Predators Rebound Against Reeling and Beaten Up Blue Jackets

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 07: Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predators celebrates with teammates Filip Forsberg #9, Craig Smith #15, and Colton Sissons #10 after a goal against of the Columbus Blue Jackets with one second left in the first period at Bridgestone Arena on April 7, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 07: Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predators celebrates with teammates Filip Forsberg #9, Craig Smith #15, and Colton Sissons #10 after a goal against of the Columbus Blue Jackets with one second left in the first period at Bridgestone Arena on April 7, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

After losing a heartbreaker in Chicago, the Predators rebounded in shaky fashion against a struggling Columbus team. How’d they accomplish this?

Well, in pretty typical fashion; the Nashville Predators zigzagged in the most maddening way possible.

The Jackets came into this matchup with a laundry list of injuries and a losing streak of seven games, seemingly setting up a win for a struggling and desperate Nashville squad.

In what could have been a statement win that maybe convinced us that the team was getting its crap together, we instead saw many of the same glaring issues that have been pervasive all year.

It’s time to accept what this year’s iteration of the Predators is: a bubble playoff team. Why do I feel that way? Let’s break it down.

Hynes’s Lines

When the warmup lines were released, the reaction was almost uniformly disbelief. Here’s a look at the initial projected lines from Brooks Bratten:

Head Coach John Hynes put top-six players like Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg with bottom-six players like Colton Sissons and Austin Watson, effectively sending a message to both the personnel and the fans: the on ice product against the Blackhawks was unacceptable.

While I personally don’t love putting players in positions where they aren’t likely to succeed or score (Johansen with Watson, yeesh), I appreciate the idea of motivating players via making them earn their spots in the lineup.

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Johansen has had a few eyebrow raisers this year when it comes to perceivable effort plays, such as his bad habit of using his reach to make defensive plays as opposed to moving his feet.

Matt Duchene has been largely ineffective lately and largely has been invisible. Moving them down in the lineup and rewarding guys like Colin Blackwell and Sissons for effort is a nice sentiment, even if I think Sissons and Watson still haven’t shown me anything worthy of “good” status (calling Watson average might even be pushing it).

Another point of interest was Jarred Tinordi taking a role on the bottom pair. It seems as if the organization likes the play of Tinordi judging by GM David Poile’s interview appearances.

So, I guess we likely don’t see any trades for a defender to supplant Dan Hamhuis or Matt Irwin, barring something happening.

How’d the game go?

Well, looking over my notes, about how I described it: it was a zig-zagging mess.

The Predators did a good job of holding Columbus in check early on, with deliberate puck movement throughout the neutral zone and a focus on getting imbalances in coverage to spring Mikael Granlund, Forsberg and Kyle Turris as often as possible.

By baiting the Jackets’ heavy forecheck and aggressive defensive play, Nashville got good rush chances early and threatened a few times as a result.

The first goal came off of a weird sequence, with Johansen putting home a rebound after a Ryan Ellis shot kind of hung out in front.

The second was more tied into the aforementioned strategy, with Forsberg springing free, commanding defenders with a mild head fake, and dishing a beauty of a pass to Granlund for the second tally of the game.

Everything went okay in the first period, but Columbus showed signs of adjusting to Nashville, not taking the bait as often on the conservative puck movement.

The second period, everything went to hell. The Predators got good pressure early, but conceded a goal off the faceoff; Johansen got blown past by Boone Jenner. Nathan Gerbe crashed the net, and the captain got the Jackets on the board.

Soon after, Viktor Arvidsson got caught setting his feet and Eric Robinson flew into the slot to dunk a pass from Jakob Lilja down low.

A tie game allowed the Jackets to once again employ their aggressive and tenacious defensive system, harassing puck carriers along the boards and forcing play into the dirty areas, effectively shutting the Predators down by erasing their zone exits and entries.

After a weak delay of game call on Arvidsson, the Jackets would exploit Nashville’s league-worst penalty kill with an Emil Bemstrom goal thanks to a Jenner screen.

Despite all of this adversity, the Predators managed to tie the game off of a ridiculous deflection by Sissons off a heads-up shot by Forsberg from the wall. Nashville went into the third period gasping for air.

The third period was mostly Columbus effectively trapping Nashville again, with little pressure going in favor of the home team. Some stars finally made standout plays, with Duchene being an example; No.95 went behind the net, passed to a man in the dot, and then immediately looped around the goal to collect a high-danger chance off the rebound.

In spite of a few nice plays, Nashville looked largely gassed, and limped into overtime happy to get a point.

Hello, OT. We meet again.

Overtime was a bit rough; Roman Josi was forcing shots a little bit in this game, and Arvidsson saved the game with a great block in front. The Predators never seemed to get much going, but that wasn’t a total shock given their third period play.

The shootout was long and quite fun. Juuse Saros made some highlight saves, including a nice kick-out stop on Riley Nash and a beauty of a glove snag. Forsberg and Ellis kept the Predators in it, and Rocco Grimaldi finally ended the game with a great deke and top-shelf finish.

With the shootout win, the Predators move to 3-3 in the season and 3-5 in overtime. In a pretty astounding statistic, the Blue Jackets now have 14 overtime losses on the season after this one.


Your performance of the game goes to Filip Forsberg. While Fil didn’t score a goal (.07 ixG good for 12th on the team), he put up two assists, including one off a great play from the boards to get Sissons a tally.

While he posted a weak CF% (46.43), he was 5th on the team with a 68.29 xGF% at 5v5 SVA. Just because he hasn’t had a goal in a while doesn’t mean he isn’t an impact player, despite what your heart may tell you.

All advanced stats are courtesy of A great site to find analytic numbers for each game and overall.

Where do the Predators stand?

Nashville sits on the brink of the trade deadline just a point back of the second and final wildcard spot, held by the Jets.

With this latest win, they’re now 30-23-8 for 68 points. In comparison, they’re 32 points shy of the 100 points they racked up last season, with 21 games remaining. So baring an incredible run, they won’t touch last season’s record in the standings.

With multiple games in hand on both wildcard teams, Nashville seems to be standing pat at the deadline from all sources, but don’t be surprised if we see some David Poile zest today.

Next. Is Nick Bonino Missing Games Just Mere Coincidence?. dark

I still personally feel that the Predators should be sellers, as last night’s performance was incredibly unconvincing against a weak opponent, but I’m not the GM so we’ll have to wait and see what direction the team takes.