Plenty of things went right for the Nashville Predators on Thursday, which is not something the team or their fans are used to. The top forwards scored timely goals while getting help from a couple of nice bounces, Pekka Rinne played close to the level we've seen from him for years, and the defense did their best job to help him out.
Tonight, Nashville strolls into the City of Champions to further test their good fortune against a beleaguered Edmonton Oilers team. But they'll need more than lucky breaks to start a winning streak, and the play in Winnipeg may have been just what the doctor ordered to start them on a winning path.
The Edmonton Oilers
2015-2016 was supposed to be Year Nine of Edmonton's three-year rebuild. Maybe they wouldn't make the playoffs, but they'd at least start to be competitive and move up into the standings. They were gifted Connor McDavid to skate with the 12 other first-round picks they have, and that alone was worth the price of admission in the final year of Rexall Place.
But the Hockey Gods always make sure the pendulum swings the other way. Even though the Oilers were stocking up on first overall picks like they were milk and bread in a southern snow storm (topical), they've only been allowed to use them all for a handful of games. McDavid has been limited to 12 games this season, and Edmonton hasn't done much to increase their position in the division. They're currently last place in a terrible Pacific division and have played more games than any other team.
Also, look at how many players are sidelined with injuries. McDavid's already out, Andrew Ference just had surgery and will miss the rest of the seaosn, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had hand surgery and is reportedly out 6-8 weeks. Those are some major losses, with apologies to Brandon Davidson and Oscar Klefbom who are also on IR.
Just look at how the Forces at Be are trying to punish the Oilers for their greed and shame:
Matt Hendricks (@MattHendy26) January 22, 2016
The Nashville Predators
It would be easy for the Predators to feel too complacent about their win and follow it up with a dud of a game. How many times have we seen that this season? It looks like they've turned a corner then they go on to lose three of their next four.
Let's not rule it out, but the team needs to use the victory in Winnipeg as a turning point, especially considering their spot in the standings:
Minnesota is in action later this afternoon against San Jose, and Colorado plays again tonight against the Stars after defeating the Blues last night. Nashville has put themselves in an unenviable position to be scoreboard watching at the end of January, but now they have to take care of their own business.
The good new is, Ryan Johansen has been playing like a man possessed since coming over. Nine points in seven games is pretty good, I guess. On his wing, Kevin Fiala is chugging along, making some rookie mistakes here and there but not looking like a complete liability. The 19-year-old will start adjusting to the game in time and hopefully get more trust from his coach. He skated less than 12 minutes in Thursday's game, but keep in mind the Predators were protecting a one-goal lead for most of it. It wasn't surprising to see Peter Laviolette keep the rookie on the bench for the last seven or so minutes of the game.
Overall, the top line is meshing in their limited minutes, and should do great things if left together. In about 25 minutes of time together, they've owned over 63% of total shot attempts and 60% of all scoring chances. They only have one goal scored as a trio, but they haven't given up a single one yet either. Keeping that chemistry going should yield great results.
What I Don't Want to See
Reasons to Watch
- There's still snow on the ground, and if the weather reports and Twitter are to be believed that stuff is a toxic acid sludge that will turn you inside out before melting your entrails all over your inadequate footwear. Best not to chance it. Stay inside and watch hockey, instead.
The Important Stuff
Later start time tonight, so we'll see you at 9 p.m. Nashville time. FS-TN and 102.5 The Game have your calls.