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St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators: Not What Yeo Asked For?

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The Predators face the Blues for the first time since St. Louis changed coaches.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Nashville Predators (15-5-1) face off against the St. Louis Blues (7-9-3), current Central Division cellar dwellers. Expected to be much higher in the standings after some impressive free-agency signings, the Blues just fired Mike Yeo. Entering through the revolving door that is the St. Louis Blues’ head coaching job is Craig Berube, who takes over on an interim basis.

The Blues’ lack of speed has only been more pronounced this season, with teams constantly out-skating them night after night. Furthermore, Jake Allen’s play in net has been abysmal. Essentially, these are the same flaws that the Blues had the last few years; they’re simply more pronounced.

In a precursor to Thanksgiving, the Predators have a prime opportunity to dine on two points as their hors d’oeuvres. Will they dine first, or be relegated to the children’s table?

The St. Louis Blues

Mike Yeo and his stifling hockey schemes are finally out of St. Louis. Despite having talent up-front like Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, Yeo focused a lot on his back end and the bruising hockey style his Blues teams have been known for. However, the back end began aging and Yeo failed to properly adapt to his team’s weaknesses, ultimately paying the price.

New interim head coach Craig Berube is entering his first NHL head coaching job, and it will be interesting to see if he stays with the status quo that Yeo set or if he tries to instill new systems. Tonight, he likely will have the old Yeo system in place since he was just hired, but we may see some of his ideas creep through.

However, Berube cannot save Jake Allen, who is currently playing his way out of the NHL. He currently has a GAA of 3.32 and SV% of .895% through 14 games played. Allen has been inconsistent at times but, with the deterioration of the defense in front of him, he is being exposed on a more regular basis. With their flaws, the Blues need a goaltender who can steal them a game here and there. Jake Allen is not that guy.

The Nashville Predators

Battling injury after injury, the Predators continue to persevere and maintain their hold at the top of the NHL standings. Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen are enjoying fantastic seasons, while Pekka Rinne is possibly playing better hockey than he did last season.

That trio has needed to be excellent, because the power play is terrible. 30th in the league, the Predators remain ever-committed to their point shot one-timer umbrella method, regardless of what other scheme their opposition throws at them. Yet, like a stubborn child who cries that Kraft mac n’ cheese isn’t present on a Thanksgiving dinner table, the Predators keep insisting that their method is the best. It’s not the best. Actually, it’s the second-worst.

Meanwhile, the blame for the Predators’ lackluster play has fallen on Kevin Fiala, despite Fiala playing exceptionally well. He plays a lot with the puck on his own stick, drawing defensemen towards him, and is then often blamed for turning the puck over. In reality, his turnover rate is not that high, especially when you consider how long he holds the puck for. It’s the same argument that pundits have made about Subban, especially when he played with Alexei Emelin last season: puck holders turn the puck over more because they hold the puck. They draw attention to themselves, drive play, and open up ice for everyone else.

Fiala makes those around him significantly better.
hockeyviz.com

Remember, Kevin Fiala is still only 22 years old. 22. He’s still in his Taylor Swift year and people are scapegoating him, when the real issues are players like Nick Bonino and the lack of identity for the fourth line. Over his extremely short career, Fiala has shot at 10.5%. This season, it’s 5.1%. He will rebound, he will be fine. Can people stop buying into the narrative that it’s “all Fiala’s fault” that Laviolette seems to be pushing? He’s young and has a bad shooting percentage, yet is still opening ice for his teammates and doing many little things right. Let the kid develop, eh?

Reasons to Watch

  1. Will Craig Berube bring any new systems to the St. Louis Blues? It will be interesting to see if this team begins playing any differently.
  2. Rocco Grimaldi was just reassigned to Milwaukee, potentially opening up P.K. Subban to be re-activated from injured reserve.
  3. Calle Jarnkrok is playing very good hockey. Hopefully he continues his current form of good play.

Sights and Sounds

The game is downtown at Bridgestone Arena tonight. The puck drops at 7:00ct and Fox Sports South will televise the game. 102.5 The Game will have it on the radio.

Pregame Meal

Tomorrow I’m stuffing myself with, well, stuffing. Considering that I thoroughly plan on consuming at least 3,000 calories tomorrow, it’ll just be a balsamic salad with grilled chicken. Remember: the healthier you eat today, the less shame you’ll have when you take your fourth helping of stuffing tomorrow.