The Nashville Predators head back home after a three-game road trip on the west coast. Needing a big rebound to catch up to the red-hot Colorado Avalanche.
The Nashville Predators took a brutal 7-4 loss in LA to start out their west coast road trip. The Predators fallout seemed to be some form of “jet lag” as they managed to go into Las Vegas, three days later, and dismantled a powerful Golden Knights club.
The Predators’ solid performance against Vegas made you think that their losses to Detroit and LA might have just been flukes. However, the Predators traveled to Arizona two days later and got dominated. It ended their road trip with losses in two of three games.
The 5-2 final score in Arizona does not accurately portray how the game truly went. For the final two periods Juuse Saros stood on his head and made some incredible saves to try and give the Predators a chance, but something just seemed off offensively without Filip Forsberg in the lineup.
After falling in two of their three games, the Predators need a big response against the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are coming off a tough 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Even after tallying three goals in the first period, the Panthers could not find a way to stop Colorado’s brute offense.
Who are the Panthers?
For some reason the Panthers have not found a way to click consistently. While they manage to score early and keep their games close until the end, they cannot seem to close out games. Their 2-2-3 record puts them near the bottom in the highly-competitive Atlantic Division, five points behind first-place Buffalo.
A Panthers win could go a long way in the current standings, and they know this. After suffering three overtime losses in seven games the Panthers are hungry for a big win against a competitive team. The Predators and Panthers played in the preseason as well, with the Predators winning both games of the doubleheader.
Panthers to Watch for
The Panthers top line is very dangerous, combining for twenty-one points through seven games. According to dailyfaceoff.com, this is the #5 ranked top line of any team in the NHL.
This line is explosive, the scariest thing about this Panthers team is their sleeping giant. Aleksander Barkov (#15) set the franchise record with 96 points last season, including 35 goals. He has chalked up six assists, but hasn’t scored a goal thus far. Barkov is due for a big night, the Predators need to shut down the Panthers top line before the sleeping giant can wake up.
Like the Nashville Predators, the Panthers also have a one-two punch. Their second line has contributed 19 points, eight of which come from their leading scorer, Mike Hoffman (5g-3a).
Hoffman is also dangerous on the power play contributing on three of Florida’s five goals during the man advantage. However, the Panthers are lacking secondary scoring from their third and fourth lines.
Their bottom six forwards only have a combined four goals this season, and a total of nine points. The lack of secondary scoring has forced big minutes on the top two lines. The heavy ice time for their top six has been a big factor in their inability to close out games.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of stats the bottom six is putting up. There are still five players that scored more than eight goals last season who have not scored this season. Including Frank Vatrano, who had 24 goals last year, and Aaron Ekblad, who netted 13 goals. The Panthers bottom two lines are in a goal drought, but it’s only a matter of time before they break out.
Florida’s defense and goaltenders
On the defensive side, their top pair features playmaker Ekblad, who has five assists, and McKenzie Weegar, who also has five points. Their bottom two pairs have not been much of a factor offensively, tallying a combined five points and one goal. One player to watch on their third pair is 14-year veteran, Keith Yandle who had 62 points last year and 56 the season before. He’s still a very productive defenseman for Florida.
Projected in goal tonight is Sam Montembeault, since Bobrovsky played last night. Last season, in his first NHL season, Montembeault had a 4-3-2 record with a 3.04 goals against average and a save percentage of only .894. In his two appearances this season, he’s 0-1 with a 1.75 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Perhaps he’s getting ready to turn a corner.
His numbers have improved this season, but the sample size of 45 saves on 48 shots is too small to tell if the growth is there. The Predators lead the NHL in goals per game and should pose a big test to this second-year goaltender.
Panthers top two lines:
Huberdeau (#11, 8 pts)
Barkov (#15, 6 pts)
Dadonov (#63, 7 pts)
Hoffman (#68, 8 pts)
Trocheck (#21, 5 pts)
Connolly (#10, 6 pts)
Full lines for any team can be found on thedailyfaceoff.com
What to Expect from the Predators
Maybe these two games along the road trip were lost because of the late west coast start times, or maybe Pekka Rinne has been bailing out the Predators more than we have thought. He’s done that a lot throughout his career.
Saros appeared in all three losses so far this season, but seemed to be bailing out the Nashville defense more times than not, especially against the Coyotes. He has plenty of time to turn it around, but not the ideal start for the future franchise goaltender.
Rinne is a Vezina Trophy winner, and he’s a level ahead of Saros, who is still maturing into an elite goaltender. This makes it tough to tell if those “normal” Rinne saves we are accustomed to seeing are bailing out the Predators more than we realize, or if the Predators have just played poorly when Saros gets the start.
Playing against two lethal Florida lines should help determine which is the case, but regardless the Predators defense that has been absent the last week needs to show up. If they lay another egg defensively, Florida is more than capable of blowing this one up.
The defense has always been the foundation of the Predators, but with the explosion of offense this season, the defense has been left behind. At some point the Predators will find the right balance between the two, hopefully it comes sooner, rather than later.
Nashville sits in third place in the Central Division with eight points, just one point behind St. Louis who also plays today. The Predators need to keep pace with the red-hot Colorado Avalanche who are trying to run away with the division early on.
Filip Forsberg and the Second Line
Forsberg remains day-to-day and hopefully he will play tonight. However it’s not looking probable as the Predators have made some roster moves from Milwaukee ahead of tonight’s game:
The offense seemed out of rhythm without him Forsberg on Thursday and Daniel Carr struggled to take on Forsberg’s normal second line role. If the Predators are going to remain one of the top offensive teams in the NHL, they need Forsberg back quickly. Without Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund only combined for one shot in 15 minutes of ice time. This line isn’t anywhere near as dangerous when you put Carr in there, which is to be expected.
With Miikka Salomaki and Yakov Trenin joining the mix, it will be interesting to see who gets the start. It would be Trenin’s NHL debut as he’s off to a hot start in the new AHL season with four goals and an assist. We all know what Salomaki brings as he’d likely be fit into the fourth line if he gets the start.
The Panthers can put up goals and the Nashville Predators top two lines need to be in full swing to match the Panthers’ style of play.
The Panthers will come out of the gate hot after a tough loss last night. So will the Predators after coming off their own ugly loss on Thursday night. If the Predators can keep the score close going into the first intermission they should win.
The Panthers top-heavy offense will be gassed by the final period after playing long minutes last night, and their forwards will struggle to keep pace with all four of the Nashville Predators lines that like to push the tempo.
Additionally, playing against a second-year backup goalie should be a field day for the NHL’s top scoring team. I expect a high scoring first period and less action in the following two periods.
Key Stats/NHL Rank
Power Play%: 20%,18th 18.5%,14th
Penalty Kill%: 66.7%, 27th 88.9%,6th
Goals for/game: 4.29, 1st 3.17,14th
Goals against/g: 4.00, 28th 4.00,27th
Shot for/game: 33.29, 11th 38.17,1st
Shots against/g: 31.14, 12th 30.17,7th
Do not forget to check out our new sports betting picks, coming twice a week. Our first round of picks were posted on Thursday and our next set of picks will be posted Tuesday, check it out: https://predlines.com/2019/10/17/nhl-betting-picks-predictions-analysis-probability-thursday/
Puck drop is at 7 PM CDT and will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee. It will also be broadcast on 102.5 The Game and able to be live streamed on the Fox Sports Go app.