The second game of the series ended much better for the Predators than the first, as they were able to tie their series against the Stars. (We know you know, we just have to say it anyway. Search engines and all that jazz.)
Kate and Rachel take a look at what went right and what didn’t this game.
Rachel: The top line is playing with some serious fire. Can it last during the WHOLE game?
Kate: Sort of, actually. Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson played incredibly well last night, they just didn’t get rewarded. I’m comfortable leaving them in the “The Good” section after this game—we know all three of them have finishing talent, and they really did play very well apart from not scoring. Crushed it at both ends of the ice. More often than not, that’ll pay off for you.
Rachel: Rocco Grimaldi establishing his tiny self in front of Ben Bishop...a goalie who is a FULL FOOT TALLER THAN him...and scoring a tying goal is exactly why you put him in the lineup over someone like Wayne Simmonds or Brian Boyle.
Kate: I really don’t know why Grimaldi wasn’t in this series to start with, now that he’s back and healthy again. He was great, and what he did was what we knew he could do: enter the zone with speed, forecheck, create the good kind of chaos in the offensive zone, and make the Stars’ defenders and goalie work for it. That he scored even just one goal was great. A goal and a key play? Fantastic.
Rachel: Craig Smith redeemed himself for his penalty earlier in overtime. A gorgeous screen from Rocco Grimaldi (LOL!) prevented Ben Bishop from seeing Smith’s shot. So pretty.
Kate: I, noted Calle Järnkrok liker, feel obliged to note that Järnkrok had points on both the Preds’ goals tonight and played very well overall. Remarkable how much more effective he is when he’s playing with people who can, uh, skate.
But really, the second line played pretty darn well too, and Smith...probably didn’t deserve that goal as much as Kyle Turris might have, but yeah. Second line was good; they were probably due.
Other things that were good: the penalty kill was fantastic, going 6-for-6 and keeping both the Stars’ powerplay units off the board. Arvidsson continues to have their PP1’s number, and it’s great to see. Pekka Rinne made some fantastic stops shorthanded to keep their PP2 from converting again. Even the Preds’ power play looked less awful, which is progress.
Kate: Grimaldi was really good, but I’m concerned that he only made it into the lineup when Brian Boyle got sick. I wish Laviolette had looked at what happened last game (the NZ trap), thought about what he needed to do to beat it (more speed, less grit), and adjusted his roster intentionally. It would have made a lot more sense to scratch Boyle or Simmonds and put Grimaldi in from the start. For that matter, Simmonds probably wishes he’d been scratched.
Rachel: (Wayne Simmonds took a Roman Josi shot to the leg and left the game.)
Kate: There are definitely things that Josi’s mentor Shea Weber did for the Preds that I wish Josi had picked up on a little more—defend the front of the dang net!—but “injuring teammates with slapshots” was not on that list. I haven’t been impressed with Simmonds’s play, but this wasn’t something I wanted and I hope he recovers soon.
Also, despite the third line (Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, and Austin Watson) announcing that they needed to play better and reporters telling us that we need to expect more of them, they were awful again tonight. They were a lot better than they were Wednesday, and they were still the worst Preds line by a mile.
They’re also still getting way, way too much icetime with Josi and Ryan Ellis. It’s a bad combination and I want to stop having to watch it. It’s very obviously not working. They get pushed back into the DZ when they’re out together and give up great chances. Laviolette is probably going to be distracted by Mattias Ekholm, but I wish he’d think about not deploying that line and that d-pairing together.
Rachel: Mattias Ekholm’s night was...bad. Very very bad.
Kate: It was. Is it time to talk about the penalties? Wait, no, one last thing—it took over six periods of hockey in this series for a Preds forward in the top nine to score a goal. Ben Bishop is very good and he’s having a great season, but the Predators know how to score on him and they’re going to need to do it a few more times if they want to win the series.
Okay, now we can talk about the penalties.
Rachel: Penalties are going to kill the Predators. Mattias Ekholm did not need to argue with the referees for his second penalty in the first period.
Kate: Him with his three total penalties, Smith with that blatant retaliation on Blake Comeau, Josi with the cross-check on Jamie Benn—Josi pulls that kind of thing all the time and usually gets away with it, but when you already know the referees are actually calling everything, you have to be smarter. Ekholm and Smith don’t even have that excuse.
It’s undisciplined, it’s ugly, it’s unnecessary, and it’s not the way a team that feels it’s in control of a game or series plays.
Rachel: This game is giving me anxiety.
Kate: I already have anxiety and overtime just does its best to convince my limbic system that there is a man-eating tiger in the room right behind me. 0/10 do not recommend.