nashville has three more games to play than the Blues, one more than the Jets. In order to get home ice in the playoffs, the Preds must take advantage of every opportunity.
But, if you can’t win on the road during the playoffs, you can’t win the Stanley Cup. Okay, mathematically, if you hold home ice and win only the home games, you can win the Cup. But, what are the odds of that?
So far, the Predators are doing well against the top teams in the West. Well, those not named Vegas, that is. With two road wins in Los Angeles and St. Louis, the Predators are capable of beating tough teams in their arena. When playoffs time arrives, they will need to continue that trend.