Suddenly the Nashville Predators are rolling and getting rewarded for all of positive things Head Coach Andrew Brunette was talking about when the team was blowing leads and taking losses.
The Predators are currently riding their first three-game winning streak of 2023-24 as they try to make up ground in the Central Division. They were in last place when the win streak began in a 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
In their latest win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, the Predators showed that they can put together a 60-minute game and be a menace to play against both on the defensive and offensive ends of the ice.
The depth showed up on the scoresheet against Calgary, with goals from Colton Sissons, Juuso Parssinen and Alexandre Carrier to go along with Ryan O’Reilly’s ninth goal of the season to give him the team lead along with Filip Forsberg.
Here’s your storylines against our old division rival, the St. Louis Blues. The first of three meetings in 2023-24.
The Blues are a Hard Team to Figure Out
This is going to be an extremely difficult challenge for the Nashville Predators. The Blues have proven the naysayers wrong, including myself. Many predictions had the Blues as a non-playoff team and in a rebuild phase for 2023-24.
However, the Blues are a bit of a helter skelter type of team. They have impressive wins on their résumé, including an 8-2 thudding of the Colorado Avalanche, but also have an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
So what gives with the Blues? Are they to be trusted, or are they going to come back down to reality as the season wears on?
The Blues aren’t particularly impressive in any of the main statistical categories. They’re 31st in power play percentage with a success rate that is really hard to wrap your head around at just 7.3%. And yet this team has a respectable overall record of 10-7-1.
Furthermore, the Blues are bottom half in penalty kill and put up less than three goals per game on average, which is 24th in the NHL. So again, hard to figure out how this team is above .500.
One thing you can say about the Blues is they have reliable goaltending. Jordan Binnington seems to be having a bounce back year with a .919 save percentage, and their backup Joel Hofer has been solid as well.
The Blues are led by 24-year-old center Robert Thomas who has 18 points in 18 games, but the scoring really drops off after that with no one near a point per game pace.
Forsberg Having an All-Star Caliber Campaign for Nashville Predators, Depth Getting Better
Filip Forsberg finally cooled off a little bit in the last game against Calgary on Wednesday, seeing his five-game point streak come to an end. He actually had points in nine of his last 10 games.
Forsberg was still aggressive on the puck against Calgary logging four shots on goal, but wasn’t needed for his offense as the Predators’ depth showed up big time.
Look for Forsberg to get right back on track against the Blues and continue on what’s been an All-Star caliber 2023-24 campaign so far.
Forsberg has enjoyed a lot of individual success in his NHL career against the Blues, putting up 35 points in 35 games, but being held without any points in his last two matchups with the Blues. Those were both Predators losses.
It was refreshing to see Forsberg have a game where he didn’t have to do all of the scoring, and instead others got involved. I’ve loved the response that Philip Tomasino has produced after getting back into the starting lineup.
O’Reilly is taking on his former team he won a Stanley Cup with in 2019, so I’m sure emotion will be high for him and the Blues have some sort of tribute set up for him. This will be his first visit to St. Louis as an opposing player since being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs last February.
You look at the Predators’ collection of forwards and you don’t see many weak spots, if any. Everyone tugs the rope and makes it work from Cole Smith up to Forsberg and O’Reilly. That’s how you build championship caliber rosters.
Predators Seeking their Third Straight Win over Division Opponents
The Predators can quickly climb up through the Central Division standings by taking care of business against division opponents. They’ve got a pair of wins over the Blackhawks and Avalanche already on this homestand, bring their division record to 2-2-0.
I like this matchup on paper for the Predators. I don’t see the Blues as being a particularly dangerous team on offense, and the Predators defensive structure and penalty killing has showed some steady improvement in recent games.
Getting Ryan McDonagh back makes a huge difference to being a more disciplined defensive team. The Predators have two of the top-5 defensive lines in the NHL in terms of Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes. (McDonagh/Carrier, Josi/Fabbro).
Surprisingly, Fabbro was benched with the return of McDonagh against the Flames, and instead Brunette stuck with Spencer Stastney in the starting lineup. So we’ll see if Brunette turns back to Fabbro, who has played really well on Josi’s line, and brings back together McDonagh and Carrier.
Much like how the Calgary game went, the Predators should be able to keep the offensive output to a minimum against the Blues. That is if they avoid the costly neutral zone turnovers, like the one Luke Evangelista suffered that nearly led to a Calgary goal, and also keep everything at 5 on 5, which I give the distinct advantage to Nashville in that regard.
Again, the Blues confuse me. I don’t know what to exactly think of them at this early stage of the season. They’re not particularly impressive in any category. They just find ways to win games ugly and get just good enough goaltending to survive.
I really like the Predators in this matchup if they replicate what they did against Calgary. They didn’t have any lulls in this one. A few mistakes to clean up, but overall it was the 60-minute performance that Brunette preaches about constantly.
The odds from FanDuel has this as a literal toss up in their odds, with the Blues getting the slight favored odds on the spread due to being the home team. When these two face off, throw your pregame notes into the shredder.
I’ll go with another low-scoring affair similar to the Calgary game, with 5 on 5 being the key. Who wins in the trenches and wins on the loose puck battles should capture the two points. The Predators have only been to overtime once in 18 games, and this could be another battle of attrition that heads to overtime to settle the score.