Even if it’s just the preseason, hat tricks are always nice for the Nashville Predators. Filip Forsberg did the honors in one of the wins down in Florida.
Hockey is finally back, and the Nashville Predators are wasting no time getting 2018-19 off on the right track. The preseason got underway with a doubleheader against the Florida Panthers. The two franchises have been doing this annual preseason doubleheader since 2012.
It’s not a secret that the Predators are going to score a lot of goals, and maybe even have a top ten offense. They’re loaded with plenty of 20-plus goal scorers from top to bottom. A lot of them joined in on the scoring action in Game No.2 of the doubleheader. The Predators tally a shutout in dominating fashion in Game No.1, 5-0.
The Predators outscore Florida a combined 10-3 in the doubleheader. Here’s a rundown of both games and who played well. Check out the full lineup for both games here:
Preseason opener led by Juuse Saros
The first game of the doubleheader is headlined by Juuse Saros‘ 24 saves. He looks primed for another solid season as he prepares to eventually take over for Pekka Rinne full-time. It’s a storyline to pay attention to as we see how head coach Peter Laviolette will split time between the two.
Line combinations are always an experiment in the preseason and the main thing to watch for. Coaches are trying to see if anything clicks or if they can discover something new. The most interesting line combination in the first game was Kyle Turris, Viktor Arvidsson, and Calle Jarnkrok. This line produced the opening goal of the preseason with a strike from Jarnkrok just minutes into the game. You’re not going to break up the JoFA line, but I actually like this line combination if it’s ever needed.
P.K. Subban also got in on the scoring action in the second period. He’s coming off of one of the better seasons of his storied career, setting a career-high in goals with 16 and coming within one point of his career high in points with 59. He always has plenty of buzz surrounding him, and this year will be no different.
The Predators go perfectly on the penalty kill, shutting down the Panthers on all five attempts. This is an area that the Predators thrived in last season, finishing sixth in the league in killing off penalties. They take a lot of penalties with their aggressive style of play, so staying successful in this department is important as I don’t see them changing this season.
Forsberg gets another hat trick in Game 2
There was more action in the second preseason game, the primetime showcase if you will. A lot of that excitement is thanks to Filip Forsberg tallying the hat trick, a feat is starting to do more and more. I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t crack 40 goals this season and be an outlier for MVP consideration. He won’t win it, but he’s going to raise some more eyebrows as he continues to round out into an excellent all-around player.
The Nashville Predators finally let the Panthers get in on the scoring fun with three goals of their own, after being blanked in the first game. Even if Forsberg’s third goal came on an empty net, it’s still fun to see that.
The Panthers actually got the game’s first goal on Rinne. Rinne was on the ice nearly 30 minutes and tallied 12 saves on 13 shots. There’s no goalie competition this preseason in my mind. Rinne and Saros are going to share the net in the early going. However, I do think there’s going to be a wait-and-see approach as the regular season unfolds. The hot goaltender and the more consistent goaltender will be leaned on more heavily as the playoffs approach in March and April. My money is on Saros that he eventually takes over late in the season.
Kevin Fiala, another potential rising star that should sniff 30-plus goals this season, got his first preseason score late in the second period to put the Predators ahead for good. He also amassed four assists in the game. Then you have rookie Eeli Tolvanen, who is all over fans’ radars to see his progress from a full offseason of development. He’s held in check in his preseason debut putting up just one shot on goal in just over 14 minutes of ice time.
It’s a nice start to the new hockey year as the Nashville Predators sweep the annual doubleheader with Florida. All of the normal stars of the Predators looked sharp as they’ll turn their attention to a two-game set with Tampa Bay in their next preseason action this weekend.