It’s still early in the 2019-2020 season, but three weeks in there have been some stand-out moments for the Nashville Predators. Here are my top three scores, saves, and surprises so far this season.
1. 10/3 - Viktor Arvidsson
This opening night goal by Arvy was a magnificent reminder of why we love #33. It is also a reminder that the slot is not lava. Good things happen when the Preds have a man in the slot. Don’t be afraid to go there, gentlemen.
2. 10/10 - Filip Forsberg
Of course a Filip Forsberg goal is going to make this list. Although he has missed the last three games due to a “lower-body injury,” Forsberg started the season at an impressive goal-a-game pace. While the Preds have continued to produce offense with Forsberg out, there isn’t a teammate or fan who isn’t anticipating his return.
3. 10/22 - Mattias Ekholm
The Predators’ power play was the Voldemort of last season, but under the new management of Dan Lambert the Preds are at a respectable 20%. Fans were finally able to direct angst where it truly belongs—at the power play song selection. Unfortunately, another special teams concern arose during a four game stretch when the penalty kill couldn’t quite keep up.
(PSA: There are no snacks in the sin bin, gentlemen. Really not worth going there.)
But renewing faith in the team’s ability to correct, the Preds followed that four-game stretch by killing eleven of twelve penalties in their last three games. (But, again, no one is serving mimosas in the penalty box, boys. No point in going there.) This gorgeous shorthanded goal by Mattias Ekholm against the Anaheim Ducks makes the top-three list for renewing my faith in the Preds’ ability to make adjustments.
1. 10/15 Pekka Rinne vs. Vegas
What can we say about Pekka? He is starting the season in exceptional form. In this game versus a legit Golden Knights team, Pekka faced 35 shots and saved 33. His response to second-chance shots like this have kept the Preds competitive in more than one game this season.
2. 10/17 - Juuse Saros vs. Arizona
Yes, Juuse has started 0-3, but don’t speak anything over the rest of his season. The young Finn will be fine. Despite a few struggles, Saros has made some incredible saves behind a defense that has, at times, been less than present and accounted for. This stop came on a breakaway.
3. 10/22 - Pekka Rinne vs. Anaheim
This is my favorite save so far this season, not because of the athleticism or momentum-changing effect, but because Rinne calmly dismisses the puck like a pesky mosquito, and then, with John-Wayne-in-pads swagger, leans on the net and takes a manly swig of his Gatorade. Pekka, we strive to deserve you.
1. Offensive production
Currently the Preds lead the league in goals for per game at 4.22. They lead the league! The team finished 2018-2019 at 2.88 GF/G, so this is a compelling rise in offense. It may seem difficult to sustain this level of goal production, but the Preds tallied 10 goals over the three games Forsberg has been out, which leads right into surprise number two.
2. And offense for everyone!
The first three weeks have seen scoring coming from all lines. There was a minuscule but palpable drop in emotional goal expectation last season when JOFA left the ice. That is not the case so far this year. Ryan Ellis came out of the gate strong and is currently the points leader for the team. It is exciting to see him posting these numbers. While Arvidsson and Forsberg lead the team with 5 goals a piece, four players (Turris, Bonino, Ekholm, and Sissons) have each garnered three. Offensive production for everyone! Oh…except…
3. Craig Smith
Smitty’s struggle to contribute so far this season is surprising. He finished last season third for the team in goals scored, but he hasn’t found the back of the net on any of his 17 shots. He has had the greatest number of different linemates so far this season, and two of those were Yakov Trenin and Daniel Carr, whose combined offensive production was nil.
These are perhaps factors in why we haven’t heard much from Smitty, but I think this may be one of those non-scientific cases of “he just has to get the first one,” and then hopefully we will see the Craig Smith of yester-season. His performance is something to keep an eye on.
The next three weeks will reveal a lot about the Predators, who have a schedule packed with opportunity. Consistency will be key facing teams like Colorado and Vancouver, and yet the Preds cannot overlook the struggling opponents they play between now and mid-November. The first three weeks have revealed the team’s potential. The next three weeks and beyond will reveal their ability to live up to it.