No one in their right mind would consider the game against the Canadiens a successful one. Nevertheless, the Nashville Predators emerged victorious.
If we’re being honest, I’m not too upset about the Canadiens game. The Nashville Predators were concluding a four-game road trip against a good mix of teams. At the end of it, they emerge with six points out of eight possible, and they did so without their top forward scorer. Filip Forsberg made his return against the Canadiens and was a bit underwhelming, although Peter Laviolette offered him no shelter.
This game, much like the game against the Senators is owed to the goaltender. Pekka Rinne had a Vezina worthy night against a noted Vezina winner in Carey Price. All in all, the Nashville Predators didn’t exactly have a good game, but they snuck off with two points. Let’s take a deeper look into what exactly went wrong.
Starting On A Positive Note
Ryan Johansen has looked like a totally different player since the start of the new year. He’s been shooting more, he’s been more aggressive on the forecheck, and he’s putting up more points. It hasn’t been an easy year for Johansen as well, Laviolette has been using him in a two-way role whereas last year he was given all the shelter in the world. Last night was no different as Johansen took on the Pacioretty line and didn’t disappoint. Let’s take a look at his stats. For reference, I’m using unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick), high danger chances (HDC), goals, and zone starts.
Johansen is showing why he’s one of the best possession centers in the NHL. He dominates the offensive zone and is surprisingly good in front of his own net. While he did give up six high danger chances, that was mostly because he started in the offensive zone less than 50% of the time against top talent. Despite these less than ideal starts, Johansen was great. He created five high danger chances and was a workhorse in the corners.
Onto the main stat, the goals. Johansen was on the ice for one goal for and one goal against. He had the primary assist on Kevin Fiala‘s goal. That was a beauty as Johansen went to the dirty areas and got a good in close shot before making a beautiful backhand pass to the front of the net where Fiala put it home. The goal against came from a very poor breakout effort from Forsberg and an unlucky shot that caused Subban to drop to the ice. All in all, this was another great game for Johansen.
Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban are the two most important defensemen on the roster, in my opinion. Everyone knows about Subban’s season as he looks to be the front-runner for his second career Norris trophy. He’s been piling up the points and had a great road trip, although this game against Montreal was forgettable. Ekholm had an incredible first half of the season, but over the past few games, he’s looked off. His skating looks choppy, his passing is sloppy at best, and he looks like a pushover in the corners. It’s been a weird few games for Ekholm, and I’m not sure the issue. My mind immediately jumps to injury, but I’m hopeful it’s just a cold stretch. Anyways, last night was not great for the pair, que the numbers.
The numbers don’t look positive by any stretch of the imagination, but the zone starts lessen the blow. They also faced top competition all night long and they paid the price for it. They were continuously hemmed in their own zone and didn’t do a great job of keeping the slot clear. The Canadiens had full access to the high danger areas but were met by a stone wall named Rinne. The goal that was scored against the pair was a comedy of errors, but excusable. Forsberg made a dumb play and turned the puck over at his blueline, Mattias Ekholm was at the opponent’s blue line waiting for a pass, and on the shot defense, the shot hit Subban in the ankle which caused him to drop. The puck then squirted out to Brendan Gallagher who fired it past Rinne.
It was not a good game, but far from the worst. Some home cooking might be what the pair needs though. Lucky for them, they’re back in Nashville on Tuesday.
The Nashville Predators were absolutely gassed as the buzzer sounded at the end of regulation. The overtime period would begin for the fourth game in a row. As the ref dropped the puck, I’m sure everyone knew it wouldn’t be pretty.
Everyone knows that the Nashville Predators aren’t a great three on three team, but the numbers you see above are ridiculous. 10 shots against in five minutes? Seven high danger chances against in five minutes? That’s over one per minute! The Predators were done playing hockey and it’s only by the grace of Rinne that they picked up two points.
The Next One
The Predators return home to take on a divisional rival as the St Louis Blues will look to rebound after a loss to Pittsburgh. These two points are crucial to keeping home ice advantage in the playoffs.