Nashville Predators: Keys to Finally Having Success Against Tampa

Rocco Grimaldi #23 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Rocco Grimaldi #23 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

Let the youth grow for the Nashville Predators. That’s the prevailing theme as the season rolls on past the midway point of the 56-game regular schedule.

The Predators have lost six of their last seven games, and in the midst of a brutal road trip that’s really making it abundantly clear that they’re a team in transition. They’re just no match for teams at the top of this division.

It’s the sixth meeting of the season for the Predators against the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. They’ve been outscored by Tampa Bay a combined 25-10 in those five meetings, with all but one of those games being by three goals or more.

We have some rare weekday afternoon hockey today with the Predators and Lightning. Maybe we can catch Tampa Bay off their rhythm this afternoon? No, who am I kidding? It might be another one of those games that’s hard to watch.

Remember what really matters this season

When things get at a rock bottom state, you have to sometimes reshuffle the deck and keep things in perspective.

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The Predators aren’t going to the playoffs this season, but there’s still things that can happen over the second half that will increase my confidence in what will happen in 2021-22.

The youth of the team is playing admirably (yes, pun intended) and that alone is enough to keep you tuned into this team despite the piling up of losses.

The Lightning are a team that has a really good chance at becoming the next NHL dynasty, which is so rare in this sport. They have the stacked roster and elite goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

As for this afternoon’s matchup, I’m looking for the Predators to improve on their mistakes and stay competitive. I can’t handle the lopsided losses and a team that’s going to fold. I don’t see this Predators team doing that right now, and hopefully it won’t start today.

More growth and development from key future pieces like Eeli Tolvanen, Alexandre Carrier, Mathieu Olivier and Jeremy Davies is what we want to see.

Nashville Predators still missing so many pieces

You can’t use this as an excuse when you’re missing several key players in the lineup. It happens to everyone to one degree or another. The depth has been tested this season, and hasn’t really came through.

If the Predators had their full arsenal of defensive players, then I’d give the Predators fair chances to occasionally beat teams like Tampa Bay, Carolina and Florida. But without Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis leading the blueline, I can’t see it realistically happening unless the Lightning put out a terrible performance that doesn’t happen with this team, usually.

The Lightning recently got their one dud out of the way by losing to the Detroit Red Wings just before this current two-game set with the Predators. They lost that game by giving up six goals to Detroit, with backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney in net as the starter.

The Predators should get Dante Fabbro back later today to bolster up their defensive core some, but it really doesn’t make a huge impact in my confidence for them to hold Tampa Bay down below scoring another three or four goals at minimum.

Fabbro’s return will push Frederic Allard out of the lineup according to the projected lineup, which might be to the chagrin of some fans.

Matt Duchene has been out of the lineup since March 4, and the Predators have only won one game in his absence.

Juuse Saros has a chance to get back into the lineup soon, per Brooks Bratten of the team’s official website:

Even at full strength, the Predators aren’t on the level of Tampa Bay. Without Josi, Ellis and Duchene, there’s just no realistic chance unless one team plays their worst game and the Predators plays their absolute best.

Pekka Rinne continues to pile up the starts, and it’s been brought up by several fans and media regarding the worry that they’re overworking him and tarnishing his career stats. It’s a fair point to make, and we’ve been clear that Kasmir Kaskisuo deserves a start until Saros returns.

If the Predators can pull off their biggest win of the season against Tampa Bay this afternoon, it will have to come primarily by playing virtually mistake free hockey and not giving anything away to Tampa Bay.

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With inexperience all over the roster, mistakes are going to happen and Tampa Bay is a team that’s going to make you pay. At the same time, Detroit already showed that upsets do happen and the Predators can catch Tampa Bay in a weird time slot to give us a rare win over a great team.

Puck drop is scheduled for 3 P.M. CDT and will be televised regionally on Fox Sports Tennessee and nationally on NHL Network.