Nashville Predators: Sizing up the Next Opponent, the New York Rangers

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 16: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers rides Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators into the boards during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 16, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 16: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers rides Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators into the boards during the first period at Madison Square Garden on December 16, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Up next for the Nashville Predators is the New York Rangers, a team that has Stanley Cup or bust aspirations and has the talent to back it up on both ends.

The Rangers stormed back after a three-game losing streak to beat the Detroit Red Wings by a whomping final score of 8-2 on Thursday. Defending Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin needed just 18 saves to secure the win and send the Rangers to a record of 7-5-3 on the young season.

As for the Predators, they’re back on the losing train with back-to-back lopsided defeats to the Seattle Kraken and Colorado Avalanche by a combined score of 10-4. This continued the trend of the Predators performing poorly against top contending teams in the Western Conference.

All five of the Predators’ wins this season are over teams currently not in the playoff picture. Getting a win over the Rangers would be one of the more impressive wins of the season if they can pull it off.

New York Rangers vs. Nashville Predators: Inside the Matchup

Saturday, Nov 12. 151. . 7 PM CT. 7-5-3. 95. Bally Sports South, ESPN+. 5-8-1

The Predators split their two meetings with the Rangers last season, losing 3-1 and getting a 1-0 shutout win with Juuse Saros getting 32 saves and Philip Tomasino scoring the lone goal. The all-time series is fairly even with the Predators holding a 14-15-1 record with two ties.

As previously mentioned, the Rangers have serious Stanley Cup potential and anything short of that will be considered a failure in the eyes of many. They check every box on their roster. They have elite scoring talent led by Artemi Panarin (21 points in 15 games) and Mika Zibanejad (18 points in 15 games).

They also have a young and dynamic core of talent with Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko.

Shesterkin is the defending Vezina Trophy winner and widely-considered the next best goalie in the world. His numbers this season haven’t been bad, but I’d call them ordinary by his lofty standards. It will still be a monumental challenge for a struggling Predators team to get one past him if he starts.

Daily Faceoff hasn’t confirmed yet whether Shesterkin and Saros will start for their respective clubs, but that’s the expectation as Kevin Lankinen started for the Predators on Thursday.

Defensively, the Rangers have one of the great young defenseman in the NHL in Adam Fox. He’s third on the team in points with 16, 12 of those being assists.

The Rangers perform in the middle of the pack in terms of goals allowed per game, while the Predators give up the 8th-most goals per game at 3.5.

What will it Take for a Win over the Rangers?

Going up against a top-10 power play in the Rangers, obviously it’s going to be key to keep it at 5v5 and minimize these defensive breakdowns that put a struggling Saros in an even more compromising situation.

Panarin and Zibanejad alone have the ability to break this one open for the Rangers if the Predators gift the puck in the neutral zone and allow odd man rushes. It will be another horrible rerun we don’t want to watch that you can change the channel early on.

In the 5-3 loss to the Avalanche on Thursday, the Predators were only able to hold onto their slim one-goal lead for less than four minutes of gametime before going on the penalty kill and surrendering a power play goal.

The Predators have to seize the early momentum and dictate the pace. Wear the Rangers down and just play smart hockey. Easier said than done with this team, who I currently have among the league’s worst teams for several reasons.

Furthermore, this team’s leading veterans have to show up early in the game. No more of this waiting until the score is lopsided to get a goal when it doesn’t matter anymore. There was a reason why on paper we thought this team could compete with the division’s best teams going in, but right now they’re not showing up when the game is hanging in the balance.

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Ryan Johansen scored his goal when the score was already 5-1 against the Avalanche. Filip Forsberg didn’t get on the board against the Kraken until the score was 4-0. Similar scenario in the 7-4 loss to the Oilers.

Ultimately, it takes a full team effort to beat teams like the Rangers. Everyone has to tug the rope, and that hasn’t been happening for the full 60 minutes this season.

Puck drop is 7 P.M. CDT as the Nashville Predators return home to Bridgestone Arena to begin a 5-game homestand and play eight of their next nine at home. Safe to say, a critical stretch to salvage the season and keep the fans engaged.