You cannot make this stuff up. The Nashville Predators, who came out flat in their last game only to come up just short of completing a comeback, did the same thing in last night’s 5-4 loss to the Florida Panthers.
It is literally like a perfect script at this point, as the Predators’ inability to play a full sixty minute game has cost them several games this year.
The Smashville faithful might be quick to point out two big late game calls that cost the team two goals, one of which was the correct call, and the other was not.
Regardless, there are bigger and more important reasons why the Predators lost this game, such as being utterly dominated in every aspect in the first and early second periods.
Their lack of execution and urgency at times in the third period did not help, and one particular blow to their chances came when Mark Borowiecki took a careless interference penalty, which led to the game-winning powerplay goal by Aaron Ekblad.
At the end of the day, the Predators lost this game by doing what they normally do, and they only have themselves to blame.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the contest.
Two-man advantage raises eyebrows
Early in the second period, the Predators were awarded a glorious opportunity to get on the board, as Juho Lammikko and Alex Wennberg each committed a penalty within 15 seconds of each other.
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This would result in a 5-on-3 for the Predators for 1:45, and man was it brutal to watch.
The team generated no high quality shots, as they did all of their work outside the slot and did not utilize the middle of the ice, which had been working for them over the course of the past few games. It was almost as if Dan Lambert’s plan was “Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, just do your thing,” and it was an embarrassing waste of what was a total gift from the Panthers.
I am not quite as upset that the 2-man advantage was squandered, I am most upset because I thought the team was making serious progress over the course of the past few games. The Predators had worked their way to 19th in powerplay percentage after being in the bottom five, but I cannot help but wonder what true progress they have made after seeing them look horrendous with the long 5-on-3.
Mattias Ekholm remains hot
Mattias Ekholm continued his hot streak tonight, as he recorded another slap shot goal from the blue line, and also got an assist on the night.
Ekholm was also lethal in his own end and was able to disrupt several Panthers’ zone entries and possessions with his defensive play.
He is playing at one of his highest levels three games after coming back from his multi-week injury, which is great news for the Predators. If they are actually intent on trading Ekholm in the near future, they should at least think about doing so now.
Ekholm’s value is rising by the game, but who knows if he can sustain this pace moving forward. With the Predators sinking, their goal should obviously be to set up for the future, and they at least know that if they deal him now, they will be able to get a luxurious haul in return.
I do not think David Poile will trade Ekholm now, but I could see a team offering a massive return that would be difficult to turn down.
Struggling player show life
Two forwards who have been severe disappointments since last season — Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen — managed to make an impact last night.
Arvidsson, in particular, showed up in a big way, recording three primary assists in efficient ways. Johansen finally netted his first goal of the season right after missing a game on the COVID-19 list, and he now has two points in his past two games played.
This is no indication that they will ever return to their previous forms, but it is always nice to see struggling players make critical plays. And the more they do that, the more they boost their value in potential trades or other offseason moves.
Could get ugly soon
The Predators may have restored a little optimism coming into Tuesday, as they had just won four out of five games in an incredibly soft stretch in the schedule. Now, it is clear that the momentum gained was solely due to playing bad teams.
They are no match for the top teams in the Central, and their next eight games include three games against the Panthers, and two games each against the Hurricanes and Lightning. Based on their track record against these teams, I do not see the Predators winning more than three of these contests.
Yes, they may have ultimately played tough in their past two games against two good teams, but lost the games and were truly outclassed when it really mattered. As I mentioned, the Predators continue to shoot themselves in the foot, and could be in for a rough stretch if it continues.