Nashville Predators: Three Reasons New York Rangers Gave Them the Loss

Nashville Predators defenseman Matt Benning (5) is hit by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators defenseman Matt Benning (5) is hit by New York Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba (8) during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s another hard-fought and valiant effort by the Nashville Predators, but in a losing effort as they were defeated 3-1 by the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Valiant efforts unfortunately don’t count in the standings, and now they’re quickly digging themselves into a hole in the standings.

This marks the third time in all three losses that the Predators emptied their net late in the game to try to get the equalizer, only to give up the empty net goal and make their comeback attempt near impossible.

These are heartbreaking ways to lose, but they’re also providing learning experiences for one of the youngest teams in the NHL. It didn’t help that in this latest loss to send their season record to 1-3-0, the Predators ran into a goaltender playing out of his mind right now in Igor Shesterkin.

Time to break down the loss and why the Nashville Predators suffered defeat in this game for the third time in their four-game homestand to open the 2021-22 NHL season.

1. Nashville Predators offensive attack is so vanilla

Unfortunately, we all should’ve seen this coming. The Nashville Predators just don’t have a lot of offensive weapons that will scare the majority of NHL teams. This game showed flashes of the Predators getting offensive zone time, but just couldn’t finish.

Too many times I see the Predators get an offensive zone faceoff win (they’ve won the faceoff circle in three of four games) only to irrationally throw the puck at the net through traffic hoping for a lucky bounce. They’re low percentage chances, and tells me there’s no offensive chemistry to set things up and find the strong scoring chance that can beat the goaltender.

According to the analytics from JFresh (@JFreshHockey), the Predators are doing well at limiting scoring chances for the other team, but are also struggling to generate scoring chances for themselves based on Expected Goals Against and Expected Goals For. In other words, they’re just downright boring to watch:

In last night’s case against the Rangers, the margin for error was razor thin. One uncharacteristic weak goal given up by Juuse Saros proved to be the difference-maker, even though the Predators would eventually tie the score at 1-1 on Philip Tomasino‘s first career NHL goal.

The Predators played a rather smart defensive game for the majority of the time, but the Rangers didn’t require much offense to overtake a Predators team that struggles to pile up the high-danger chances that it’s going to take to beat a locked-in goaltender like Shesterkin.

2. Power Play misses

There were three chances on the power play for the Predators last night, and it was a blend of a couple good saves by Shesterkin to go along with a predictable power play set-up.

There were some chances where Shesterkin just absolutely put out some incredible saves to help stymie the Predators power play. The first power play attempt of the night came in the first period, and the Predators actually had some thing working for them on this one.

Ryan Johansen won the initial faceoff to open the power play and then quickly got a wrist shot off on Shesterkin, but the save was made. Johansen won another offensive zone faceoff, and this time Mikael Granlund was turned away by Shesterkin.

The Predators had an opportunity in the 2nd period to take the lead after Filip Forsberg drew an interference penalty, but once again Shesterkin made the necessary saves on Roman Josi and Tomasino to keep the score tied at 1-1.

In their final power play attempt in the early going of the 3rd period the Predators weren’t able to muster up much offensive pressure, and eventually the Rangers would get the go-ahead goal.

The Predators are now 2-for-11 (18.18 percent) on the young season. This was the type of game where goals were at a premium and creating more high danger chances on the power play could’ve been the difference between a loss and a win.

3. Shesterkin was a little better than Saros

It was the classic goaltender’s duel in this one, which we should all get used to as Predators fans this season. Saros is rarely going to be the reason the Predators lose games, and even after giving up the initial goal on his first shot faced, he settled in and was sharp for most of the night.

However, Shesterkin was just that much better. He didn’t surrender any weak goals, and the one he did give up to Tomasino you just have to tip you cap to. Tomasino didn’t give up on the play and snuck one past him on a deflection from behind the net:

Gorgeous goal by Tomasino that illustrates why he shouldn’t be taken out of the starting lineup again by Head Coach John Hynes, but that was the only time Shesterkin was beaten.

Not to be overshadowed by the loss, Tomasino was the player of the game for the Predators with five shots on goal and a few more chances to score a second goal and tally an assist.

Shesterkin was always in position and always one step ahead of any set-up attempts that the Predators had to throw at him.

Granlund in particular was burned by Shesterkin on a beautiful feed from Johansen. Shesterkin just brilliantly read the play and was in perfect position. An average goaltender last night may have given up three or four goals to the Predators last night.

To the dismay of the Predators, moral victories are getting old real fast. To add onto that, very rarely do you run into mediocre goaltenders in the NHL. Most of them are all really good at what they do, and you have to be relentless in your offensive attack even if you get shutdown a couple times.

More. How Tanner Jeannot is Igniting the Predators Early On. light

Saros still ended up with 27 saves on 29 shots faced for a .931 save percentage, which should be good enough for a win on most night. He just isn’t getting the goal support through his first four starts as the Predators are averaging just two goals per game. Not going to get it done against the majority of NHL teams, even the mediocre ones.

Next up the Nashville Predators will face another team who has opened the season sluggishly as they go on the road to face the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night.