The Nashville Predators defeated the Minnesota Wild twice in a shootout, then lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in regulation. Overall, the play is improving. However, their biggest weakness appears to be the adjustment to playoff hockey.
Nashville Key Stats
Against Carolina (3/9): Craig Smith, Brian Boyle, Mikael Granlund
Against Carolina: Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Kyle Turris, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson
What Happened (Wild 3/3)
Nick Bonino started the scoring for Nashville at 5:21 in the first period. The Wild scored two in a row before Filip Forsberg responded late in the third period at 15:41. Ryan Johansen absolutely undressed Alex Stalock in the shootout to give the Predators the two much-needed points.
What Happened (Wild 3/5)
Kevin Fiala and Pontus Aberg scored…for the Minnesota Wild (that’s really weird to type). It would’ve been chaos in the Nashville Predators community had Anthony Bitetto scored.
Craig Smith scored on the rebound at 1:48 in the first period, and later Brian Boyle scored on the power play at 13:38 in the second period. Roman Josi and Viktor Arvidsson netted back to back goals in the third period, but Nashville ended up in the shootout again. And once again, Ryan Johansen undressed the other Wild goaltender (and Predator alumni) Devin Dubnyk to give the Predators the victory.
What Happened (Carolina)
Carolina took advantage of a slow start, and the Hurricanes maintained a one-goal lead for the entire game. Craig Smith and Brian Boyle scored for the second consecutive game, and Mikael Granlund finally landed his first goal as a Nashville Predator at 17:32 in the third period.
Some Stats For You
In terms of offense from the defense, here’s where the ‘Four Horsemen’ stand as of February 19th. Mattias Ekholm has one point (a lone goal against Winnipeg), Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi each have eight points, and P.K. Subban has four points. 21 points in nine games is pretty solid and Ekholm has been playing better at the other end of the ice anyways.
Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok have combined for three points in nine games, which needs improvement- guys like Viktor Arvidsson are throwing in five points in five games. There has to be more production from top to bottom.
In his last five appearances, Pekka Rinne has averaged out an astounding .887 save percentage, and Saros has produced an even .900. Those numbers will not sustain in the playoffs and they have to be better.
Kyle Turris is one of the areas of concern for the Predators right now, but there are 12 games left in the season. Plenty of time to get acclimated with his linemates, Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith. Like Turris, Granlund is a playmaker, and playmakers normally look for shooters, like Smith. The reason the second line was so effective last year was Fiala and Smith weren’t hesitant to take shots. They have to be more unpredictable to be effective.
The power play is monumentally better than what it was earlier this year. Mainly because they’re scoring at least one power play goal in a span of three games. All they have to do is keep executing.
That seems to be the theme of this team: find a way to execute. They’ve yet to be a complete team for most of the year despite the talent, but it’s coming. There’s no longer any underlying issues of physicality or presence on the ice; it’s all about execution at this point.
Just A Thought
Stanley Cup teams need depth on every line, and for the most part, they do. When fully healthy, the team has only one skater on the ice without ten goals (Rocco Grimaldi, but there’s no reason to take him out of the lineup). In all honesty, it’s about the line combinations; there’s much to be said about chemistry in terms of how teams click. Good teams have talent; great teams accompany talent with chemistry.
As I’ve said before, they will peak at the right time. Something will register in the locker room, and they will be one of the more dominant teams going to April.
Also, Filip Forsberg, P.K. Subban, and Kyle Turris aren’t fully there yet. But they will be.
-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