You can’t draw too many conclusions from the first game of an 82-game season, but nonetheless, the Nashville Predators are off to a good start.
The final score doesn’t really indicate it, but the Nashville Predators, for the most part, looked like the better team in their season-opening win over the New York Rangers. The scoring chances came often, but Henrik Lundqvist kept the game interesting. Pekka Rinne had his own share of big saves to keep the game close.
Many have the Predators as one of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup once again. Those are lofty expectations to live up to, and we’re not going to know if those expectations are deserved over just one game. However, the Predators did take care of business on a lofty stage at Madison Square Garden.
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Pekka Rinne Shines
Fresh off of a Vezina Trophy campaign, Rinne reminded us why he won it for the first time in his career. The Rangers tested him on several occasions early in the game when both teams were still feeling each other out. He was flashing his glove and even stopped the young Jimmy Vesey on a breakaway attempt. Vesey had a nice scoring chance against the team that drafted him back in 2012. He never wanted to sign with Nashville, and many fans still haven’t forgotten that.
Rinne is going into an interesting year as Juuse Saros is waiting to eventually become the primary starting goaltender. My thought is that as soon as Rinne hits a rough patch, Saros will come in and take a string of starts. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but it’s very possible.
On the night Rinne finishes with 34 saves on 36 shots faced. He did surrender a late goal that made things a little more interesting then you would like. It’s still a solid performance from the 35-year-old.
Forsberg gets the scoring started
After a scoreless first period, the Predators came out in the second period much more organized. They were making Lundqvist work his magic to keep them off the scoreboard. Finally, the Predators got their first goal of the 2018-19 season with a nasty wrist shot from Filip Forsberg:
I’ve been saying it all offseason that Forsberg will crack 40 goals this season and be in the conversation for MVP. That’s assuming he avoids any major injuries that force him to miss considerable time. This nasty goal from him allowed the Predators to play with the lead briefly. However, the defense broke down a bit allowing the Rangers to get the equalizer less than three minutes later.
Even at this point, I was pretty confident that the Predators would come out on top. They were the more organized and aggressive team on a night when both goaltenders were playing well. Against a rebuilding Rangers team, I was just waiting for the Predators open things up and take a multiple-goal lead.
Subban scores on a laser
Subban set a career high in goals last season with 16 and looks right on track to push that total again. He already does so many great things on the ice, so his scoring is a major bonus for a team that already has plenty of scoring threats.
Predators play relatively clean game
A big takeaway from this game is the Predators had to kill just one penalty. They took three penalties overall, but two of them resulted in 4-on-4 hockey. Neither team looked too sharp on their lone power play attempts.
The Predators have to become more disciplined when it comes to taking bad penalties. This first game is an encouraging sign as the Predators didn’t gift the Rangers with easy scoring opportunities. They instead made them work hard for scoring chances, and Rinne and stood tall when they did.
The game-winning goal actually ends up being an empty-netter from Colton Sissons with just over a minute remaining:
Again, the 3-2 final score doesn’t really tell the whole story. The Predators played a solid game for the most part from start to finish. Anything can happen in the first game of an 82-game season despite what the matchup may look like on paper. Rinne comes out as my game MVP as he starts off the new campaign on a high note and firmly has a grasp on the starting goaltender job.
The Predators will stay in the Big Apple with a clash against the New York Islanders on Saturday to try to make it 2-0 to begin the season.