Smashville’s been somewhat spoiled to start the season. Ten of the Predators’ 14 games this year have been at Bridgestone Arena. But the Preds have to keep that home cooking in the fridge for a little while. They kick off a tough two-week road trip starting tonight in the Motor City.
Let’s get to it.
The Nashville Predators
Last Tuesday, the Preds played perhaps one of their best all-around games in team history (no hyperbole) in a win over Chicago. The two games since then left a lot to be desired; that includes Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers, in which the Preds were doomed by another slow start and a solid goaltending performance from backup Alexandar Georgiev.
Still, there’s been a lot to like about the Predators this season, especially on the offensive end of the ice. There are eight Predators with at least ten points, more than any other team in the league. Filip Forsberg (9 points) would be at that mark too if it wasn’t for an injury that cost him six games.
Speaking of Forsberg, Saturday’s game saw the reunion of the JoFA line (cue heavenly choir of angels rejoicing), and the results were immediate. Fil and Viktor Arvidsson connected for the Preds’ only goal, and the team got higher-quality chances with that combo on the ice.
Will Laviolette keep that trio together throughout the road trip? Or will he keep tweaking things to try and find the right chemistry on all four lines?
The Detroit Red Wings
I’m sure a lot of you hate to see it...
The Red Wings started the year 3-1. Since then, they’ve only won once — a 1-9-1 stretch that includes back-to-back losses on Friday and Saturday in which Detroit were outscored 11 to 3.
Anthony Mantha (9G, 5A), Tyler Bertuzzi (6G, 8A), and Dylan Larkin (4G, 8A) are all off to solid starts, but the team’s not getting much scoring depth beyond that. Many of the younger players the Red Wings hoped would step up simply haven’t. Their veteran players — like Mike Green and Valtteri Filppula — are starting to show their age, and the goaltenders, Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier, simply haven’t been good enough to help Detroit steal wins.
To be fair, the Red Wings weren’t exactly a “favorite” in the East, but most people didn’t expect them to be this bad. This month will be a gut check. If they can start playing competitively against teams like the Preds, Boston, Vegas, and Carolina, new GM Steve Yzerman might feel a little better about the direction of the rebuild. If not, coach Jeff Blashill might want to get his résumé together.
- The Preds’ Penalty Kill: Much like The Undertaker at Survivor Series 2005, the Preds’ penalty kill is...[turns off lights and holds flashlight to face]... Back. From. The. Dead.
Nashville’s killed off 17 of their last 18 penalties, and have been perfect in five of their past six contests. They still rank 23rd in the league, but considering just three weeks ago, they were dead last in the NHL against the man advantage, it’s a step in the right direction.
To add to the good news, the Preds currently have four shorthanded goals, tied for best in the league. We’ve seen a couple of other goals either scored or set up by a player just leaving the box.
- The Red Wings when they play the Preds: This might be a curse for sending Nick Lidstrom into retirement, or some sort of voodoo Todd Bertuzzi put on the team for stealing the Red Wings’ ping-pong table.
Whatever reason, Detroit has had Nashville’s number since the latter knocked the former out of the 2012 Playoffs. The Red Wings are 13-3-1 against the Preds since that series. Their latest win happened last month, a 5-3 drubbing at Bridgestone Arena.
And it’s not like the Red Wings are dominating the Preds each game either. Nashville’s outplayed Detroit in most of these recent contests (in the last game, the Preds had 42 shots to Detroit’s 28). The Wings simply keep finding ways to pull out wins against their former Central Division foes.
- Kyle Turris: This entry’s not really even #8’s fault. Injuries put Turris into a top six role for a good chunk of October, and he responded with some of the best form we’ve seen from him in a Preds jersey. When Forsberg returned, we thought maybe we’d see him stick around in that role.
Turris has been stuck on the fourth line the past two games and has seen his minutes disappear: 11:59 of ice time against Calgary and just 10:59 Saturday against New York. In that span, he has five giveaways and only one shot on goal.
Look...I know Turris hasn’t exactly had the smoothest tenure in Smashville, but he’s shown he can still be an asset if paired with the right teammates. Austin Watson and Colton Sissons — who, don’t get me wrong, are valuable players — just don’t have the style of play that’s going to bring value out of Turris’s game.
If the JoFA line’s back together, perhaps Turris will get another opportunity with Granlund and Duchene, with whom he had good chemistry earlier this season.
- Andreas Athanasiou: There’s probably a lot of Red Wings you can put in the “ice cold” column this season, but none more surprising than the guy nicknamed “Greece Lightning.”
Coming off a 30-goal season (along with Larkin, the first Red Wings to hit that mark since 2009), Athanasiou has yet to score a goal this season. To make matters worse, he’s been absolutely abysmal on defense, logging a 3.43 xGA/60 and a whopping -18 on the plus/minus scale.
Athanasiou has been at the center of trade rumors around Detroit. But if he can’t make some waves on the scoresheet, Yzerman may have a hard time finding some value.
Tonight’s Song to Get You HYPPPPEEEED
How to Catch The Game
The puck drops tonight at 6:30 P.M. CST. You can watch the game locally on Fox Sports Tennessee or on ESPN+. As always, you can listen in on 102.5 The Game.
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