In a rematch of the Western Conference Semifinals of last season, the Winnipeg Jets (2-1-0) return to Bridgestone Arena where they won games 5 and 7 in their series against the Predators (2-1-0). Those last two times the Jets visited, they dominated the Predators and eliminated them from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Center Paul Stastny is gone, but otherwise this is the same team that tore through the Predators. Can the Predators bounce back from a bad loss on Tuesday and reclaim some lost honor from the Jets?
The Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg has started the season with the same record as the Predators, albeit with very different results. They began on the road whipping the St. Louis Blues 5-1, only to suffer defeat at the hands of the Dallas Stars by the same score. Then, in their home opener, they toppled the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.
As mentioned, the same names are back this year. Mark Scheifele continues to be the most underrated center in the NHL, while Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine, and Kyle Connor all contribute their elite skill. Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien still patrol the blue line with Josh Morrissey, while Connor Hellebuyck keeps pucks out of the net. Their coaching staff is intact, so expect to see the same team and power play that dominated last season.
The Nashville Predators
After an off-season of standing pat and not making any player or coaching changes, the Predators, unsurprisingly, are plagued by the same issues as last season. A poor power play haunts them, penalties still pile up like garbage in the Pacific Ocean, and their second line cannot buy a goal. The Predators are only three games in, so it could be the case that they just need time to adjust to the season, but seeing the same issues is disheartening.
However, there is no excuse for the three goals given up against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, as the second goal was the result of blown coverage while the other two came down to poor decision making. On the first goal, all Colton Sissons had to do was skate straight with a firm shoulder. Instead, he plays the puck, gets all turned around, and so begins an odd-man rush as the remaining Predators scramble to cover everyone. The second goal was the result of Ryan Hartman failing to recognize a man right behind him backdoor and tying his stick up.
The third goal was the worst, as Filip Forsberg decides to go all-in with a body check, leaving the winger he was supposed to cover free for the scoring rush. P.K. Subban had the point covered and Ryan Johansen was already there too, but Forsberg could not resist laying a hit and homed in on the puck instead of his man. Forsberg’s decision to peel off and lay a check put three Predators on one player. Furthermore, it took Forsberg a good two seconds to recover from his check and start skating back down the ice. Forsberg usually does not make those kinds of decisions, but it is an important reminder that a big hit is not as critical as keeping your man covered.
Hopefully the Predators come out with a greater focus tonight against the Jets, because it does not appear that some of their older issues are getting fixed any time soon.
Reasons to Watch
- The Jets eliminated the Predators from the playoffs last season. Even if there isn’t nearly the animosity between the Predators and the Ducks, expect the Predators to come out with an edge to their game.
- Kevin Fiala needs more ice time, and maybe Viktor Arvidsson’s spot on the first line. Already oozing with talent, Fiala so far has consistently flashed how good he is this season. He looks poised to break out, and the numbers show he’s making everyone around him better.
Sights and Sounds
The game is at 7:00pm central at Bridgestone Arena. Fox Sports will televise the game while 102.5 The Game will cover the Predators over the radio.