Don’t look now, but the Nashville Predators are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Their record may not make it look like it, but the team leads the NHL with a 4-game active win streak, and they’re starting to show promise at just the right time, winning six out of the last seven games.
The Predators continued their winning ways on Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, winning 3-1 and looking very much in control for the game’s entirety.
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Let’s break it down.
The Nashville Predators Goals
Coming off an absolute 7-1 THRASHING of the Detroit Red Wings, the Nashville Predators looked to continue the hot streak against a season-surprising Chicago Blackhawks club.
They got off to a fast start, scoring the game’s first goal just past the five-minute mark of the 1st period.
Eeli Tolvanen (the chosen one) put the puck behind the Chicago net, Viktor Arvidsson retrieved and centered it from behind the end line, and Ryan Johansen redirected the pass beautifully into the net.
The team has gotten some ugly goals more often than not this season, but this one was textbook and really nice to see.
The next goal came in the second period, from a VERY familiar face. You know that Rocco Grimaldi guy? He’s running about as hot as the surface of the sun.
After scoring four goals in Thursday’s blowout, he continued the point streak by netting another beauty off a pass from an upstart Luke Kunin.
After getting a steal in the offensive zone, Kunin fed the puck to Grimaldi, and right now, he can’t miss; he would put the Predators up 2-0.
The last goal of the night came in the third period from one of the hardest-working players on the team, Mikael Granlund. This one was ALSO assisted by Kunin (more on him in a bit).
Kunin, again, made a steal in the Chicago zone, and Granlund was in the perfect spot on the side of the net to redirect the pass and give the Nashville Predators a 3-1 lead.
To see the Nashville Predators score off turnovers and what looks to be like some very sound passing is truly refreshing.
Saturday Night’s Storylines
Filip Forsberg, who has been arguably the team’s best weapon this season, was missing from the lineup on Saturday night. He has an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
While the Nashville Predators took care of business without him in the first of a back-to-back against Chicago, it would be much better to have him in the lineup than to not.
Granlund’s play has been excellent as of late, and he’s playing himself into a VERY interesting situation with the Predators as the trade deadline looms. He has 4 points in the last five games and is up to 14 on the season for nearly a point and a half pace.
Because Granlund is on a one-year deal, it could be hard to retain/bring him back next season. At the same time, to see him walk and get nothing from it would sting. His trade value and the offseason predicament looming may precipitate a change of scenery.
There’s no denying that Grimaldi has been hot, especially in the last two games. He’s scored five goals in the last two games and done it with under 30 minutes of ice time between the two matchups.
Talk about scorching. If anyone is making an argument for and earning their ice-time, it’s Grimaldi. In the same light that the phrase “Arvy Hustle” was coined, “Rocco Grit” should be next. The guy does NOT give up on a play and does NOT stop until the whistle is blown.
Another player started a streak of his own, as Kunin made his return to the lineup after missing 13 games. He didn’t do much except log two assists on the game’s opening goal and go-ahead goal. No big deal, right?
If Kunin can maintain such a level of production across multiple games, and not just this one, it could make this back half of the season VERY interesting.
Tolvanen (The Chosen One) logged another assist in tonight’s game. The young gun came into the season a little raw but quickly rounded into form and has emerged as one of the Predators desperately needed scoring threats.
Tolvanen is second among rookies in goals scored but leads all NHL rookies in assists, as well as in the power play stat categories. If he maintains, he’ll have an argument for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
The last, but CERTAINLY not least, storyline of the night is that Juuse Saros had another EXCELLENT game. While Grimaldi has been hot in the goal department, Sarros has had ice in his veins manning the crease.
In Saros’ last five starts, he’s 4-1 and has only allowed four goals against 171 shots. Read that again: four goals against 171 shots. He has a .975 save percentage in that time span. I mean, those are ELITE numbers.
I imagine Pekka Rinne (who has also been great lately) will get the start in net on Sunday night of the back-to-back, but head coach John Hynes might just ride the hot hand with Saros.
What’s Next For The Nashville Predators
The Predators have a pretty quick turnaround and will play the Chicago Blackhawks again on Sunday night. What makes things interesting is, Nashville has moved into 5th place in the Central Division and is only two points behind Chicago.
If the Predators can win Sunday night, they would move into the coveted 4th playoff spot for the division; they own the tiebreaker against Chicago, going 3-0 on the season (so far). IF that happens, the trick will be staying there.
Also looking up are the Dallas Stars, who have not played the same amount of games as everyone else, and a Columbus Blue Jackets team that could try to play spoiler. Nashville still has five games remaining on the season against Chicago, four games against Dallas, and only two more against Columbus.
It’s going to get VERY interesting down the stretch. It also doesn’t help that the Predators will have to face Carolina four more times before the season’s end.
The Predators are red hot as of late, but consistency and sustainability will be key. Winning tomorrow night, and coming home and taking care of Dallas Tuesday and Thursday, could go a LONG way as we enter the final month (and some change) of what’s been a roller coaster 2021 season.