After a busy and productive offseason for David Poile and the front office, the newest members of the Nashville Predators are already paying off.
As a result of the franchise’s first postseason sweep just five months ago, the question surfaced of how long does Poile have left as the only general manager in team history? He even admitted in an offseason press conference that his own head coach didn’t have enough to be successful in the postseason.
What did Poile do in response? To his credit, he added several pieces who are already paying dividends as the Nashville Predators swept their two games at the NHL Global Series over the San Jose Sharks.
Nashville Predators get early boosts from their newest players
Nino Niederreiter has three goals already and has solidified the top two forward lines that makes the Predators a dangerous offensive team again.
What I’m seeing from Niederreiter is a confident skater, someone who knows where to be without the puck, and of course someone who can play the two-way game at a high level. But it doesn’t stop with him.
Kiefer Sherwood was an under-the-radar pickup over the offseason for a modest $750,000 deal for one year. He stood out in training camp and scores the first goal of the 2022-23 season and is logging big minutes with Niederreiter and Johansen.
The Sherwood/Johansen/Niederreiter line has logged 13 minutes of ice time together and second on the team among forward lines in Expected Goals For, per MoneyPuck.com.
Seeing two offseason acquisitions on the same line making this early of an impact is what general managers live for.
We can’t overlook Kevin Lankinen, who made his Nashville Predators regular season debut in the second game and is absolutely a major factor into securing two more points before heading back home from Prague.
Lankinen made 31 saves on 33 shots faced, and both goals were the product of poor play in front of him. He also made 1.4 Goals Saved Above Expected, illustrating how the Sharks definitely got robbed a few times to add more to the scoreboard and make just a one-goal margin of defeat an overtime affair at minimum.
Kaapo Kahkonen wasn’t so sharp on the other side in the second game, having a negative 1.6 Goals Saved Above Expected as a new acquisition making his team debut for San Jose.
How Game 2 of the NHL Global Series Unfolded
The first Sharks goal was on the power play when the Predators just couldn’t get a clear, and the second goal was the product of a poor giveaway from Dante Fabbro that allowed San Jose to rush out of the neutral zone and find Logan Couture all alone is the slot for a difficult save for any goaltender to make.
The Sharks emptied their net for an extra attacker with still over two minutes remaining in regulation and down 3-2 on the scoreboard.
Lankinen had to be top notch as the Sharks put all kinds of pressure on the Predators defensive front, and you saw him laying out in all kinds of crazy positions to smother pucks and preserve the two points.
The Predators threw everyone a curveball over the offseason by acquiring Lankinen for $1.5 million instead of moving forward with Connor Ingram as the backup.
At least in one start, it proved to be beneficial to not only have Juuse Saros already have some pressure taken off, but that the Predators appear to have a reliable backup to turn to when needed.
Ryan McDonagh has played important minutes as expected on the penalty kill. His positioning has been solid, he gets into shooting lanes and has the savvy veteran leadership that you saw some of in these first two games.
McDonagh also tallied two secondary assists, one on the Sherwood goal and the other on Niederreiter’s goal in the second game.
Call this a proverbial “business trip” result for the Nashville Predators. They need to handle things in matchups like this when they’re the better team on paper, and they did that.
Both games were close at certain points when the Sharks pushed back, but the collective depth of the Predators overcame a rebuilding Sharks team.
It wasn’t just the newcomers who pushed the team to two wins. The regulars also showed up to help the new guys. Filip Forsberg tallied a goal and an assist, Eeli Tolvanen did as well and had a sniper of a goal in the first game, and Ryan Johansen was dominant in the faceoff circle and his line had the most consistency.
The rubber really hits the road after a four-day break to travel back to the United States and get ready to play their first game in front of the Bridgestone Arena fans to take on the Dallas Stars. A more worthy adversary, but the front office has to be feeling very pleased with their new players acquired over the offseason after the NHL Global Series.