The Nashville Predators are familiar with bad refereeing contributing to a loss. It’s time for fans to own up and admit that it helped their team win last night.
The NHL season is a tough, hardcore landscape. Thanks to the NHL having the highest level of parity in any major sports league, every team is a threat every night. The Nashville Predators have been successful so far. The team has 13 more points than they did on this date last year.
All that is to say – a win is a win. At a certain point, it’s foolish to complain about the nature of a victory. However, I can confidently say that the Edmonton Oilers deserved two points last night.
If you watched the game, this section will not surprise you. The Nashville Predators held their own in the first period, taking advantage of indiscipline and shaky goaltending. Viktor Arvidsson returned to doing Arvy things, getting in high-danger areas and creating chaos. The Oilers shot themselves in the foot, but the Predators did well to take advantage.
Beyond the opening period, the Oilers put on a possession clinic. For the entire remainder of the game, Edmonton was the only team with meaningful chances. Any whiffs of the puck by the home team were used to clear the zone and get a line change, preparing for the next onslaught.
The shot attempt differential illustrated this trend well:
As you can see in the figure, the Predators featured as a non-factor in this contest, at least at five-on-five.
Here’s another look at each team’s performance, using some different metrics. In high-danger chance creation (HDCF%), Edmonton enjoyed over 60% throughout the game. It’s been a common gripe for this year’s Nashville Predators. They can skate around the perimeter all they want, high-danger chances will eventually start to bite them in the rear. In shots on goal (SF%), Edmonton also had the advantage, although with a smaller margin. Finally, in shot attempts (CF%), the scale was heavily weighted in the visitor’s favor.
So what happened?
These possession metrics paint a picture of domination by the Edmonton Oilers. As we know however, the Predators eked out the victory. How is that the case?
Frequently, the Nashville Predators are saved by goaltending. Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have been the best players on the team this year. Last night, Rinne was certainly on his game. The veteran netminder saved 25 of the Oilers’ 26 shots, or 96.2%.
Unfortunately, this alone was not enough to maintain Nashville’s lead. In my opinion, the credit (or blame) falls on the referees. I understand the implications of this statement, and I assure you I do not make it lightly.
Milan Lucic visited the box after an interference call in the first period. If anything, he crosschecked Kyle Turris. Turris seemed caught off guard by the hit and went down, but I would have been content with a no-call in that case. The result? A goal by Craig Smith just eight seconds into the power play. It’s worth mentioning that the Edmonton Oilers have the worst penalty kill in NHL history:
The worst blunder by the referees, though, was in fact a non-call. Take a look at the video below. Although the Predators’ Twitter account (understandably) tried to hide this fact, that’s P.K. Subban‘s stick in frame.
Yes, Pekka Rinne did save the day against the league’s most dangerous player. However, I struggle to explain why that’s not worthy of a penalty shot or at least a simple hooking minor.
I have to mention the reversed goal for the Oilers as well. In that case, it’s the correct application of a frustrating rule. Predators fans, perhaps more than any other fanbase, should understand why it’s so frustrating.
After the dust settled, the Nashville Predators took a regulation victory into their five-day break. It’s the best-case scenario to wrap up the team’s worst stretch of results all season. The week off allows rest for Pekka Rinne and healing time for Filip Forsberg.
As I mentioned, I’m not one to over-criticize a victory. Two points looks awfully good in the standings with Winnipeg and St. Louis playing so well. However, I’d certainly like to see Nashville win some games decidedly. In the postseason, the calls are going to decrease, and the Predators won’t be able to ride their power play to victory.
For now, it’s some deserved time off for a hardworking group of players. In the meantime, enjoy some of the other games going on in the NHL. Or, if you like, revisit your social life (not for me, but that’s your decision).