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Detroit Red Wings 5, Nashville Predators 3: One Step Forward... One Step Back

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NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll give you the disclaimer off the bat. This is only game two of an 82-game season. You’re not going to be able to predict the outcome of the entire year based on anything we’ve seen so far.

But I feel like we’ve seen glimpses of the extreme highs and lows of Nashville’s potential.

There’s plenty to be excited about, for sure. The offense was on fire. The Predators outshot Detroit 42-28, and controlled possession for most of the game. Matt Duchene added two assists, giving him five in the first two games (tying a record for a new acquisition, according to the Fox Sports Broadcast), and the power play as a whole looks SO much better.

And yet, there’s still those mistakes that cost the Preds games. They had nine giveaways, including a bad one that led to Detroit’s game-winning goal. The defensive effort at some points, especially on the second goal, was cringeworthy. And we saw Ekholm and Watson take bad penalties that stalled out momentum.

Take nothing away from Detroit tonight. That first line of Larkin-Bertuzzi-Mantha stole the show, and should legitimately be in the conversation for the NHL’s most dangerous lines. Jimmy Howard made some incredible saves down the stretch as well.

But when you dominate the game like Nashville did tonight, and you come away with a 5-3 loss, you have to take a look at those low points.

Again, this is just one loss one week into the season. Let’s not overreact to anything just yet. Let’s just all be aware of the work that needs to be done.

So What Happened?

1ST PERIOD

It’s the Preds with all the jump early on, as the Duchene-Forsberg-Granlund combo gets two really good chances in the first 90 seconds. Duchene eventually forces the game’s first penalty, a high-sticking call on Mantha. Now this may surprise you — but the Predators don’t convert. And that’s when the period turned.

Tyler Bertuzzi gets Detroit on the board first, one-timing the puck past Saros’s glove thanks to a beautiful tic-tac-toe set-up from Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. Just 1:11 later, the same line strikes again, this time with Mantha taking advantage of some pretty weak team defense. There is much sadness.

It looked like Dante Fabbro would cut the lead in half a short time later, but alas, instant replay strikes again. Jeff Blashill challenges the goal for goaltender interference, and as you can see... clearly the right call.

Things don’t exactly improve for Nashville. The Preds waste a good offensive chance when Yannick Weber whiffs on a set-up play into a slot. That’s followed by Larkin nearly making it 3-0... hitting the post after easily skating past Weber like me skating past my adult responsibilities. We go to the intermission with the Red Wings carrying all the momentum... and a 2-0 lead.

2ND PERIOD

The fiery wrath of Peter Laviolette must have manifested during intermission, because the Preds immediately fire off three really good chances, including a near-miss from Calle Jarnkrok. It looks like Lavy’s going to try to shake some things up and OH MY GOD WHY IS FORSBERG ON A LINE WITH BONINO AND WATSON?!?!?! WHO ASKED FOR THIS?!?!?!?!

The Preds pressure leads to another Mantha penalty... and BOOOOOOOOOM! POWER PLAY GOAL! Arvidsson gets the goal, but it’s Duchene that makes the play, feeding Arvy right in front of the net. My previous snarky comment about the power play aside, the movement from the top unit has been much better so far this season.

The Predators control most of the next ten minutes, getting several great chances and eliciting a rousing ovation from the Smashville crowd. This all leads to the game tying-goal from Filip Forsberg. Forsberg got the puck off the face-off, then took it the net himself before wristing it past Howard. Duchene gets yet another assist. It’s 2-2, end of 2.

3RD PERIOD

We start things off by trading goals. First, Larkin (that Detroit first line doe...) caps off a brilliant feed from Mantha to make it 3-2. Not even a minute later, Mattias Ekholm evened things up again to make it 3-3. Eks also scored AGAIN on his next shift, hitting a booming shot that got past Howard, but rang off the post.

The Preds seemed to be building momentum again, but yet again, bad mistakes at inopportune times proved to be the team’s Achilles heel. Rocco Grimaldi gets caught flat-footed, has the puck taken off his stick, which then sets up an odd-man rush resulting in a Luke Glendening goal to make it 4-3 Detroit.

Suddenly, a wild *NSync appears.

2:20 left and the Preds bring on the extra attacker. They immediately get a couple of great chances, first from an Ekholm one-timer, then from second-chance shots by Duchene and Granlund before Howard covers it up.

Glendening makes a great play to negate icing and stall the play, which gives Bertuzzi enough time to make a play on the empty net, giving the Red Wings a 5-3 lead.

The Key Takeaways

  • I was 100% on board the “please don’t break up the JoFA line train.” But this combo of Duchene-Forsberg-Granlund has been fun to watch so far. For three completely new linemates, they’re playing with a lot of chemistry. The puck possession and passing has been spot on, and they’re creating most of the offensive chances.
  • You have to be pleased with the power play so far these first two games. No, one goal isn’t anything to write home about. But the cycling is better, the players are moving more to fill in the open space, and better decision-making is leading to better chances overall.
  • There’s still some realistic concern about the Preds’ third defense pairing. Both Weber and Hamhuis had trouble handling the puck, and on the Red Wings’ second goal, that pairing got flat out embarassed. And I don’t mean to pick on either guy, because they certainly still have some value in the right role. But if the Predators want to make a run, they need to get some key minutes from their third pair. And I haven’t seen enough in these first two games to justify that yet.
  • The Preds had a -2 goal differential after *NSync showed up on the jumbotron. They’re officially the anti-rally tavern.

So Now What?

The Predators have two more games left in their season-opening homestand. They’ll host San Jose this Tuesday, October 8th at Bridgestone Arena. Puck drop for that one’s at 7:00 PM CT.

The Red Wings return to Detroit tomorrow night for a home game against Dallas.

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