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Nashville Predators vs. Vegas Golden Knights Preview: New Month, New Start?

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Optimism? In this economy?

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators

The Predators make a brief stop back home after a pair of back-to-back victories on the road against the league-leading Capitals and the...not-league-leading Devils.

Their goaltending has been the least good kind of exciting, but the offense has, for now, been able to keep up. That’s not likely to be sustainable, and fixing the goalie situation has to be a priority for the team—whether it’s by tweaking something with the goalie coaching, by bringing in a new player, or by doing that center-ice exorcism of Matt Duchene we keep talking about.

Players who the Predators needed to be connecting on offense, including Duchene and Filip Forsberg but especially Mikael Granlund, have been doing so the past couple of nights. Forsberg tied some guy named Martin Erat for third-most goals scored in franchise history on Thursday—it would have been funnier if he’d done it Wednesday against the Capitals, but you can’t have everything. He’s now three behind tying Shea Weber’s mark for second all-time, and then quite a few more behind David Legwand to take over the leaderboard.

The Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights fired Gerard Gallant because they were getting some bad goaltending and I guess he wasn’t willing to get put into net, and then hired Peter DeBoer because...uh...reasons? DeBoer aside, the Knights this season have tilted the ice with a powerhouse offense and an adequate defense, as well as a very strong power play, though they’ve had a harder time on the penalty kill.

Mark Stone remains jawdroppingly good, and he, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny are a lethal two-way top line. I obviously don’t mean “two-way” as a euphemism for “bad at offense”—Pacioretty and Stone are tied for the team lead in points with 47 each; Pacioretty also leads the team in goals with 21, while Stone’s 29 assists are a team high. Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and the currently-injured William Karlsson are no slouch as a 1B line, either, also driving play to an impressive degree, and round out the top five of Knights scorers. Shea Theodore has been the Knights’ most productive defender, as well as their best play-driver on defense.

The most alarming thing about the Knights this season has been that they just do not give up.

Shot maps (red=more shots, blue=fewer shots) for the Golden Knights this season at different score states.
Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

A normal team does not keep pouring on the attack as they go up by multiple goals. The iffy defense while down by one and the slightly lackluster offense after going up by one might be a weakness, but this is not a team that will turtle on a two-goal lead, or at least it wasn’t under Gallant—they’ll go out and make it a three-goal lead as soon as their shooters and their goaltending permit it.

And that’s the Knights’ problem. They’ve gotten okay but not great goaltending from Marc-André Fleury, but Malcolm Subban has been in the Pekka Rinne - Juuse Saros tier of eek. They’ve also underperformed the offense they’re creating, with shots that maybe should be going in not going in. They’ve been unlucky. It cost Gallant his job.

Reasons to Watch:

  • Can the Preds make it three in a row?
  • It’s Filbruary
  • The Super Bowl isn’t until tomorrow

How to Watch:

The game starts at 7PM Central. You can watch on FS-TN or listen on 102.5 The Game.


Numerical statistics from hockey-reference.com. Background and general observations referenced from hockeyviz.com.