Two games down, and two victories for the Nashville Predators within the New York City limits. It is a solid start to the season.
Nashville Predators fans have definitely heard the old saying before. If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. The Predators’ first two games of the 2018-19 season took place in the Big Apple, and they both resulted in two points for Nashville. If the saying is true, this season’s edition of the Predators should have a very bright future in front of it.
We all remember Barry Trotz from his fifteen years as head coach of the Predators. After a stint in Washington that culminated in a Stanley Cup-winning run, Trotz was hired by the New York Islanders before this season. His first home game as Islanders head coach would, of course, be against the Nashville Predators, because things have a funny way of working out. Trotz’s Islanders were ready to play and brought the fight to Nashville, but at the end of the night it was former Islanders and current Predators head coach Peter Laviolette that walked out with the victory.
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Arvi Hustle led the way
Without a shadow of a doubt, Viktor Arvidsson was the top player on the ice this evening. He certainly provided the highlight of the night, and some are already speculating that the first goal of this evening’s game may be the highlight of the season for the Nashville Predators.
I’m sure that Arvidsson’s linemate Filip Forsberg will have something to say about that. It was all Arvidsson tonight though. He had two goals on the evening, the second coming off of a crazy assist from Ryan Johansen & pushing Nashville’s goal count to four.
That’s Johansen to a tee right there. A lot of people expected more goal-scoring from him when he arrived from Columbus, but he excels at setting his teammates up for success. And let’s be honest, when he’s paired with Arvidsson & Forsberg, he knows he’s not the man to be taking the shots. The JoFA line looks as good as it ever has, and will be a key part of any Predators success this season.
Smith’s shooting pays off
Johansen might be happy passing, but Craig Smith is at his happiest when he’s shooting. He’s going to keep firing away until he finds the back of the net, and he did so at 13:30 into the second period, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Kyle Turris set Smith up there with a nice pass. We know that Smith is going to be shooting no matter what, & it looks like he’s building off his successful 2017-18 season so far. He should be solidly in the top-six forwards until further notice.
Ekholm off to a good start
Did anybody have Mattias Ekholm scoring a goal before Roman Josi & Ryan Ellis this season? He couldn’t beat his partner P.K. Subban to the scoring column, but he got there tonight with a nice little wrist shot to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.
After two games, Ekholm sits on top of the Nashville Predators’ points standings alongside Colton Sissons with three. Everybody in the hockey world would be shocked if this lasted, but a strong offensive performance from Ekholm this season wouldn’t be shocking. Playing with Subban can rub off on a guy after awhile.
Saros bends but doesn’t break
Juuse Saros got the start in Game 2, a little earlier than some might have expected. Then again, maybe not. We know that Saros is the future of the Nashville Predators’ goaltending position & will be seeing more time in net this season. Keeping Pekka Rinne rested & ready for the postseason will be a priority for Laviolette & the Predators’ staff. If Saros keeps progressing like he has the past two seasons, there won’t be much of a dropoff.
Tonight’s game wasn’t Saros’ best by any means. To be fair, most goalies have been struggling here in the first couple of games. He showed resilience & tenacity by holding the Islanders out of the scoring column in the third period. He also had to do a bit more work than Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss, stopping 26 of 29 shots compared to 19 of 23 for Greiss.
The Predators made mistakes, but the Islanders didn’t take advantage
The Islanders went on the power play four times, compared to one for Nashville. A Zac Rinaldo penalty led to an Anders Lee goal towards the end of the second period, making things more tense than Nashville Predators fans would have liked. Rinaldo did lead the Predators in hits with six, which is why Laviolette has him in the lineup to begin with.
The Islanders also had a 55% faceoff percentage in this game and led in shots 29-23. They had an opportunity to score a big win in their home opener against a team expected to win a Stanley Cup. Maybe with some experience under their belt, they get it done, but this wasn’t their night. The Predators weren’t at their best, but they were good enough to escape New York City with 4 points. Nothing wrong with that.
The Nashville Predators take the Bridgestone Arena ice for the first time in the 2018-19 season on Tuesday night. Former Predator James Neal will lead the Calgary Flames to town in a Western Conference clash. The puck will drop at 8:00 PM ET/7:00 PM CT on Fox Sports Tennessee & 102.5 The Game.