Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators: Third Time is Hopefully the Charm

The Canucks have been the kryptonite for the Nashville Predators this season. To stay hot, the third time has to be the charm tonight at Bridgestone Arena.
Oct 31, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Ilya Mikheyev (65) watches
Oct 31, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Ilya Mikheyev (65) watches / Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

A clash between two Western Conference teams currently playing some stellar hockey will happen tonight at Bridgestone Arena between the Vancouver Canucks (21-9-2) and the Nashville Predators (18-13-0).

There is really no arguing against the Predators being the hottest team in the NHL right now. They've won 13 of 16, and much of that is due to Juuse Saros finally getting back the high caliber we're used to seeing him play at.

Saros Gets the Start vs. Vancouver, Needs to be Much Better than 1st Meeting

Saros has been confirmed as the starting goalie in the third meeting of the season with the Vancouver Canucks. The Predators are 0-2-0 and being outscored 8 to 4 in those two meetings. Saros had a .875 save percentage on 24 shots faced in the 3-2 loss on October 24. Kevin Lankinen started the other meeting, and also got rocked for a .846 save percentage.

Since then Saros has gradually climbed back up to more recognizable individual statistics, and especially has improved in his Goals Saved Above Expected. He'll need another sharp performance against a Canucks team that leads the NHL in goals per game at 3.75, and sixth on the power play at 25.4 percent.

This will be the toughest test the Predators have faced recently. The Canucks are loaded with offensive playmakers, most notably of course is Elias Pettersson who is actually not even the team's leader in points.

J.T. Miller is soaring with 45 points in 32 games, which is third in the NHL only behind Nikita Kucherov and Nathan MacKinnon. Just behind Miller for the Canucks is Pettersson with 39 points, and 16 of those on the power play.

The Predators have been pretty disciplined at staying out of the penalty box. They're going to have to carry that into this matchup. Althought the penalty kill has improved greatly over time, I don't like their chances against this loaded Canucks power play.

At 5-on-5 I really like the Predators' chances of keeping this game close into the third period. Then you lead on which goaltender blinks first.

Fortunately for the Predators, they're not going up against Thatcher Demko, an early favorite to win the Vezina Trophy in 2024. With him getting some rest, the Predators will be up against Casey DeSmith, who only has nine starts in 2023-24 but has actually been really good in the backup role with a .923 save percentage.

It's really hard to find any weaknesses with this Canucks team. They're the surprise team of the NHL through the first 30 games or so. This would be a huge win for the Predators to not only keep up their winning ways, but to show they can hang with top tier teams and not just beat up on average teams.

Keys to Predators Finally Beating the Canucks

1. Stay Disciplined, Avoid Canucks Power Play

Oct 31, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Anthony Beauvillier (72)
Oct 31, 2023; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Anthony Beauvillier (72) / Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks boast the 6th ranked power play in NHL, J.T. Miller 2nd in NHL in power play points with 20, Elias Pettersson with 16.

2. Get Forsberg & O'Reilly Going

Roman Josi, Ryan O'Reilly, Filip Forsberg
Nashville Predators v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Forsberg and O'Reilly were held without a goal in first two meetings vs. Canucks

3. More Reliable Goaltending from Saros

Juuse Saros
Nashville Predators v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Saros gave up 3 goals on 24 shots in 3-2 loss to Canucks on Oct.24

Learn from the past is my first key. Don't dwell on it, but certainly learn from your past mistakes against the Canucks. In the first meeting they couldn't get their offense going, only finishing with 18 shots on goal. Saros also wasn't as sharp as what he's been looking like over the past month.

In the second meeting it was another off night for Nashville goalies, with Lankinen only facing 26 shots but surrendering four goals. Nashville outshot Vancouver 29-27, but couldn't retain an early lead coming out of the first period.

Neither Filip Forsberg or Ryan O'Reilly tallied goals in the first two meetings, so obviously you need them to lead the charge tonight. Roman Josi also only tallied one assist in the first two matchups.

The Predators have become a different team over the past month and a half. They're starting to figure out who they are, whereas in October this team was still going through the growing pains.

The Predators are also at full strength in the injury department and they're a more complete team than they were in October. Cody Glass has been banged up all season, but you're hoping he can gradually shake the rust off and make a big difference.

Tonight's game is a massive game for the phsyche of the Predators. They know the Canucks are one of the better teams in the NHL. They have something to prove to the rest of the NHL if they can snag another win, which would make them 14-3-0 since November 18.