Yes, it’s just one game, but the Nashville Predators received a spark to get back on track in Saturday’s narrow win over the New York Rangers as Juuso Pärssinen made his highly anticipated NHL debut.
Pärssinen was called up from the Milwaukee Admirals ahead of an important matchup with the Rangers following two lopsided and brutal losses for the Predators. The line combinations have had very little stability as Head Coach John Hynes has been scrambling to find some consistency.
You couldn’t have scripted it any better as Pärssinen scored his first NHL goal just five minutes into the game as he used his big frame to power his way to the net. Perhaps the first of many in Predators Gold:
Nashville Predators Get an Early Boost from Pärssinen
The Predators were decked out in their new Reverse Retro 2.0 sweaters for the first time, and although there were still noticeable struggles to generate sustained offensive pressure, the team rallied around a bounce-back performance from Juuse Saros, and that early goal from Pärssinen.
Per Predators PR, Pärssinen is the first Predators player to score a goal in his NHL debut in nearly eight years, and just the fifth in franchise history:
It wasn’t just the goal that made Pärssinen’s NHL debut so impressive. He skated with confidence, made wise decisions like dumping pucks into the zone for line changes, and even answered the bell late in the game when Hynes gave him valuable minutes as the Predators looked to preserve the one-goal lead.
In the faceoff circle, Pärssinen won some crucial ones late to get puck possession for his team. He won four faceoffs total and lost seven.
Pärssinen would end up with 17:49 of TOI, which is pretty high for a 21-year-old playing their first NHL game. He also has only 19 games of AHL experience, which is also kind of rare to see a prospect leapfrog that level of development and come in looking so comfortable.
Hynes decided to throw Pärssinen right in there by centering a line with Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund, rather than burying him on the fourth line like we’ve seen with many other call-ups in the past.
In addition to the top line minutes, Pärssinen got time on the power play unit, which did still show it needs a lot of improvement going 0-for-4 on the night.
Hynes definitely needs to roll with this same top line combination going into Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Give it the opportunity to grow into a long-term fix. With that said, we have to be prepared for some growing pains as well from Pärssinen and let him play his way through it.
Fittingly enough, Pärssinen received the top star of the game in the postgame and got to greet the home crowd which was treated to just the second win at Bridgestone Arena this season. The team begins a stretch of eight of their next nine at home.
What Else Stood Out from the Win?
Other standouts from the win over the Rangers was Saros. He had to be at his top level through the first half of regulation as the Predators had a hard time mustering up shots on goal and testing Rangers backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak who only ended up facing 18 SOG from Nashville.
On the flip side, Saros turned away 34 of the 35 Rangers SOG that came his way. The Predators badly needed a gem performance from him to get over the finish line, and Juice delivered.
Tanner Jeannot showed us some fireworks by dropping the gloves with Ryan Reaves. Didn’t see a lot of solid punches landed from either player, but the intensity level was at a maximum when they were sizing each other up before engaging:
Mark Jankowski also continued his solid start to his Predators career by tallying a goal on a pretty give-and-go play with Roman Josi. As Jankowski streaked towards the net, Josi made a pinpoint pass through defenders for the second and decisive goal.
The 3rd Period was all about the Nashville Predators digging deep as a team to get the two points. A four-minute penalty kill late in the frame with the score still 2-1 was the ultimate difference-maker. So many players like Ryan McDonagh, Dante Fabbro and Jeremy Lauzon were blocking shots to protect the house for Saros.
McDonagh in particular had a sequence when he blocked two shots back-to-back. As the players went to the bench after the kill was completed, they looked like their gas tanks were close to being on empty. A very commendable effort.
Blocked Shots by Preds Players
- Josi- 5
- McDonagh- 4
- Fabbro- 4
- Carrier- 2
As for Pärssinen’s special night to remember, I’d expect him to stick around up here for a while. Hynes showed a lot of confidence in him, and it would be baffling to see him yanked back out of the lineup so suddenly.
Let’s see if this young playmaker can help boost a Nashville Predators team that is in danger of losing control of the season as their postseason probabilities continue to tank. They remain near the bottom of the Central Division.