The Nashville Predators acquired Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils and Cody McLeod from the New York Rangers prior to their matchup against the Dallas Stars. They defeated the Stars 3-2 in OT, then dropped their next two against the St. Louis Blues by scores of 3-2 and 5-4.
Nashville Key Stats
Against St. Louis (2/9): Ryan Johansen, Mattias Ekholm
Against St. Louis (2/10): Viktor Arvidsson (2), Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg
Against St. Louis (2/9): Craig Smith, P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi
Against St. Louis (2/10): Ryan Ellis (2), Roman Josi, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Johansen (2), Mattias Ekholm
What Happened (Dallas)
Kevin Fiala and Craig Smith combined for one of the weirdest goals at 17:48. Simply throwing the puck back on the net, Anton Khudobin elbowed the shot behind the net where Smith was. The puck bounced off Smith, then off Khudobin’s back into the net. Nashville maintained the 1-0 lead through the rest of the first and second period.
Tyler Seguin slapped one at Juuse Saros and created a huge rebound for Miro Heiskanen who buried the one-timer at 4:05 in the third period. Viktor Arvidsson responded with a goal tapped behind Khudobin at 8:41. Less than a minute later at 9:33, Taylor Fedun had some puck luck, and the game was tied.
Nashville only needed 43 seconds to finish off the Stars. Ryan Johansen sent the Predators home with an overtime win against Dallas, their first win over them this year.
What Happened (St. Louis, 2/9)
The Blues came out firing. At 4:37 in the first period, Vince Dunn shot one that Pekka Rinne covered, then stole the puck back and slammed it home. St. Louis tacked on another one at 18:45 thanks to Vladimir Tarasenko. Off a broken play behind the net, he simply skated where no defenseman was, and the Blues held a two-goal lead.
Nashville responded with a power-play goal in the second period. Mattias Ekholm skated down the left point and shot the puck through to make it 2-1 at 8:28. The Blues didn’t go away, as Mackenzie MacEachern stayed after a loose rebound in front of Rinne. At 10:58, he eventually snapped it through after three tries.
Nashville couldn’t capitalize on any chances until the final two minutes of regulation. Ryan Johansen threw the puck into traffic and pulled the Predators back to a one-goal deficit. However, Jordan Binnington stood strong in the final seconds so the Blues could clinch the victory.
What Happened (St. Louis, 2/10)
Nashville and St. Louis traded chances all throughout the first period, yet both Jake Allen and Juuse Saros were both perfect. It was Alex Pietrangelo who sniped the first goal of the game at 2:56 in the second period on the power play. Vladimir Tarasenko then sniped one of his own over Saros’ glove at 4:41. Viktor Arvidsson refused to let the game get out of hand and tapped home his 24th goal of the year at 5:06.
St. Louis really wanted Nashville to go away. Tyler Bozak somehow chipped the puck over Saros’ stick side shoulder at 5:51, and once again, St. Louis had a two-goal lead. Roman Josi continued to push and solved Allen on a wraparound chance at 2:48 in the third period. Thanks to some crafty stick work from Ryan Johansen, Arvidsson scored a similar goal to the one before (basically someone else did all the work and he was in the right position).
Tarasenko unintentionally gave St. Louis the lead again. Zipping the puck toward the net, the puck caught Ryan Ellis’ stick, and the puck trickled past Saros at 7:06. Filip Forsberg refused to let the game go away. He tapped his own rebound over Allen’s shoulder at 12:53, tying the game once again.
As overtime began, St. Louis won the draw. Tarasenko netted his fifth career hat trick only sixteen seconds in.
Eeli Tolvanen has officially been put on the trade block, as David Poile continues to search for another offensive forward. Giving away a talent such as Tolvanen is no easy bargain- some names I’d want for him are Artemi Panarin, Gustav Nyquist, and Mats Zuccarello.
Cody McLeod took Rocco Grimaldi’s place in the lineup, and the speed of the bottom six changed immensely. However, McLeod played into his role and picked up five minutes for fighting against St. Louis on February 9th. It’s unclear as to who will play on the fourth line the next game, as McLeod saw only 2:12 minutes on the ice on February 10th.
Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne combined for a save percentage of .889% over the course of the last three games, but both goaltenders were not the reason they lost two in a row to the St. Louis Blues.
The St. Louis Blues are back into contention after being in last place for most of the season. While the Predators have pulled within two points of the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the division, the Division Wild Card race is heating up. Dallas, St. Louis and Minnesota are all within two points.
The Western Conference’s first-place team and last place team are 22 points apart from each other, but the race for the Wild Card is within 8 points. Ultimately, whoever Nashville plays in the first round, they’re still bound to play Winnipeg in the second round.
Looking Forward (continued)
Now that Boyle and McLeod are in, the lineups have been interesting and less than impressive, but I have a solution.
Can’t break up the first line, obviously. Turris and Smith have excellent chemistry together, and adding Boyle to the second line gives them a similar edge to the first line. They’d have a center who can pass well, a shooter, and a guy who could go to the net consistently.
Ryan Hartman has to replace Austin Watson for the time being; he has the same physical edge Watson has. Fiala, Bonino, and Hartman had a tremendous game against the Vegas Golden Knights on October 30th- may be time to switch the lineup around again. Grimaldi needs to be in the lineup because of the hustle factor, and two 10 goal-scorers would help him tremendously. As a matter of fact, each line would have at least one 10 goal-scorer. Sissons, Jarnkrok, and Hartman can be rotated until the right chemistry is found.
Nashville needs another scoring forward, or it may be a repeat of last year. It’s like cooking the perfect dish without all the ingredients- the dish may taste good, but it isn’t quite the way it’s supposed to be. I guess what I’m trying to say is Nashville needs something.
Maybe I’m just hungry.
-Jack Woods covers the Nashville Predators and the Central Division for PenaltyBoxRadio.com and FullPressCoverage.com. You can follow Jack on Twitter at @jack_woods15 and the Full Press Predators at @FPC_Predators