You’ll take wins any way you can get them at this point regarding the Nashville Predators. The season hasn’t started off off very promising, but we’re just a quarter of the way through the 56-game schedule.
The Predators faced the Detroit Red Wings last night in the 100th all-time matchup between the two old rivals. Even after the win, the Predators still have the worst point percentage in franchise history against the Red Wings at .440.
Last night’s game was basically a battle to avoid falling into last place in the Central Division. The beauty of the all-division schedule is you can make up ground fast. That’s what the Predators are trying to accomplish against teams like the Red Wings.
Fans are growing impatient with the team, but it’s nowhere near the time to give up on this season.
Vintage Rinne carrying the Nashville Predators
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In Rinne’s last three starts, including last night in the 3-2 win for the Predators, he has given up just two goals in each of those games. That’s gives your team a chance to win every night. Even a team as offensively challenged as the Predators are right now.
Both Rinne and Saros have the daunting task of being near perfect right now because the Predators just aren’t manufacturing much goal support.
It’s talked about all of the time in hockey. Ride the hot goaltender and good things can happen even if the team isn’t that great on paper. Well, Rinne appears to be the hot goaltender, so let’s see if Head Coach John Hynes starts him again over Saros in Saturday’s rematch.
Rinne finishes this win over the Red Wings with 24 saves, including a couple incredible ones that kept the score tied at the time. His GAA is now down to 2.42 on the season.
The penalty kill is showing mild improvement
It might just be a product of the opponent, but the Predators penalty kill seems to be showing modest improvement. They killed off all four Detroit power plays last night, with a big kill coming late in the final period of regulation to keep the score tied.
A reliable penalty kill for the Predators will give them a chance to compete for a playoff spot down the stretch. I’m sure it’s a main focus in practice right now for players to be in the right position to block shots and battle for loose pucks to make the clear.
A big shoutout goes to Erik Haula who spent a lot of time on the penalty kill last night. He may have had his best game in a Predators uniform thanks to his defensive play on special teams.
Despite the perfect penalty kill against Detroit, the Predators are still last in the NHL in penalty kill percentage at 65.5. For comparison, last season the Predators finished 29th on the penalty kill at 76.1 percent, so they are still performing well below even last season’s failures in this department.
Overcoming key injuries
It happens to virtually every team over the course of a season. That’s especially true when the games are packed in like they are and you’re navigating through the COVID-19 landscape.
Johansen is considered “week-to-week”, so it remains unclear when he’ll return. For all of his struggles he’s having in his play, he’s a vital player to the top-six of the lineup.
Ekholm is also particularly missed, but the Predators were able to survive against a limited Red Wings team that also doesn’t take a lot of offensive risks. The Predators will badly need Ekholm back when they take on the Dallas Stars next week.
So as bad as it may seem that it took the Predators until the very end of regulation to seal the deal over the lowly Red Wings, it’s important to remember they did have to overcome a couple key players missing.
Other game notes
Filip Forsberg notched two assists and looked like his normal aggressive self. He’s now at 13 points in 14 games, similar to his point pace in 2017-18 when he notched 64 points in 67 games.
Matt Duchene could’ve easily had his second game of the season with two goals, but he settles for one goal on a breakaway that was set up beautifully by Calle Jarnkrok. Duchene now has three goals on the young season and 16 goals in his Predators career.
gets the game-winning goal with just over 60 seconds left in regulation. It was a wild shot from way outside that Detroit goaltender
never saw coming:
It’s Fabbro’s first NHL game-winning goal, and just his eighth goal total. His offensive game seems to be evolving for the better.
The rematch with Detroit will be Saturday night once against from Bridgestone Arena. There will be limited fans allowed to attend.