Look, we’ll take wins any way we can get them for the Nashville Predators. As their playoff chances remain bleak, beating teams who are far out of the playoff race are a necessity right now to salvage any hope.
The clock is ticking on the approaching trade deadline, and it took the Nashville Predators a shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night to avoid another inexcusable loss to a bad team.
The Canucks managed two desperation goals in the final 90 seconds to push this to overtime. This was after the Predators held the lead for the majority of the game.
The lone shootout goal would come from Matt Duchene on a wrister that would secure the critical extra point in the standings and get the season record to 27-22-6, but still seven points out of a playoff spot. Two games in hand over Minnesota and three games in hands over Edmonton.
1. The Young Ones are Playing Hard
Despite the inconsistency and dramatic swings, it has been refreshing seeing the continued growth of the young players on this team. They battled hard in this one, with
scoring his first goal since being called back up to the NHL in the wake of the
This play developed thanks to a faceoff win for Juuso Parssinen, and then a cunning zone entry from Tomasino on the give-and-go. We just haven’t seen enough of that type of puck movement on the power play this season, but we saw it here.
It’s been a little bit of a slow go for Tomasino since returning to the NHL, and that should be expected and not ring any alarm bells. As illustrated here, Tomasino will be just fine.
All of the Predators’ regulation goals were impacted in some way by the younger core of this team. Even Cole Smith got the scoring going with his third NHL goal of his career, and he would finish with two shots on goal, five hits and a blocked shot in this one.
Parssinen would finish with two assists, Tommy Novak and Cody Glass would add an assist as well. Strong game from the young forwards you’re counting on to be around post-trade deadline and into the long-term future plans.
2. No Lead is Safe for this Team
Protecting the lead seems to be an enormous challenge for this Predators team, even when up against low tier teams like the Canucks. Too much up and down play from this team will keep plaguing them.
Yes, the win is nice, but it’s very concerning to just let a lead evaporate like that in the final 90 seconds of a game. No matter who it is up against, you have to protect leads and be a stronger unit in front of your goaltender.
Both Canucks goals were via tip-ins that Juuse Saros had very little chance of stopping. You can’t let teams get set-up that easily even if their net is emptied and they have the sixth skater. You have to win puck battles and salt that one away.
Against a more potent offensive team, this could’ve ended in disastrous fashion. Luckily, the offense showed up on this fateful night and Saros got some goal support.
Going down the final stretch of 27 games left, protecting what leads they do get is going to be paramount. Right now, I don’t trust the Predators even when they do score first or have an early lead. I need more consistency on the defensive end, and hopefully Alexandre Carrier‘s eventual return will help in that.
3. Saros Remains this Team’s Top Lifeline
The box score looks pretty bad when you see four goals allowed and a sub-90 save percentage from Saros. But let’s remember how two of those were scored with defensive collapses in the final minutes of regulation.
Saros would finish the game with 35 saves and a Goals Saved Above Expected of 1.67. A key difference-maker, as is usually the case, in the Nashville Predators getting a win or a loss. Not going to get it done against quality teams ahead of them in the standings in the pursuit of the playoffs.
It’s not always going to come via a shutout, or a soaring save percentage, but Saros remains the main reason the Predators even have a shred of hope left in the playoffs. Ironically, having Saros makes General Manager David Poile’s job so much more difficult when approaching the trade deadline which he says is “Day to Day”.
An ordinary goaltender probably gives up at least five regulation goals to the Canucks, and the Predators lose another game to a mediocre opponent. I know the numbers on their surface don’t look great for Saros, but he is still finding ways to make enough of the clutch saves to pull out some wins.
The next two matchups for the Nashville Predators are similar in nature as they’re facing teams way down in the standings and should be wins if you play to the top of your ability. With the injury to Ryan Johansen, this team’s forward core takes another hit to weather.
How far is Forsberg out from returning amplifies now with Johansen needing surgery:
The Nashville Predators take on the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, and then face the Arizona Coyotes for the third time this season on Sunday. If they pull off another couple of wins, who knows what Poile will decide to do.