Nashville Predators Take Massive Step Forward, Despite Game 3 Loss

The Predators are down 2-1 in their first round series, but their play looked a lot more encouraging in Game 3, despite the loss.
Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators - Game Three
Vancouver Canucks v Nashville Predators - Game Three / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The Vancouver Canucks pulled the reverse card on the Nashville Predators in Game 3, winning 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena.

Although Head Coach Andrew Brunette didn’t see it as such, the game looked very similar to the first two games, with the only exception being the Predators were the ones who controlled the play.

Home ice certainly seemed to spark the Predators in the way they were looking for. They seemed faster, more offensive, and more confident. The Predators managed 30 shots on goal for the first time this series. They tallied 14 shots in the third period alone. For reference, they finished with just 16 shots for the entirety of Game 2.

Preds Face Tough Puck Luck and get the Script Flipped on Them in GM3

“Tonight, was basically a flip-flop from Game 2,” said Predators’ forward Filip Forsberg. “It’s just that we were pounding and playing a lot of offense, and they were shot-blocking everything, kind of like we did in Game 2.”

The Predators looked more like themselves in Game 3. They seemed more in tune with one another, making sharper passes through the neutral zone. They forced the play and defended less, something Brunette has stressed multiple times he hates doing.

Although Nashville failed to come away with the win and the lead in the series, they should be encouraged by their play. They were a bounce or two from tying the game. Ryan O’Reilly had what seemed to be a sure goal, late in the third period, but his shot was blocked by Canucks defenseman Ian Cole during a two-man advantage that would have put the Predators on the board with their first goal of the night.

It was certainly a better performance, but the Predators head coach knows they still haven’t played a complete game, and the team can still correct a few things, which will elevate their play.

“We played really well for 50 minutes, maybe even more, maybe 58, minus the penalty kill,” Brunette said. “Some of the power play got a little lethargic. Lost a little wind out of our sails when they made it 2-0, but I thought we found our game and really liked our third.”

Power Play Struggles

The Predators’ power play did leave a lot to be desired, finishing the night 0-for-5, which included a two-man advantage, albeit for approximately 20 seconds.

But again, despite the loss, there should be optimism. The power play’s problem may have already been identified. Nashville isn’t playing at the speed they need to, especially against a team that defends well and likes to keep everything to the outside.

“A lot of the time our pace gets slow. I think it’s been slow all series,” Brunette said. “We’re looking for something a little different. We maybe stick-handling a little too often. Instead, let’s move it a little quicker. Stick-handle when you have a little more time. So little things. I didn’t hate it, but you don’t love it.”


Predators’ captain Roman Josi agreed, mentioning they need to do a better job of getting shots on goal when pressuring on the man advantage and create a little more chaos for the opposition’s goalie.

I think we gotta get some movement and then get some shots through,” Josi said. “Maybe get a dirty goal, you know, like a tip, or just a rebound, somehow get a shot there. That’s definitely one thing [where] we need to be better.”

It was the Canucks, however, who took full advantage of their power play converting on two of three opportunities.

But Vancouver has otherwise been stymied while up a skater, as they failed to convert on their previous six opportunities before Game 3. While it influenced the game’s result, the Predators’ penalty kill doesn’t feel like a problem and shouldn’t be a massive concern moving forward.

Predators are Starting to Control More of the Play

According to NHL Edge, the Predators hold the series advantage in offensive zone time, defensive zone time, and overall shots on goal. Game 3 had much to do with those numbers swinging in the Predators’ favor.

The eye test may have looked bad during the first two games of the series, but the Predators hung with the Canucks. Nashville’s commitment and skill of blocking shots, along with the brilliance of Juuse Saros, has given them a chance to come away with a victory in all three games.

The Predators didn’t look quite in sync when the playoffs began. But ending their regular season on April 15 and then sitting for the next six days may do that to a team. Conversely, the Canucks played their final regular season game on April 18. A few games may have been needed for the Predators to re-find their feet. Although not on paper, the results are starting to show.

“They probably had most of the game, [in] Game 2, and I feel like we were the better team tonight,” said Josi about Game 3. “I feel like our game was better tonight than it was in the first two games, and we gotta keep building on it and getting better.”

The great thing about a seven-game series is you have time to correct areas of deficiency. The Predators are yet to play their best game. They do need to tweak a few things here and there. But each game, the Predators look more comfortable and more in control. They're down 2-1 in the series right now, but if they can keep building on the positives, get more movement on the power play, and more shots on goal, making life difficult for the Canucks’ goalie, Casey DeSmith, they could easily tie the series up.

After their midseason turnaround, which saw an 18-game point streak, the Predators have played much better than a wild card-seeded team. At their peak, they can beat the Canucks, or at the very least, give them all they can handle.

Despite being tied, fans may have felt a little uneasy after the first two games. But funnily, even though the Predators came out on the wrong side of the score sheet in Game 3, they took a massive step forward, and fans should feel a lot better now than they have all series.