The Buffalo Sabres came to Bridgestone Arena looking for two points. They left defeated by the Nashville Predators.
Things are always impossible until they’re not. The Buffalo Sabres, winners to 10 straight games recently, found themselves at Bridgestone Arena after two consecutive losses. They also found themselves facing a depleted Nashville Predators’ roster, who also lost consecutive games at home. Buffalo has significant players that can score and put up points. And, being one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, they come in with standings points as the Predators.
All signs pointed to a Sabres victory. The Predators, missing four key players, have rotated players and struggled to score. Buffalo could take advantage and pull out two points. Certainly, it was a highly logical possibility. But, the reality was different. There is a way out of every box.
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The Nashville Predators used team defense to stun the Sabres. During 5v5 play, the Predators finished with a better CorsiFor rating (54.55% to 45.55%), and outshot the Sabres, 21-19. During the third period, holding onto a 2-1 lead, the Predators allowed only 3 shots on goals during 3 scoring chances. Nashville stood tall and tough when the game was on the line.
The Predators did not shy away from contact, gaining 24 hits and 16 takeaways during the game. They were called for four penalties but fought off each one. Nashville kept deflecting pucks and hitting sticks, holding the Sabres offense at bay. The only goal on the scoreboard for Buffalo was actually hit in by Roman Josi.
Most of the Nashville roster finished with CorsiFor ratings greater than 50%. Colton Sissons, Austin Watson, and Miikka Salomaki spent most of their time on the ice facing Jeff Skinner and Jack Eichel. The Predators’ trio did not allow a single high-danger chance to the Sabres’ top line. Sissons only allowed two shots against all game.
Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi may have performed the best of all Predators. Twelve of the team’s 21 during 5v5 came on their watch and the Predators gained 6 high-danger chances as well. Ellis’s power-play goal broke open the scoring in the first period, providing a much-needed spark to the team.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows. The patchwork that is the Predators’ top line was porous. The combination for Ryan Hartman, Ryan Johansen, and Kevin Fiala allowed seven high-danger chances and 18 shot attempts. With them on them on the ice, the Predators had a 41% CorsiFor. Without them, that number jumps to nearly 80%. Thankfully, Fiala was able to tally the game-winning goal.
In the end, the Nashville Predators won, earning them two points and keeping them ahead in the division. Now, they get two well-deserved days off. After playing 13 games in 24 days, they need the break.