The Nashville Predators went into Thursday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues with their backs to the wall, needing a win or else things would look really, really bleak.
Fortunately, they got it done, and you could tell from watching them that they knew what was at stake.
The Predators played about as good of a game as you could ask for, winning by a decisive 6-2 score against one of their biggest rivals. Players from three out of the four lines scored goals, team defense was overall solid, and Juuse Saros was making big saves.
In a critical situation against a very good team, the Predators showed us what they can do if they are truly at their best, which is going to win a lot of games. For everything that went right, of course there were three things that particularly stood out as fueling the victory.
Nashville Predators went back to their strength
During the losing streak, one thing that was killing the Predators was them trying to do too much offensively. They would try to make fancy plays or wait for the perfect ones to develop, and more often than not it just was not happening.
On Thursday, the Predators cut the nonsense and got back to what they are good at, which is being a tough, physical team. Their net-front presence was superb, as all of the first five goals — with the sixth being the empty netter — were the result of crashing the goal with emphasis.
The Predators’ work down behind the goal was much better, and for most of the game they were finding ways to take the body but do so smartly. It was everything the team preaches; doing the hard work in the dirty areas that makes them so tough to play against.
In order to get back on track, the Predators had to simplify their game and grind it out, because they were beating themselves by trying to be flashy. They returned to being themselves against the Blues, and it paid off big time.
Top players finally showed up
As you would generally expect during a long losing streak, the top players on the Nashville Predators were largely invisible, but that changed on Thursday. Especially during the third period, the big boys showed up and sealed the game when it was still in reach.
The Predators needed a shakeup of their top six with their inability to score during the losing streak, and the decisions paid dividends on the scoreboard and overall player performance.
Regression is different than failing to show up, and at the very least, this game showed that this team’s best players are still very good players.
Nashville Predators responded to adversity
Just because the Nashville Predators won this game by a lot does not mean it was picture perfect. Not only that, but the team had several opportunities to spiral out of control and cost themselves the game from the start.
Do not forget that they gave up the first goal on the Blues’ first shot just over a minute in, then took a penalty very shortly after. But they killed off the penalty and responded by getting sustained possession in the offensive zone and eventually scoring.
In the second period, they took a penalty, surrendered a goal in the dying seconds of the kill, then quickly took another penalty.
Down 2-1 at that point, things looked really dangerous, but they held on and scored two goals from Michael McCarron and Zach Sanford in 37 seconds after some tremendous work in the offensive zone.
They also allowed a long Blues offensive shift near the end of the first period but stood tall there as well and did not allow them great looks.
You would think that the team absolutely would have crumbled a week ago considering their tendency to blow big leads, but they tightened up when they needed to the most and ultimately give themselves a chance to win the game.
Everyone in that locker room deserves credit for how they bounced back as a team and responded when it was most important to do so.