Nashville Predators: Keys to Getting the Upset Victory over Carolina

Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) and left wing Erik Haula (56) celebrate after a goal during the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi (59) and left wing Erik Haula (56) celebrate after a goal during the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

A win tonight for the Nashville Predators would be perhaps the most impressive win of the season for them if they can pull it off. They’re facing the Carolina Hurricanes, a team they’ve only played once so far.

In the third game of the season the Predators played the Hurricanes very close before falling by a final score of 4-2 on January 18.

The Predators got it down to just a one-goal deficit late in the 3rd period before the Hurricanes would eventually get an empty net goal to end any hopes of a comeback.

Now it’s time for the makeup game from that series that was originally postponed due to a COVID-19 scare with the Hurricanes at the time.

Tonight is a measuring stick game for the Predators after they’ve won four of their last five, but three of those four are against the same team in the Columbus Blue Jackets. The other win is over the Detroit Red Wings.

Young players have to step up

It’s looking like the Predators will once again lean on the youth of their roster tonight after looking at the morning skate rushes, per Brooks Bratten:

Some eye-opening absences from that list, including Ryan Ellis and Ryan Johansen. Ellis in particular will shake this roster up, and force another new face to get an NHL start.

We could see Alexandre Carrier for the first time all season as Mark Borowiecki and Ellis were absent from the morning skate. This would be two difficult voids to fill for the Predators on defensively.

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Carrier brings an offensive element to his game, so you like that possibility. But having to lean heavily on Carrier, Ben Harpur and Matt Benning in your defensive core is concerning when going up against an offensive juggernaut like Carolina is.

Harpur has been fairly impressive in his brief time with the Predators so far. He has a physical brand to his game that reminds me a lot of how Mattias Ekholm plays.

As for the forwards, Johansen was also absent from morning skate. That could leave the door open for Tanner Jeannot to see some NHL ice time tonight. The 23-year-old has played six games in the AHL and five games in the ECHL this season, racking up a combined 14 points in those games.

We’ve been wanting to see the youth all season long, and we’re going to get a heavy dose of that tonight most likely.

Opportunistic special teams

Take advantage when you’re on the power play. It can’t be much more clear than that for the Nashville Predators, a team that’s offensively challenged and also has their issues in the penalty kill department.

Both areas are showing modest improvement, and the Predators have appeared to found something to really build off of with Filip Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen connecting on the power play unit.

To beat high quality teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, you have to take advantage of power play opportunities. The Hurricanes are likely going to get their fair share of goals tonight, upwards of three or four I would expect.

For the Predators, they need to continue their improved gameplan of filtering pucks towards the net, screening the goaltender and looking for deflections. Getting into the dirty areas is how the Predators can find some success tonight.

Players like Erik Haula, Nick Cousins and Viktor Arvidsson need to be aggressive in looking for rebound chances and to draw penalties when the Hurricanes get out of position. Stay aggressive and good things will happen.

Don’t look now, but the Predators power play, which was struggling mightily early on, is now up to 21st in the NHL at 18.1 percent. In comparison, last season the Predators were 17.3 percent on the power play, which was 25th in the NHL.

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Match Carolina’s speed and aggression

It’s imperative that the Predators don’t sit back and play the conservative style of play. If they do that, the Hurricanes are still going to likely get their three or four goals, and the Predators will struggle to score more than one.

However, if the Predators match their aggressive style with speed and tenacity in entering the offensive zone, I think they can keep this game interesting. The Predators have guys who can play this style, like Roman Josi, Rocco Grimaldi, Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund.

One thing about the Hurricanes that isn’t necessarily their strength is goaltending. They’re on a back-to-back after playing last night against the Panthers in a 3-2 win. James Reimer should end up making the start, who has a sub-90 save percentage on the season.

Reimer did hold the Predators to two goals in the previous meeting in January.

I don’t see the Predators winning this game in a low-scoring battle like they were able to do against Columbus and Detroit. They need scoring chances early and often to keep up with a highly potent Carolina scoring arsenal led by players like Vincent Trocheck (11 goals), Andrei Svechnikov (7 goals) and Nino Niederreiter (9 goals).

You also can’t overlook Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal as offensive playmakers. Simply put, this team is loaded with offensive weapons that will come at you in waves.

The Hurricanes are top-five in power play percentage at 27.9, 8th in goals per game, and tied for 7th with the Predators in shots on goal per game at 31.9.

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This has the makings of a high-scoring affair for at least one side of the matchup. It’s just a matter of if the Predators can keep up and win a style of game similar to when they beat the Florida Panthers 6-5 a month ago.

I can see this game staying close going into the final period, but I’m just not convinced that the Predators have solved all of their issues, or that they can overcome some of the key players that might be missing tonight.