For the first time this season, the Nashville Predators lost consecutive games. It may be the best thing to happen to this team.
A little adversity can go a long way. For the first time this season, the Nashville Predators lost consecutive games. While on a five-game road trip on the West Coast, the Predators won the first two matches. But then, facing back-to-back games, the lost.
The first loss came at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. Even though the Ducks are the NHL’s worst in Corsi and other shot-sharing metrics, they outshot the Predators in every way. The Ducks achieved 10 high-danger chances while allowing one chance to Nashville. Still, the Predators battled.
Kevin Fiala tallied his first goal since October 19, tying the game in the third period. For the entire match, the Predators struggled to gain possession. And, let’s not talk about the power play. Seven chances led to screaming and frustration from fans everywhere. Still, the Predators pushed the game into a shootout. The Predators lost.
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Earlier this season, the Predators held a multiple-goal lead against the San Jose Sharks at Bridgestone. Nashville lost the game. Last night, the Sharks jumped out to 3-0 lead in the first period. The Predators four shots on goal during the opening 20 minutes. It was a pathetic start.
Things turned in the second period. The Predators outshot and out played the Sharks, eventually tying the game. Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg tallied the goals and the ice shifted in the Predators’ favor. The battle raged on into the third period. However, the Sharks finally gained a scoring chance and never looked back. Nashville lost their second game in a row.
Strong Goalie Play
Let’s make no mistake. The strength of the Nashville Predators’ team is their goalie tandem. Pekka Rinne continues to perform at Vezina-worthy levels. So much for a drop in play everyone expected this season. His understudy, Juuse Saros, continues to perform admirably in net when called upon.
Rinne was in net against the Ducks on Monday night. Anaheim peppered the Predators with shots, with 56 total attempts. Forty-three of those came during 5v5 action. Only 21 made it to the net, and Rinne let only one through his wall. The Ducks achieved 10 high-danger chances. Rinne stood strong.
As for Saros, pucks have found their way through his defense lately. In his last two games, Saros allowed nine goals. Against the Dallas Stars, Saros allowed four goals, all from medium-danger area. One came when the Stars placed a screen in front of the net, completely blocking Saros’s view. Another during a power play.
Then, you have last night against the Sharks. Nashville allowed 35 scoring chances, 17 at high-danger. When you give up that many chances, goals are the natural occurrence. The Sharks took advantage, scoring three goals in the first period. Saros was left out to dry by his defense. A statement commonly uttered. Still, Saros had opportunities late to seal the deal. The final two goals could have been saved.
The Predators lost two games in a row, but I find it hard to place the blame on the shoulders of Rinne and Saros.
Playing on the road is challenging enough, as is playing back-to-back games. Add to this missing key players and you have the recipe for disaster. We all know Viktor Arvidsson and Calle Jarnkrok are injured. How coach Peter Laviolette patched the wholes was interesting.
First of all, the Nashville Predators dressed seven defensemen, using Anthony Bitetto as a forward. Turns out, Bitetto went back to playing as a defenseman. P.K. Subban missed most of the game in Anaheim for injury. Therefore, the team played 11 forwards throughout the game.
With Arvidsson out, Colton Sissons found time with on the JoFA line in both games. The trio gained seven shots on goal against the Ducks, and zero versus the Sharks. You read that correctly. The Predators top line failed to gain a shot against the Sharks during 5v5. Both goals for Filip Forsberg game when Craig and Kyle Turris were on the ice instead of Sissons.
Let’s get back to Bitetto really quick. He played with Frederick Gaudreau and Zac Rinaldo. They finished with a CorsiFor of 60% together. When Grimaldi was on the ice in place of Bitetto versus the Sharks, they only had a 25% CorsiFor.
This could be a good thing. Think about it. Any time we face tough times, we can either push through or fold. The Predators pushed. They came close to winning both games.
There was adversity, but the team performed admirably. Sure, two points would have been nice, but given how the games progressed, a single point admirable. And, a win tonight would give the Nashville Predators a 3-1-1 record on the trip.
A few years ago, we would be excited about this. How times have changed.