Nashville Predators: Predators Emerge From Cat Fight Unscathed

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

On Saturday night in Smashville, the Nashville Predators beat the Florida Panthers, earning two big points off of great performances from Rinne and Fiala.

After a tough fought win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday, the Florida Panthers made their way to Smashville to take on the Nashville Predators. Considering the contest was Florida’s second game of a back to back, I was expecting the Predators to take this one easily. After all, the Predators were well rested, having not played since their Thursday night victory over Arizona.

Early in the first, it appeared like the Predators were going to have a dominant performance after Kevin Fiala scored 33 seconds in. However, the confidence I was feeling before the game wouldn’t last very long, as the Cats turned on the pressure and would keep their foot on the gas.

When the final buzzer sounded to end the third period, somehow, the Nashville Predators were up a goal. They were victorious, earning two big points in a game that they probably did not deserve to win.

Ebs and Flows

If there was one word that could be used to describe the Nashville Predators overall team performance from Saturday night, that word would be inconsistency.

Yes,  the Predators did come out of the gates with all systems go, but by looking at the game flow, it is clearly evident that they did not maintain this energy throughout the entire contest. In fact, they were dominated in some stretches.

There is no clearer example of this Panther’s dominance than by looking at the far right side of the game flow. This portion represents the third period when the Predators were holding on for dear life. In the final twenty, the Predators gave up 68.75% of all shots on net.

The Predators inconsistent performance can also be seen by examining more five on five possession analytics, such as Fenwick percentage or unblocked shots percentage (FF%), Scoring Chance Percentage (SCF%), and High Danger Scoring Chance Percentage (HDCF%).

NSH           FLA

FF%              46.99%      53.01%

SCF%            40%           60%

HDCF%         50%          50%

The first two analytical categories show that the Nashville Predators were outplayed, however, the final category, High Danger Scoring Chance percentage, is the most telling in understanding why the Predators won. This is the case, as it highlights that the Predators created the exact same amount of high danger chances as they gave up. At the end of the day, most goals are scored off of these high danger chances, so although the Predators had the puck less, it did not matter. The few times the Predators controlled the puck while 5 on 5, they made the most of these opportunities by creating high-quality chances.

Best Vs. Best

The Panthers line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Evgeni Dadonov may have been ranked as one of the NHL’s best lines by earlier this week, however, they were the second best line Saturday night. The best line, without a doubt, was the Predators third line.

Led by Kevin Fiala, the Predators third line that also featured Nick Bonino and Calle Jarnkrok, took control of the game. In nine and half minutes of 5 on 5 ice time, the trio recorded an impressive Corsi For Percentage of 66.67% and a Shots For Percentage of 70%. More importantly, though, this line didn’t just control the play, but they created many of those vital High Danger Scoring Chances.

However, the real reason why the Predators third line was the best was because they converted on their high danger chances, unlike Florida’s top line. If you watched the game this was evident, as this line buried two of their three chances from the ever so important danger zone. On the flip side, the Barkov line did not convert on any of their high danger 5 on 5 chances.

When the game was over, the Predators line recorded three of the Predators four goals, for a combined 8 points. If it was not for these guys leading the way offensively, the Predators probably don’t win.

Battle In the Crease

Speaking of players Nashville could not have won without, Pekka Rinne was also one of those guys.

Time and time again when the ice was slanted in favor of the Florida Panthers, the 35-year-old Fin saved the Predators. This was particularly the case in the first and third period, as the Florida Panthers were giving Nashville all they could handle.

One example of Rinne saving his teammates, that sticks out of me, occurred early in the third. With 15:10 remaining in the final frame, Vincent Trocheck walked around a sprawled out Predator to go in all alone, but Rinne shut the door. This was a key save for the Predators because if Florida would have scored, they would have cut the Predators lead to just one, with a majority of the final frame left. 

At the other end of the rink, the Florida Panthers netminder, Harri Sateri, had a decent showing, making some nice stops. In the end, however, he just was not able to match Rinne, who, while playing 5 on 5, recorded a ridiculous save percentage of .942%.

What’s next?

After Saturday night’s victory, the Predators will have two days off before returning to action on  Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lighting.

Although the NHL’s best team has been struggling as of late and will be playing Nashville on the second night of a back to back, the Predators will need to limit Tampa’s chances. After all, the Lightning are the leagues highest scoring team and so if they are given a high vole of chances, like their state rivals, they make the Predators pay.

Let’s hope the Predators can adjust and play a full 60 on Tuesday because points are vital at this point of the season.

Next: A Team Full of All Stars