Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Juuse Saros once again had to put the Nashville Predators on his back in third period to narrowly get the win over the Calgary Flames.
This game had massive implications for the postseason race as the Nashville Predators have entered the second half of their season and needing to make up seven points in the standings. The Flames are one of those teams occupying a wildcard spot.
Saros faced 21 shots from the Flames in the third period, while the Predators managed just five shots and were on the ropes for most of the period. There were some close chances, including one shot hitting the post by Filip Forsberg.
It’s Saros or Bust for the Nashville Predators Playoff Hopes
A huge night for the Nashville Predators, also in part thanks to Saros’ clutch goaltending, that held the Flames power play scoreless on four attempts. Back-to-back penalties early in the third period on Cole Smith and Tanner Jeannot could’ve been disastrous for the Predators as they were trying to nurse the one-goal lead.
Saros had lost his last two starts, including giving up five goals to the NHL’s highest scoring team in the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. His other loss was not on Saros as he made 34 saves for a .943 save percentage against the Toronto Maples Leafs.
The Predators are only going to go as far as Saros can take them. They’ve proven to not be a reliable offensive team in the slightest, and taking bad penalties late in games is another unnerving trend that is developing.
Saros now has a save percentage of .943 or higher in five of his last seven starts. According to MoneyPuck, Saros is second only to Linus Ullmark in Goals Saved Above Expected at 23.1:
NHL Leaders in Goals Saved Above Expected, Per MoneyPuck.com
- Linus Ullmark, BOS: 23.3
- Juuse Saros, NSH: 23.1
- Ilya Sorokin, NYI: 22.6
- Connor Hellebuyck, WPG: 18.5
- Jake Oettinger, DAL: 17.6
The only thing standing the way of Saros getting his second-straight Vezina Trophy nomination is if the Predators freefall in the standings. It might be hard for Saros to rally votes together if the team he is on isn’t relevant in the postseason race.
I’ve always said that it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” Saros eventually wins his first Vezina Trophy. This season is shaping up to be another example of the Nashville Predators being nothing but mediocre team at best if without Saros.
The Saros effect gives the Nashville Predators a chance against anyone. It’s probably not sustainable in terms of realistically winning a Stanley Cup, with 2017 being the magical outlier, but there’s always that chance that Saros will be the ultimate equalizer.
The Predators give up the third-most shots against per game in the NHL. Only the Last place Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks give up more. Not good company to be in. Without Saros, the Predators would no doubt be much further out of playoff contention and we’d already be looking ahead as major seller at the March trade deadline.
Instead, the Nashville Predators have hope. Saros showed that in the win over the Flames last night, and the one back in early November.