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Nashville Predators vs. Calgary Flames Preview: Spooky Edition

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Do NOT make a “trick or treat” reference, do NOT make a “trick or treat” reference...

Nashville Predators v Calgary Flames

Nashville comes off a thorough dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks (I’m still in disbelief at just how bad Chicago was) to welcome Calgary to Bridgestone Arena.

Calgary Flames

The Flames are coming off back to back losses in the past week, first in overtime against the Winnipeg Jets in the Heritage Classic (marketed so well by NHL that most people outside these cities knew it was even happening), then again on Tuesday night in a 2-1 effort against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Calgary is sitting at 6-6-2, with 14 points, good for 6th in the Western Conference. Elias Lindholm leads all Flames players in goals with 8 and 2 assists, while Johnny Gaudreau leads the team in points with 3 goals and 8 assists. Between the pipes for Calgary are Big Save Dave David Rittich (4-5-1, 91% save percentage) and Cam Talbot (1-2-0, 90.8% save percentage).

Calgary won the Western Conference last season in the regular season, but like Nashville and the rest of the division champions, were booted from the playoffs in the opening round. They’ve started off sluggish compared to last season, but they’re still a dangerous team.

Nashville Predators

Nashville is riding a four game winning streak despite Filip Forsberg being out for the previous six. Speaking of Forsberg, Nashville reassigned Colin Blackwell to Milwaukee this morning, a possible sign that he is ready to return to the lineup after skating yesterday but not fully participating.

Unlikely team-leading goal scorer Nick Bonino (6) had a natural hat trick in Tuesday night’s 3-0 defeat of Chicago, while newly-extended Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis lead the team with thirteen points each. If Forsberg returns, Nashville could possibly ice five players with four goals or more (Bonino, Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Roman Josi, and Colton Sissons)—a credit to the team’s depth scoring.

Pekka Rinne is having a sensational early season, starting 7-0-1 with a single shootout loss. Rinne leads the league in 5 on 5 save percentage at 96.4%, and has saved nearly 5 goals above what might be expected according to Natural Stat Trick. Juuse Saros has started the season off slowly (as he tends to do) starting 1-3-0, finally picking up his first win last week against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Saros has an 87.2% save percentage overall, nearly identical to his 5 on 5 save percentage (87.1%), and has given up a little over five goals above expected.

Nashville is 8-3-1, second in the Central Division and tied for third in the Western Conference.

The Advanced Stats Prediction

You should have known by now that if I’m filling in on a piece, you’re getting #fancystats.

Nashville is fifth in the league in shot attempts per 60 (59.3) with a middle of the league shot attempt share of 51% (all statistics are 5 on 5 unless otherwise noted). The Predators lead the league in goals scored per 60 minutes at a blistering 3.54 goals/60 minutes (which is bound to regress at some point, if history is any indicator), and leading the league in goal percentage at 64%. Calgary falls ninth in shot attempts per 60 (58.0), fourteenth in shot share (51.1%, just behind Nashville), but 24th in goals scored (2.13) and 23rd in goal percentage (44%).

Team Stats Heatmap | Visualization courtesy Sean Tierney (@chartinghockey) at ChartingHockey.ca

The teams are similar in most aspects, except that Nashville benefits in three main areas: team shooting percentage, goal differential and expected goal differential. Calgary breaks even in expected goals for and against, meaning they get as much quality as they give up, while Nashville has a slightly lower rate of expected goals for, but a positive differential—in short, Nashville is playing better defense and getting lucky goals to go in while Calgary is struggling a bit.

I’ve been excited to do a game preview for some time now, because I really want to showcase the fantastic work of Jason Paul (@WaveIntel on Twitter) with his VERSUS preview tool located at his website.

Nashville vs Calgary VERSUS Preview | VERSUS Head to Head Tool Courtesy Jason Paul (@WaveIntel) at WaveIntel.org

Nashville has had mixed results against Calgary. They have posted a record of 4-3-3 in the last 10 against the Flames, but have not beaten the Flames at home since March 2017.

Nashville looks like a team that can handle Calgary, but goaltending (I have a hunch Saros may start) could be an issue and the 11% team shooting percentage is bound to regress—let’s hope it's not today. Prediction: Nashville 4, Calgary 3 (OT).

Reasons to Watch

  • The kids won’t stop ringing your doorbell and asking for candy and I’m going to be out escorting a 6-year-old pink Power Ranger and a 1-year-old kitty cat so watch it for me, please.
  • I have no evidence to back this up, but Nashville could start Saros and it will be interesting to see if he can perform against a good team like Calgary despite his bad start. People were worried about playing him against Tampa, and that turned out just fine.
  • If Filip Forsberg returns, how does the lineup look? If I know Peter Laviolette, Forsberg will return to the Matt Duchene line, while keeping Calle Järnkrok with Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen. However, if it was up to me, I’d like to see Forsberg reunited with the JOFA line to boost scoring and defense (something somebody familiar might have just talked about) with Kyle Turris joining Duchene and Mikael Granlund on the second line.

Tonight’s Theme Song

I did say in a Dump and Chase that I’d be posting hip hop as much as possible, and tonight is no different. Let’s go with a classic hit to commemorate (hopefully) winning the game and “Passing (Me) By” the Central-Division-leading Colorado Avalanche.

Tonight’s Trick or Treat

Sigh—I knew I couldn’t resist doing it. The treat is candy corn, and the trick is that you aren’t giving it a fair shake and you absolutely should.

How to Watch/Listen

The game starts at 7 pm Central at Bridgestone Arena. Fox Sports Tennessee will carry the game on TV with Willy Daunic and Chris Mason on the call, while the radio broadcast will have Pete Weber and Hal Gill on hand for 102.5 FM.