When the puck drops at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, the Nashville Predators will look to find the win column for just the second time this season. The lone victory came against the Seattle Kraken in Nashville in their second game of the season.
Head Coach Andrew Brunette has already announced a starting lineup change against the New York Rangers, with Michael McCarron expected to make his 2023-24 debut, and Philip Tomasino getting the scratch.
Luke Schenn will also remain out of the lineup for at least four to six weeks with a lower body injury, per an official statement from the team.
The Predators last outing against the Edmonton Oilers is one I am sure they are looking forward to putting behind them, getting throttled 6-1 in front of the home crowd.
When the Predators play with the man-advantage, they cannot take advantage of it and only have two power play goals in 17 tries. With an abysmal 11.8% success rate, this puts the Predators ranking 21st out of 32 teams.
Shesterkin has struggled coming out of the gate this season posting a .904 save percentage and 2.38 goals against average, both below his career ratings.
Without further ado, here’s your three impact players for the Nashville Predators against the New York Rangers in the Big Apple.
Impact Player #1: Ryan McDonagh is Making a Statement on Defense
One player that has the potential to shift momentum in the Predators’ favor is Ryan McDonagh. His defensive play through the first four games has been second to none.
If one thing can be said about McDonagh, it’s that he puts his body on the line every time his skates hit the ice. The Minnesota native is currently tied for third in the NHL with 11 blocked shots in just four games.
Taking a puck to the face last season has not made him timid at all about putting himself in front of a puck. In fact, he is blocking shots at a rate of 2.75 per game which is the highest throughout his 14 year NHL career.
Unlike some of the other veterans on this team, McDonagh also has not made any trips to the penalty box yet. When one of your top penalty killers stays out of the box, that’s always a good thing.
McDonagh also has two assists on the season, making him the highest scoring defenseman on the Nashville Predators. The only two areas that I would like to see McDonagh increase his play in are hits and shots.
Having just one hit through four games, I would like to see McDonagh use his 6’1″, 215-pound frame a little more and add some physicality to his game. Although he is not known for his offense, McDonagh also needs to try to get more shots through.
On a team that relies heavily on offensive assistance from the blue line, McDonagh only has five shots on goal and nine shot attempts.
I look for McDonagh to continue his defensive play, jump in on the offense even just a little bit more and be a key impact player against his former Rangers squad that he was captain of.
Impact Player #2: Ryan O’Reilly in the Faceoff Circle will be Critical
Ryan O’Reilly has taken 18,597 faceoffs over the course of his career and has a 55.8% win percentage. This is going to be something to keep your eye on facing a New York Rangers team that is strong in the faceoff circle.
Being relied on heavily for offensive zone faceoff’s, O’Reilly is struggling a little this season with only having a 53.5% win rate. That is the lowest in his career since the 2014-15 season when he had a 53.4% rate.
Going up against a Rangers team that has four players averaging over 55% in the faceoff circle, O’Reilly will be relied upon heavily in this game.
Starting 59% of his shifts in the offensive zone, O’Reilly should also start finding the back of the net more often. O’Reilly only has one goal in twelve shot’s however if he keeps firing the puck at the net, his goal number will go up for sure.
Impact Player #3: Not a Player but the Entire Nashville Predators Power Play
So, I know I said this was the top three impact players but there is no one that needs to step up more for this Nashville Predators team than the entire power play unit.
Now granted, the players are still adjusting to Brunette’s new power play system but going 2 for 17 on the man advantage is just unacceptable. With firepower like Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Thomas Novak, and Tyson Barrie on the power play units, they should be scoring at about a 25% rate with the extra skater.
The net front presence from players and taking the goaltenders eyes away seems to be non-existent so far this season. The power play is able to generate quite a few shots on goal but if the goalie has a clear lane to see them coming, they will stop it every time.
Whoever is going to be playing in the slot area during the power play needs to be right outside the crease and make it impossible for the goaltender to see where the puck is coming from. This opens up the door for rebounds for the slot player to capitalize on or a winger to crash in and punch home as well.
If the Predators can start doing these things on the man advantage, I believe their power play will be more successful than an 11.76% success rate.