There are no moral victories in hockey, and for the Nashville Predators the 2023-24 campaign starts off with a hard fought effort, but a brutal loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Predators had seized all of the momentum in front of a packed house at Amalie Arena to support the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. They grabbed a delicate 2-1 lead on a strike from Juuso Parssinen just 11 seconds into the third period.
Things come at you fast in this sport. The Lightning refused to just fall back, and instead tied the game just a couple minutes later, then less than a minute later reclaimed the lead on a penalty shot goal.
The Predators, to their credit, remained engaged in the game and tied it back up at 3-3 with a power play goal from Thomas Novak. An impact player I had marked down in the matchup preview, including Novak’s power play abilities.
Here’s the three standouts from the game as the Nashville Predators fall 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning to open the 2023-24 season.
Standout #1: Untimely Penalties from Josi and Schenn
You can’t have your veteran defensemen taking costly penalties. When you go back and unpack this wild back and forth game, the overwhelming spotlight is going to be on the penalty shot awarded to Brandon Hagel.
Schenn got called for holding on a breakaway attempt, and unfortunately Juuse Saros couldn’t make the difficult stop on what was a crafty move to the net for Hagel. This completely obliterated all of the momentum the Predators had just taken from Tampa to open the third period.
It was a theme all night. The Predators defense held strong at times, but other times was caught flat footed into taking penalties. The Lightning ended up going 2-for-5 on the power play.
Josi uncharacteristically took two minor penalties, and you never want to see your dynamic captain and leader in the penalty box. Even if you kill off the penalty, you can’t have Josi missing valuable ice time.
Josi had just 36 penalty minutes last season. I fully expect Josi to clean this up and for it not to be a recurring problem moving on to the Seattle Kraken at home on Thursday.
Standout #2: Scoring Depth, Three Different Goal Scorers
It took an entire first period for the Nashville Predators to really find their groove. Only two shots on goal managed through the first frame, not even really testing Tampa goaltender Jonas Johansson.
The Predators would rally in the second period, managing 13 shots to Tampa’s meager five shots. It balanced out the momentum, with
being the official first goal scorer of 2023-24 for the Nashville Predators.
A perfect example of what Head Coach
wants to see. A gorgeous stretch pass from
to find Forsberg, and then a stick move by Forsberg to find O’Reilly.
O’Reilly had a goal and an assist, bringing his NHL career point total to 704. He’s coming up quickly on 1,000 career games as well.
It was outstanding to see Parssinen and Novak both score goals in this one. Both are key pieces to the future of the Nashville Predators. Novak had 17 goals last season and his next one will be his 20th of his NHL career.
It was also really great to see Parssinen get an opportunity on Nashville’s top line, and did he ever deliver. I say you stick with that line against the Seattle Kraken.
Overall it was a strong first game for the new look Predators offense. They won the Expected Goals Battle over the Lightning with a 4.21 expected total to Tampa’s 3.78, per MoneyPuck.
Novak finished second on the Predators in Expected Goals for this one, with Filip Forsberg leading the way with an Expected Goals of 1.32 and registering six shots on goal. He chipped in with two assists on the night.
Even Colton Sissons was getting in on the offense with three shots on goal, but unable to beat Johansson who played just well enough to keep the Predators from pushing it into overtime.
Standout #3: Lineup Choices, Lauzon over Fabbro, Smith over Fagemo
We were all wondering after the final Nashville Predators roster was announced who was going to get healthy scratched for the season opener. It turned out to be Dante Fabbro on defense and Samuel Fagemo on offense.
Let me start with the choice to bench Fagemo. I hate that decision. Fagemo offers way more upside, especially in this fast paced system, than Smith does. I don’t understand the choice of Smith over Fagemo even slightly, other than I guess Andrew Brunette wanted more physicality against a bruising team like Tampa.
Where have we heard that before in the past? I think his last name started with an “H” and his first name started a “J”. Oh well, maybe it will come to me later.
Smith finishes with 12:52 of ice time with two hits and one shot on goal. He was on Nashville’s fourth line with Sissons at center and Yakov Trenin on the other wing.
For the defense, it was speculated all offseason whether it was going to be Lauzon or Fabbro. Now while these two are likely going to be shuffled and swapped around throughout the course of the season, it was interesting to go with Lauzon over Fabbro.
The annual top-50 players ranking from NHL Network has two players from the Nashville Predators, with Roman Josi and Juuse Saros getting the honor.
Again, I would’ve chosen differently and gone with Fabbro. More, although not much, offensive upside and just an overall smarter defensive player than Lauzon.
Lauzon ends up taking an awful high sticking penalty that leads to the go-ahead power play goal for the Lightning. The game-winner, and yet another case of Lauzon not playing smart. I can trust Fabbro more in that situation to not take a high sticking penalty when you’re in a tie game in the third period.
So with that, the troubles against the Tampa Bay Lightning continue. That’s five straight losses in the overall series and defeats in six of the last seven meetings.