You couldn’t have scripted a much worse outcome for the Nashville Predators coming fresh out of an 11-day break following the All-Star break on Tuesday.
The Predators looked lackadaisical, uninspired and like a team that can afford to lose a couple games and be just fine. They are not one of those teams, mind you.
Roman Josi took a lot of personal ownership for the eye-opening 5-1 loss the Nashville Predators took to the Vegas Golden Knights to begin the grind towards the playoffs, and also as the trade deadline looms.
The Predators get a Philadelphia Flyers team that isn’t completely out of the playoff hunt sitting just seven points back of a wildcard spot. Much like the Predators, the Flyers hit an encouraging hot streak going into the break.
The Flyers have played two games since the break, with a 2-1 loss vs. the Islanders and an impressive 2-1 win vs. the Oilers on Thursday that went to a shootout.
Sizing Up the Competition for the Nashville Predators
We could be in store for a grind-it-out, low-scoring affair in Philly as both the Predators and the Flyers rank near the bottom of the league in goals per game.
In their first meeting back in late October, the Flyers scored two first period goals and won by a 3-1 final score. The Predators managed just five shots on goal in the third period with Matt Duchene scoring the lone goal nearly 58 minutes into regulation.
The Predators were flirting with NHL history on Tuesday against Vegas with just six shots on goal near the midway point of the third period. Another showing like that today against Philadelphia will be disastrous to say the least.
Starting goaltenders haven’t been confirmed but expect Carter Hart to go for the Flyers. He has had a resurgence this season despite playing with little goal support, much like his likely counterpart in Juuse Saros.
Hart has racked up 19 Quality Starts, which is already close to surpassing his total last season. His GAA of 2.80 is also respectable and is the second-lowest of his five-year NHL career.
The Predators have to find a way to get quality scoring chances because Hart is more than capable of stealing a game if you don’t test him. He gets lost in the shuffle playing for the Flyers, but he is a very quality goaltender in this league.
Expect the Flyers to be a menace on the Predators breaking out of their zone and setting up offensively. It’s going to be a matter of winning puck battles and forcing the Flyers into turnovers and creating odd man rushes.
We’re also talking about two teams in the top-10 in penalty minutes per game. The Flyers commit the eighth-most, while the Predators are at 10th.
The Flyers also draw a lot of penalties at over four per game, but have failed miserably to make teams pay for it by being dead last in power play percentage.
Keys to a Nashville Predators Victory
Have to get back to the basics and staying true to your gameplan for the full 60 minutes. This team has way too many ups and downs. I would say getting off to a fast start is important, and it is, but it didn’t work out too well for them against Vegas after scoring the first goal just five minutes in.
The Predators will need some crisp passing and puck movement to break the Flyers defensive front. They are going to look to hem in on the Predators when they try to break out into transition. That is where the Flyers’ scoring opportunities are likely going to come from. By forcing giveaways and getting easy chances to beat Saros.
Another key area I’m going to be focused on is puck management. The Predators looked like a group of guys who just met each other in the parking lot in the game against Vegas. Have to shake that off and do a better job of being on the same page in your structure.
Finally, it’s really pretty simple I would think on this last one; get pucks at the net. It doesn’t matter if it’s low percentage and you need a little puck luck. This team can’t afford to finesse their way to goals right now. Winning net front battles and finding loose rebounds is how they can cash in for multiple goals against Philly.
Furthermore, look for a big response game from Josi. I’m sure he doesn’t take it lightly how underwhelming his performance was on Tuesday, and for that matter, the entire team’s performance.
Filip Forsberg enters the game tied for the team lead in points with 42 and leads the team in goals with 19. Josi also has 42 points to share the team lead.
The rookie Parssinen has climbed up to seventh on the team in points with 21 and has seen his ice time grow to just over 15 minutes per game.
Time is ticking away towards the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. How these next 10 games go before that will drastically change the approach the Predators take. Here’s the updated Predators trade board.