Tonight the Nashville Predators (34-21-5) head to T-Mobile Arena to face the Vegas Golden Knights (31-24-4) for the second time this season. The last time these two teams played on January 23rd, the Predators defeated the Golden Knights 2-1 as Juuse Saros made a career-high 47 saves.
Although tonight’s game is a late west-coast start time, if their previous meeting was any indication, it should be a fun contest to watch. The two teams did not get along, highlighted by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare biting Predators defender P.K. Subban’s hand. Although Vegas pressed hard, Saros made some absolutely stellar saves. Hopefully fans will be in for another fast-paced treat tonight.
The Vegas Golden Knights
After losing to the Predators, Vegas’s level of play started to dip. They have a 2-5-1 record since that game and have gone 2-for-13 on the power play.
However, the leading cause of their slide is perhaps the play of Marc-Andre Fleury, who previously was considered a Vezina Trophy candidate by some pundits. He’s played in six games, including four of Vegas’s losses, since the Predators game and has only managed a .889% save percentage. He was a giant part of Vegas’s run to the final last season and the Golden Knights need him to be his very best. If he cannot maintain that high level of play, Vegas can find themselves in trouble, just as they have of late.
As mentioned earlier, there was some bad blood between the Predators and Golden Knights in their last meeting with Bellemare biting the hand of P.K. Subban, who was pushing Bellemare away in a scrum. Fights in front of the net occur all of the time, but as one should expect, the act of biting another player is relatively unheard of (thanks Brad Marchand for ruining that [Ed.: Marchand has technically only used his actual teeth on referees so far, but that’s still bad]). The Predators typically feed well off of emotion, so if the game gets heated again, the Predators may have a small advantage.
The Nashville Predators
Thursday night the Predators beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1, snapping their three-game losing streak. The Canadiens have a solid team this season, invigorated by the additions of Max Domi and Tomas Tatar, so a win over them is by all measures a good win. Additionally, Brian Boyle fired home a slapshot for his first goal as a Nashville Predator.
Nonetheless, there are still a plethora of issues that the Predators need to clean up. From the power play to defensive zone coverage, the Predators lean on Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros to pick up their wins. Watching the Predators play, this may be the most heavily the team has relied on goaltending to win them games since the 2011-12 season with Ryan Suter and Shea Weber manning the blueline together.
By all means, the Predators are hoping that whoever starts in goal tonight does not have to make 47 saves like Saros did to defeat the Golden Knights. Both Saros and Rinne have been incredible all season, bailing the defense out time and time again. Unfortunately, due to the great speed that Vegas possesses, tonight could be another high-shot volume game for the Predators netminders.
Reasons to Watch
- A fast-paced team with some bad blood with the Predators? Sign me up.
- This year’s William Karlsson “shooting percentage” award goes to...Viktor Arvidsson! Blessed by the hockey gods with a 20.8% shooting percentage, nearly double his prior career percentage of 10.6%, Arvy is getting all the goals right now. The sad news is he’s all but guaranteed to regress sooner or later, but hey, let’s enjoy it while we can.
- Ryan Johansen is mastering more subtle aspects of his game, which is paying off for the Predators. Watching some of his more minute puck movements and footwork recently—he’s been doing all the little things right.
I’ll be attending the Minnesota-Ohio State game prior to watching the Predators. While I watch Predators prospects Rem Pitlick and Tom Novak, I’ll be hoping that Ohio State scores on the power play—when they do, every fan gets a free Raising Cane’s chicken finger and sauce.
Sights and Sounds
The puck drops at 9:00 PM Central. FS-TN will carry the game on TV while 102.5 The Game will have it on the radio.