After dropping two in a row, the Nashville Predators brought a strong response to Edmonton to beat the Oilers 5-2 to show that when everything is clicking, they’re going to be hard to beat.
The win helps exorcise some demons for the Predators from a past that hasn’t been kind to them when taking on Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers. The early moments of this game suggested we were in for another nightmare rerun.
Instead, the Predators kept their foot on the gas and didn’t steer away from adversity. Very similar style of win as they had just a week earlier against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here’s your three big takeaways as the Nashville Predators move to 5-6-0 and sixth place in the Central, but only separated by two points from being in third.
Takeaway #1: ROR & Forsberg Can Take the Nashville Predators to New Heights
This connection between Ryan O’Reilly and Filip Forsberg is starting to really turn into something unstoppable for a lot of opponents. Finally the Predators have two veterans at the top of their lineup that has to get all of the attention, especially on the power play.
O’Reilly scored his fifth hat trick of his NHL career, and joins a long list of players in Predators history with at least one. However, only nine players in Nashville Predators history have more than one hat trick.
Players in Preds History with More than 1 Hat Trick
– Filip Forsberg: 8
– Steve Sullivan: 4
– Viktor Arvdisson: 3
-Scott Walker: 2
-Martin Erat: 2
-Colton Sissons: 2
-James Neal: 2
-Jason Arnott: 2
– David Legwand: 2
It was just a feast near the net for O’Reilly. He was winning positioning to get loose pucks, which led to his first goal of the day off a rebound from the stick of Forsberg. This put the Predators up 2-1 in the opening moments of the 2nd period.
O’Reilly’s second goal, just a few minutes later, was after a big faceoff win from Colton Sissons, then some slick passing to eventually find Forsberg who baited the defenders to find O’Reilly for an open net on the other side.
This brings me to Forsberg, who entered the game with just one goal on the season and raising some question about why he wasn’t finding the back of the net more. One thing we did know is he was impacting the game in other ways including all of the assists he’s been dishing out.
After this win over the Oilers, Forsberg now has 10 assists through 11 games and his point total of 12 is leading the Predators.
The chemistry O’Reilly and Forsberg have been building is going to win the Predators a lot of games as we roll on through the season.
Takeaway #2: Lankinen is just Fine after Rocky 1st Start
Kevin Lankinen‘s first start of 2023-24 didn’t go too well for him against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. He just didn’t seem to be seeing the puck well and couldn’t get settled in, resulting in giving up four goals on 26 shots in the loss.
Both goals surrendered by Lankinen in this one come on Edmonton’s power play. The first being a post dinger that found the stick of a battling Darnell Nurse. Hard for a goaltender to find that loose puck, so nothing to criticize Lankinen for on that one.
The second Edmonton power play goal shrunk Nashville’s lead to 3-2 after a blast Zach Hyman. You can say that maybe Lankinen should’ve seen the puck better to snag it, but again, a very difficult save for any goaltender to make.
So all in all, a very strong bounce back performance from Lankinen in his second start of 2023-24. In total he makes 33 saves for a .943 save percentage and finishes with a 1.1 Goals Saved Above Expected.
This was Lankinen’s 35th win of his NHL career and 10th with the Nashville Predators.
Takeaway #3: Andrew Brunette is Getting the Early Results He’s Looking For
No one should’ve been living in a fairytale thinking this was going to be easy or that these first 10 games were going to show instant results from what Head Coach Andrew Brunette is bringing to this team.
At 5-6-0, yes the record looks very mediocre and John Hynes-esque. But obviously if you’re actually watching these games from start to finish, you see the Predators are building something and showing a lot of positive signs of things to come.
The biggest example I see of the Predators buying into what Brunette is selling is drawing penalties and then delivering when you get the power play chances. The Predators have moved their power play up to 12th in the NHL, while averaging over four power play opportunities per game which is third-most.
There’s always going to be droughts for your power play, but in the long run, I see this unit eventually being top-10 and a major strength for this team. Once we get into the second half of the season and teams start showing some sign of fatigue and injuries, which teams thrive on the power play will set themselves apart from the pack.
Brunette has done a masterful job so far at getting quick results, and even in the team’s losses, they’re showing really uplifting signs of improvement.
Look, this is an extremely hard league to win in regularly. Every team, aside from the extremes of San Jose and Vegas, are very close to each other. You have to bring it every night, and sometimes you’re going to take the loss even if you played very well.
By the end of November you’re hoping that the Predators can get a winning streak going. They’ve yet to win more than two in a row and have traded wins with losses. Find a win streak in the coming weeks.
As just mentioned, the league is full of parity, but I see a lot of winnable games in November against average opponents that should be considered toss ups or even the Predators as slight favorites on paper.
Other Game Notes
Evangelista’s seven points also puts him in a tie with six other rookies for second place. Cooley and Bobby Brink have eight points to lead all rookies in points. So Evangelista is right in the mix.
Thomas Novak added a goal and an assist to bring his point total to nine. He’s second on the team in goals with six and has become one of the most consistent offensive producers on the Predators only behind Forsberg and O’Reilly.
The game was very close in terms of Expected Goals and suggests the final score is a little misleading. Unfortunately for Edmonton, they did not get the same reliable goaltending that Nashville got with Lankinen between the pipes.
Edmonton’s Jack Campbell continues to struggle and finishes with a negative 1.67 Expected Goals Against, bringing his season win-loss record to 1-4-0 with a dismal .873 save percentage. Serious goalie problems for the Oilers right now.