When the Nashville Predators took the ice on Thursday night, all signs suggested a hard-fought game. That is exactly what they got.
Simply looking at the records, it would seem to be an easy game for the Nashville Predators. The second best team in the Central against the worst team in all of the NHL. However, knowing Nashville lost in Arizona two weeks ago told a different story: any team can win on any night. And, with the Predators missing two of their three best scorers, all bet were off.
Because of injuries to Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, the Predators were forced to adjust lines. For the first time this season, the Kevin Fiala was removed from the second line with Kyle Turris and Craig Smith, in favor of being on the top line. Scott Hartnell found his name on the second line. And with Calle Jarnkrok on the top line again, Miikka Salomaki was penciled in with Nick Bonino and Colton Sissons.
It took overtime and a shootout. In the end, Craig Smith won it in the shootout. It is two points in the standings, but let’s be honest…
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…it was frustrating.
Fiala about to blow
For the first two periods, Fiala was a bit quiet. During the second intermission, Predators coaches said for players to take shots. Fiala took the message to heart. While he did not earn a goal, his ability to find scoring chances kept pressures on Arizona.
On the night, Fiala lead the Predators forwards with five shots on goal and three takeaways. Several of his chances came at the net, creating two high-danger chances. Fiala looked hungry, determined to score. It didn’t work out for him against Arizona, but I expect that to change soon.
Where are the shots?
As mentioned before, the Nashville Predators were not shooting a great deal. They ended the night with 39 shots on goal, but could it have been more? They won 60% of all faceoffs, and every player had at least a 50% offensive zone deployment at even strength. Eleven players reached double digits starts offensively.
So, where are all the shots? Sure, Forsberg and Arvidsson are out, but you can’t score if you don’t shoot. There were chances all night for the Predators to shoot, but they looked to make a centering pass – a pass that was often chipped or stolen away.
Ellis is back
Thank goodness for Ryan Ellis. If it were not for him, the Predators do not win tonight. As a matter of fact, they don’t score. The team’s first goal of the game was largely due to a perfect leading pass from Ellis to Scott Hartnell. It looked like Peyton Manning throwing a deep slant to Reggie Wayne.
Ellis had other chances as well. A beautiful “shot-pass” set Jarnkrok to net the puck. A great save by Antti Raanta kept the game scoreless at the time. With the team trailing in the third period, Ellis struck again. With an absolute laser off his stick, Ellis ties the game late. No Ellis, no points. No points, no win.
Winning cures all ills
The shootout win gives the Nashville Predators their fourth win in a row. It is their second longest streak of the season. It is also their 22 win after they scored the game’s initial goal. The win also is the team’s fourth shootout win of the year in eight games. Both are second-most in the NHL behind Washington, who has won six of nine shootouts.
What is more interesting, at least to me, is the fact the Predators are 5-1-1 without Filip Forsberg.
What power play?
Remember when we talked about the Predators had the best power play in the league? Well, not anymore. Sure, it is still rated fourth, but it is struggling. Since December 4, the Predators have just 3 power play goals in 9 home games. Against the Coyotes, they managed only 9 shots in three power-play opportunities.
The penalty kill is starting to find its groove again. The Coyotes were held scoreless on the man-advantage, the third game in a row the Predators denied their opponent a power-play goal.
Now, I don’t mean to be the pessimist of our team or writers. But, watching the Predators struggle against a team they should beat handily is frustrating. Still, the team takes over first place in the Central, whatever that is worth right now. Nashville has the potential to be an elite team this year. Just not sure they are showing that ability.