A win is desperately needed for the Nashville Predators as they’ll cap off their road trip with a meeting with the Vancouver Canucks.
This matchup features two teams that have recently been sputtering along. The Nashville Predators have lost four of their last five, while Vancouver has lost four-straight in middle of a clogged up Pacific Division race.
There’s reason to be concerned about what we’re seeing from the Predators. They’re wildly inconsistent and unpredictable. On any given night when this team is clicking on all cylinders, they can beat anyone in the league. They have that much talent, but they’re not living up to that recently.
In tonight’s clash with Vancouver, the Predators are getting a team that’s struggling to put up much offense recently. During their current four-game losing streak they’ve been outscored 12-5 and have only surpassed two goals in a game once in November.
Last season these two teams split their two-game season series, with Nashville getting the late-season win at home to help wrap up the Central Division title. Goals in that one came from Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen and Nick Bonino.
Building block game
The last time out the Predators took a tough shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. They only gave up one goal in regulation and showed a lot of improvement from giving up nine goals the previous game. Yes they lost, but the Predators need to get back to gritty, defensive hockey and stop living so dangerously.
I’ll be the first to admit that watching the Predators take chances and score a lot of goals is extremely exciting to watch. But it’s starting to get them burned too often. They need to start clamping down more and take control of more possession time in the other team’s zone instead of just speeding up the ice just to get counter-punched.
I’m eager to see the Predators put up another solid defensive game like they did against San Jose on Saturday night. The offensive firepower that the Predators have will continue to score plenty of goals and keep Nashville among the top offensive teams in the NHL. But if they don’t start playing more disciplined defensively then we’re going to keep seeing this up-and-down trend.
Despite their losing streak, the Canucks are a team that’s enjoying a resurgence of sorts. They’ve been down for a few seasons, but they’re climbing their way back up and have a nice collection of young talent. This will be another tough game for the Predators that will take a 60-minute effort and not just flashes of good hockey.
Players to watch
This looks like a prime game for the Predators to answer the wake up call and get back on the winning track. The Canucks are coming back down to reality after getting off to a great start. They’re a solid team, but I don’t think they’re ready to make that big jump just yet.
The Canucks aren’t loaded with household names, but they do have an impressive duo of centers for their top two lines. Starting with their young phenom Elias Pettersson who already has 21 points in 18 games played. He’s their top playmaker that can shift a game on his own.
Their captain is Bo Horvat is a great leader on their top line and will create plenty of scoring chances. He’s another young and rising star on a roster full of them. This team may be in a little bit of an offensive slump, but they’re capable of breaking out again very soon.
What scares me about this matchup for the sake of the Predators is Vancouver has a very lethal power play that’s top-ten in the league. They convert nearly 22 percent of their power plays even after this recent slump. On the flip side, the Predators are 22nd in the penalty kill giving up a power play goal 21 percent of the time.
The Predators have the more veteran team and the more stacked roster on paper, but we’ve seen this story before. This means absolutely nothing as the Predators have played down to their competition on a regular basis this season leading to a very ordinary record of 9-5-3 heading into tonight’s game.
It comes down to defensive veterans Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm getting back to playing gritty defense and imposing their wills on the opposition. I’m tired of the flashy hockey that leads to the other team getting quick breakaways the other direction. Take care of business defensively and the Predators should win this game.
The Predators have been no stranger to shuffling their lines constantly to see what works, and it looks like the Canucks are going to do the same thing tonight. That second line from Vancouver is pretty scary and one the Predators will be greatly tested to keep under control:
Something has to give tonight. Both teams are struggling and desperate to get back on track. Do the Predators fall back to old habits of not coming out sharp, or do they actually throw the first few punches and stay locked in? We haven’t seen many games like that from the Predators in recent memory.
Pekka Rinne gets back on track tonight and puts together a 30-plus save performance. The puck starts bouncing the way of the Predators with goals from some of their top two lines. I’m looking for a big night from Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen.
This is a turning point game for the Predators. Settle down, stop the bleeding and play more disciplined in front of your goaltender and your overall talent will rise above Vancouver’s. I’m feeling like the Predators give us back that warm, fuzzy feeling of a total team-effort win with a 3-1 final score.
Puck drop is scheduled for 9 P.M CDT and will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee and streamed on the Fox Sports Go app. Listen to the radio broadcast on 102.5 The Game.