I want to start with the bad, and that means the awful performance Nashville subjected us to on Tuesday night. It was sloppy and the team seemed disinterested until the middle of the third period. Aside from Kevin Fiala, there was zero authority being shown on the ice by Nashville.
“Playing flat” isn’t a viable excuse for a team that’s looking to repeat a playoff run.
We tend to see this with teams that experience playoff hockey together. The intensity isn’t as dialed up during the following regular season. And unlike previous years, the Nashville Predators are getting teams’ best efforts these days. Couple that with a mistake by Saros and some rotten defensive zone exit strategies, that team looked rough on Tuesday night. They got outworked by a team they typically outwork.
The following Wednesday, the Predators announce that Mike Fisher is returning to the team. Not as a scout, or as a video coach, or some other front office position, ... but as a player.
If the biggest complaint you have about this team is their compete level, this is the remedy. It is one thing to be outworked by Miikka Salomaki, Pontus Aberg, or Freddie Gaudreau for a spot on a line. It’s another issue when a 37 year-old player out of retirement is outworking you in practice.
Mike Fisher is a pure effort player. He sees the ice well, he plays smart and safe, he makes good passes, etc. But when you watched Fisher play, especially in his last few years, you had to notice his effort.
For example, the game where we celebrated his 1000th game may have contained one of my favorite Fisher goals.
This is a low-risk, high-reward play that adds a valuable piece on the ice and in the room. If the goal is to get more out of players like Johansen by bringing back that mentoring figure in the room, then this is the play.
Tuesday night was a disaster. There was very little focus and the effort wasn’t there. Yes, this team can beat plenty of teams by showing up for a few minutes here and there. Chicago, even in their weakened state, is not going to be one of those teams when their goaltender is hot.
Even with that lack of intensity, they still had a chance to win. They peppered Anton Forsberg as the game went on. That’s the lesson: when you have as much talent as this team has, you shouldn’t be okay with playing within the margin of error.
This game had it all: weak offensive pressure, bad turnovers, incompetency while clearing the zone, and sloppy passing. I’ll be honest... I watched an episode of Peaky Blinders during the second period.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the only game this week.
THIS WEEK IN GOALIE INTERFERENCE
Awful call. This is the definition of goaltender interference. No call. pic.twitter.com/ewjAFCwOOm— Joey Palazzola (@Palazzola_RTN) February 2, 2018
Result: Good goal.
Result: Good goal.
The Nashville Predators still have yet to play a game at full strength. Thanks, Mike Fisher.
The game against the Kings showed everything this team is capable of. That was an absolute demolition of a good team. All four lines contributed a goal. Pekka Rinne got another shutout, and the Preds pushed around a Kings team that’s made a reputation for pushing other teams around.
Side note: what are the odds that Viktor Arvidsson has two goals within a few weeks that take the exact same review to confirm?
Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok were excellent on Thursday, especially on their backcheck.
I’m absolutely disappointed that no one got my Star Trek joke.
Well, they were great in the neutral zone tonight.— Dan D Bradley (@DanDBradley) February 2, 2018
Filip Forsberg returned to the team, and put on a clinic next to Johansen and Arvidsson. That spell in the third with Forsberg, Subban, Johansen, and Arvidsson stick handling around the Kings on the cycle nearly required a cigarette afterwards. Johansen had three assists, Forsberg and Arvidsson both scored, and the children danced.
This is... something.
Plot twist we trade fisher for a top 6 forward and win the cup without him #Preds— FILbruary (@F4NGF1NGERS) January 31, 2018
But still... Rangers fans are the best.
Just realized we’re gonna trade Nash to the Preds for Tolvanen ayyy congrats to us we really did it— lackinggrit (@lackinggrit) January 27, 2018
When are the Predators officially going to give up on Aberg (Gabriel Bourque 2.0)?
I always considered Miikka Salomaki as Bourque 2.0. Pontus Aberg is a good situational player, but he doesn’t have the skillset to be as consistent as players with similar frames. These kinds of players are frustrating, and tend to wear out our patience quicker than players with lower ceilings.
The good news is that Aberg does have some trade value, especially with the memory of last year’s cup final run still fresh. If Poile and the gang want to strengthen their team for the next year or two, he’s a piece that can be shopped as part of a package.
If the Predators had to play the same team in a 41 game series, who would you want it to be?
There are three schools of thought we’ll visit on this one.
-Coyotes: They aren’t a good hockey team. That’s the easy answer.
-Wild: Nashville is the better team, and it’s always fun to see the team that went all-in back in 2012 live with the consequences of their actions. Plus, Bruce Boudreau is their coach.
-Rangers: The amount of empathy Henrik Lundqvist would garner before his demise would be something to watch. And what better way to turn heel on the entire league by keeping the False King away from the chalice?
