There’s always going to be nostalgia in the air when the Nashville Predators face Barry Trotz. He’s had enormous success with the New York Islanders.
It’s the back end of a back-to-back for the Nashville Predators, and they don’t get much more challenging than this. The Islanders are one of the best teams in the league, but at least the Predators don’t have to travel far, right?
Anytime the Predators face Barry Trotz again, I remember how fortunate they were to have him from the start. This franchise is forever indebted to this guy, and outside of tonight, we wish him nothing but the best as the original head coach of the Predators.
The Predators took care of business and defeated the New York Rangers last night at Madison Square Garden. Always fun to get a win in such a prestigious road atmosphere. It also comes against an upstart Rangers team that can’t be taken lightly anymore.
After stumbling badly through November, the Predators can no longer afford to alternate wins and losses. They need to string together multiple wins in a row, and that’s going to be tough to start that trend tonight against the Islanders.
What makes the Islanders so good
Well let’s start with the fact that they give up the second-fewest goals per game in the league at only 2.32. Narrowly behind Dallas for the fewest allowed in the league. That’s no surprise with Trotz being the head coach.
The Islanders give up plenty of shots on goals to the opposition, but they limit the quality. That could spell disaster for a team like the Predators who loves to pile on the shots but don’t always get high quality looks when amassing those shots.
To go along with limiting quality shots they’re the best in the league at blocking shots and second-best in generating hits per 60 minutes. They don’t make anything easy for the opponent, and they know how to win games in the trenches and make them ugly.
Think about the opposite of how the Predators have played to get them behind the 8-ball in the standings, and that’s how the Islanders play. Very disciplined on defensive and they don’t take an enormous amount of penalties despite playing this style.
The Predators are going to have to win this one ugly and beat them at their own game. Limit the mistakes and play even better than they did last night against the Rangers. The Rangers are improving, but they’re not the Islanders.
It’s going to take limiting the Islanders to under three goals to win this game. That’s going to be tough as the Predators might be depleted of some energy after playing a grinder of a game last night. A well-rested Pekka Rinne is going to have to be sharp.
Who to watch for
Colton Sissons is projected to be on the second line with Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris. I like that trio to be perfectly honest. The top line stays the same with Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.
The very successful third line remains untouched with Nick Bonino leading the way. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the production and efficiency of this line. It’s been one of the few bright spots of the team so far that’s performing above expectations.
Then we have Yakov Trenin and Colin Blackwell playing alongside Austin Watson. Naturally this is the line to be anxious about. They had a solid outing last night, but this line is kind of thrown together and you’re hoping it works.
I’ll say that Trenin has continued to show gradual improvement despite not getting much time on ice. I loved what I saw from him last night playing physical, passing the puck accurately and getting three shots on goal. GM David Poile seems to agree, per what he said to 102.5 The Game in Nashville:
I’d expect Rinne to get the start. We desperately need a strong showing from him tonight. The Islanders don’t surrender a lot of goals, and Rinne needs to match them. I’d take an ugly 2-1 win all the way to the bank and be thrilled if the Predators can sweep this New York two-game pack.
Going back to the Islanders, Thomas Greiss is projected to be their starter tonight. The 33-year-old veteran is quietly having a stellar season with a 2.16 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. His last outing came five days ago when he surrendered just one goal to the Panthers in the win.
Mathew Barzal leads their team in points with 27, and also leads them in goals and assists. They’re a very deep and blue collar team with ten players with double digits points. These kinds of teams are the most difficult to face more so than the ones who are top-heavy.
This one is going to be extremely difficult, but these are the kinds of games the Predators have to start figuring out ways to win if they’re going to climb back into the playoff picture. Game is slated to start at 6 P.M. CDT from Nassau Coliseum where the Islanders have a 14-game point streak. Let’s put an end to that.