The Nashville Predators took another four out of possible points against some of the toughest teams in the league. Viktor Arvidsson, Juuse Saros, and Pekka Rinne led the team to victory on the road but eventually fell at home.
Against Minnesota: Ryan Johansen
Against Minnesota: Viktor Arvidsson
Against Columbus: P.K. Subban
What Happened (Minnesota)
Ryan Johansen sniped the only goal of the game at 4:32 shorthanded. Juuse Saros dominated from the get-go and sealed the playoff spot for the Predators.
What Happened (Pittsburgh)
Matt Irwin skated like a man who was afraid of losing his job to a highly anticipated prospect (Dante Fabbro) and grabbed an assist on Craig Smith’s 20th goal of the year at 2:35. Nashville padded their lead in the second period thanks to a power-play goal from Viktor Arvidsson, and eventually closed the gap with a P.K. Subban bomb from the point.
What Happened (Columbus)
A tired Nashville team and an ailing Juuse Saros did not cultivate a recipe for success. The top line scored the only two goals- one from Filip Forsberg, and the other from none other than Viktor Arvidsson.
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The first line and goaltending propelled the team to victory. Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, and Filip Forsberg combined for six points. Notable contributions from P.K. Subban and Craig Smith also combined for five points, who are streaking right as the playoffs begin.
Among some absentees in scoring are Wayne Simmonds, Roman Josi, Colton Sissons, and Mikael Granlund. The four have combined for nine points in the last 10 games; Josi has cooled off, and all three forwards have been shuffled up and down the lineup. Once the lineup is solidified, the lines will start producing.
Calle Jarnkrok is having a down year in relation to previous years; only 26 points in 76 games compared to his 35 points in 68 games last year. Jarnkrok will likely be paired with Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds for the remainder of the year, and it’s no secret that all three players need a kickstart.
Kyle Turris might benefit from playing winger for a little bit until the playoffs start. It would allow Mikael Granlund to be the playmaker he was designed to be, and also give Turris a less taxing role. Turris and Granlund have the potential to be very dangerous, but they need to find another way to produce.
One problem across the board is backchecking from the forwards. Lazy defensive play in front of Saros cost them two goals against Columbus. There doesn’t seem to be a sense of intuition to protect the net- the little things add up in big games, and a little bit of urgency would go a long way.
The St. Louis Blues have tied the Predators in the Central Division standings. A combination of factors have limited Nashville from playing their best hockey, and the resurgence of the Blues has been nothing short of spectacular to see. However, an excellent bit of news hit Preds Twitter this week.
Forward Austin Watson, whom I criticized harshly early in the year for the incident in June, is back with the Predators. I will gladly eat my words here: Watson has done all the necessary things to come back, and his mental health was in a place of serious concern. It’s a very good thing to hear Watson is doing well with himself and his family.
He gritted out four goals in two games in Milwaukee and appears ready to contribute; the chemistry Watson brings to the third line with Colton Sissons and Nick Bonino might do the trick. Other news is Miikka Salomaki is also back with the Predators; he might see some time in the lineup should things go wrong.
Also, Viktor Arvidsson is about to beat the Predators’ individual regular season goal total after missing over 20 games. Don’t forget this statement: this team will be doing special things in about seven games.
–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