Favorite sports memory?
As a fan, it’s probably Gators related. That 2006 run by the football team was pretty great, and especially sweet after the dismissive attitude towards Florida after that Ohio State/Michigan game. The game itself wasn’t terribly close, but it was a blast to have hours to think about how hard you were going to party afterwards. This past year with the baseball title was pretty sweet, especially since it involved LSU losing. Baseball is still a massive deal in the state of Florida, and that title was overdue.
I would probably remember last year’s march to the cup final more fondly if it didn’t have such a rotten ending. It’s fun to watch replays of certain games and moments, but it still feels like something was taken from us. Between Johansen’s leg exploding and “The Whistle”, it’s hard to enjoy those moments without that rotten aftertaste.
As someone involved with media, it was the All-Star Weekend here in Nashville. I owe a lot of thanks to Jon, Jason, and Kris for instilling some confidence in me over the years. To be able to experience that event with folks you admire was so much fun.
Now that Fish is back
With him (and one of the potential deadline rentals if you want to add them in), what is your ideal roster come playoffs?
Ideal... hmm.... I don’t normally do these, but I’ll try.
Forsberg - Johansen - Arvidsson
Pacioretty - Turris - Smith
Fiala - Bonino - Jarnkrok
Watson - Sissons - Fisher
Ekholm - Subban
Josi - Ellis
Bitetto/Irwin - Weber
Trading Aberg/Freddie G frees up some roster spots, and Montreal & Detroit both need some cheaper players thanks to some bad extensions. That puts Hartnell in an odd spot, he’s too slow for the top 6/9 that Lavy wants to ice. If Laviolette and Poile are pulling the strings, this doesn’t happen... but you asked me.
I love those team manager games. I’m pretty good at Football Manager (PROTIP: If you can become the manager of PSG... do it), and Out Of The Park Baseball (PROTIP: don’t sign those heavy extensions within the first 4 years). I would trade Emelin to Toronto or Edmonton for prospects/picks, then use those assets to either augment the trade package to acquire Pacioretty, or replace the assets spent to acquire Pacioretty. I build the package with the assets I can part with (non-first round picks, Aberg, Gaudreau) and aim for Pacioretty. If the Habs say no, then move to Nyquist. If they say no, move to Hoffman. Hoffman might be the trickiest one to get, largely because the Sens should be going all-out next year.
What is the cutest picture of Fisher holding a puppy for me to add into my 2018 Preds dog calendar?
If you would like to drop in a .png of a puppy into this on the left side, it could work.
Who would you most like to see do the anthem at the Bridge?
Who would you most like to see grace the Bud Light Band Stage? A few years ago I got to see Charlie Daniels during a playoff game. Probably the most random way to check the “see Charlie Daniels play Devil Went Down to Georgia in person” box on the ‘ole bucket list but I’ll take it.
I don’t see Stapleton doing the anthem, that just doesn’t seem like his style. Same with Jamey Johnson. So if I were to aim for more attainable targets, I’d go with Chris Young, Lee Ann Womack, and Brad Paisley on guitar. Any of those three would be swell.
My girlfriend would probably say Trace Adkins, mostly because of his octave and his calloused hands. She’s not wrong.
- How hard would you laugh if Rick Nash was traded to Columbus as a rental?
- The NBA has had too many jerseys in previous years. There were random throwback jerseys, rare jerseys only worn twice, other jerseys that became the primary, etc. It was hard to keep up with, especially when the home team jerseys wouldn’t match the court. With Nike at the helm, things are much more organized. Teams are now rolling out special courts to match their “City” jerseys. And all of this is in Nike’s first year of doing the NBA uniforms. Meanwhile, the NHL and adidas decided not to do alternate jerseys/sweaters this year. That decision is about as dumb as adidas refusing to capitalize their own company name.
- They won’t be trading Eeli Tolvanen.
- Carter Hutton keeps up his good play, and is keeping Jake Allen out of the net in St. Louis. The timing is great; Hutton is in a contract year, and the Blues are bumping against the cap ceiling this year. Paul Stastny is an unrestricted free agent as well. If the Blues fall in love with Hutton and sign him to a deal that will keep him in place, let’s see if the Blues can learn from the mistakes made by Detroit.
- I’m pulling for Carolina to make the playoffs, and you should too. That’s a team that could give the top end of the Eastern Conference some trouble.
- One last bit on the Fisher situation: there’s no way he’s not coming back at this point. If the team went through the trouble of having a press conference and making a show of it, then it’s going through. If not... that would be a colossal embarrassment and distraction.
- I’ll be traveling during the next two weeks, so the next edition will be a mailbag. It’ll give me something to do on the plane.
On to the next one.