Nashville Predators: To Be The Best, You Gotta Beat The Best

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 13: Jonathan Marchessault
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 13: Jonathan Marchessault /

With serious injuries hampering the Nashville Predators, the home team will have their work cut out for them against the top dog in the West.

Before we go any further, the real all-stars on the Golden Knights are Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault is continuing upon his brilliant 2016-17 season with the Panthers as he already has 41 points in 39 games. Fleury, as well, seems like a man on a mission as he holds a .942 save percentage in 13 games this season. I would trot out his goals against average, but as we all know, that’s a team stat, not a goalie stat. Despite my pretentiousness, both players are stars in the NHL and should be going to Tampa later this month. But let’s focus on tonight. Vegas and the Nashville Predators faceoff for their final battle of the regular season.

The high rollers in Vegas

I already talked about Marchessault, but he’s looking like the real deal. He recently signed a sweetheart deal with Vegas for another six years after this one at the affordable price of 5 million per. It may not seem like a lot but it’s a huge step up from the 750K that he’s earning now. The shooter turned playmaker will be dangerous on both ends of the ice as his play lifts his linemates to great heights.

Speaking of Marchessault,  let’s talk about his center. Wild Bill Karlsson has taken the hockey world by storm as he went from a bottom six-er in Columbus to elite in Vegas. The goalscorer is riding a 25.8% shooting percentage, and if you think that’s unsustainable, you’re probably right. Despite everyone saying that it has to come down eventually, he’s still flying high and scoring key goals at clutch moments. Karlsson has 23 goals and 37 points in 42 games. As long as Marchessault is by his side, expect the goals to keep coming.

If you’re a big fan of guys like Dimitri Filipovich, you probably saw Nate Schmidt‘s success coming, but it’s still surprising. The defenseman that couldn’t crack the Capital’s roster a few months ago has shined in Vegas as he averages 22 minutes and 35 seconds a game. He’s a reliable two-way defenseman who faces tough competition and makes it look easy.

The last guy I want to talk about is an up-and-comer from Anaheim. Shea Theodore has been a revelation as he is growing into a better NHLer each and every day. He could soon be another success story out of the Anaheim Ducks’ farm system. His two-way play could benefit the Knights for years to come as the 22-year-old is looking like a gem.

The Nashville Predators lineup

Filip Forsberg is still recovering from an upper-body injury and now Arvidsson has been moved to the Injured Reserve. He will not play against Vegas but will be able to return after tonight.

Colton SissonsRyan Johansen-Random Person Pulled Off The Street

Kevin FialaKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Scott HartnellNick BoninoPontus Aberg

Miikka SalomakiCalle JarnkrokAustin Watson

Supposedly team drills have seen a change in defensive lines, they could look like:

Roman JosiMatt Irwin

Alexei EmelinP.K. Subban

Mattias EkholmRyan Ellis

Juuse Saros

Pekka Rinne

The starting goaltender hasn’t been announced but Saros has been hinted at as the starter. He is coming off a hot week in Milwaukee.

Major keys

For a more in-depth look into the keys, check out this article.

  1. Lock down the neutral zone: The Golden Knights are probably the best team at transition play, despite a lack of stars, especially on the back end. This comes from their forwards ability to get open and get the puck in deep, whether it’s from a chip n’ chase or through possession. The key will be for Predators to get into passing lanes and force defenders to skate and make mistakes.
  2. Keep the puck to the perimeter: The Nashville Predators are one of the best teams at keeping shots to the perimeter… in their offensive zone. For once this season, the Predators will need to reverse roles and keep Vegas to the outside. Accept that shots from the point are going to happen, that’s a low danger area so it’s fine. Make sure that the high danger area is kept clean.
  3. Only force Rinne to make one save: Keep the slot clear of traffic and make sure that Rinne can see the puck. That’ll keep the Knights off the scoreboard.

Where to watch

The game will be on Fox Sports Tennesse at 7 PM. The game will be streamed on 102.5 The Game as well.

Next: Keys To Defeating The Golden Knights