This weekend, the Nashville Predators take on the St. Louis Blues on the road for a Saturday matinee and then again at home on Sunday evening. If you’re interested in catching Sunday’s game in person, tickets are still available and can be purchased here.
This is the Preds’ second pair of games against the Blues this season, though the last one had a day of rest between St. Louis and Nashville. It went pretty well, all things considered; two of the Preds’ four (4) wins in the entire month of November (13 games) came against the Blues that week, although the home game took a shootout to get the second point.
Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm, and Colton Sissons all scored on Jordan Binnington in the road game last time, and Calle Järnkrok added an empty-net goal to get fans Frostys and seal the win, while Juuse Saros stopped 24 of 26 shots and allowed only one goal at even strength. Two days later, Nick Bonino and Ryan Johansen got the Predators to an early lead, but the Blues were able to tie it back up, and it took a shootout with goals scored by Forsberg and, eventually, Daniel Carr (remember him? this was a while ago) to get Saros another W.
I can’t tell you right now what the narrative will look like on Sunday night—whether the Preds will be looking to build off their momentum from Saturday at home and against an equally-tired opponent, or whether they’ll be looking to avenge a loss.
What I can say is that the team has been looking better, that Juuse Saros has two shutouts in his last eight games, and that it’s possible that Hynes’s coaching is finally starting to make an impact. I’m not talking about some fluke new-coach bump, but about a real change in play, with better and more consistent efforts resulting in better shots taken off of better plays made, and team defense that makes it easier on the goalies. Bryan is working on an article comparing the Preds under Hynes to the Preds under Laviolette, and there are some positive signs. There’ve also been the last few games we’ve seen (okay, not the Vancouver one), where the Predators have more or less shown up on the ice. I think there’s some reason for optimism.
The playoff race is still tight, and the Preds do risk playing themselves out of a good lottery spot but not into the playoffs themselves, but I’d still rather see them trying hard every night. Tanking might be smart if you need to do it, but the Predators don’t, and I hope they can keep building good habits, like playing both hard and well.
Getting some home wins under their belts would be a good habit too. Just sayin’. It’s been too long since Bridgestone was a place that opponents hated to play, and I’d love to see it get back to that. Sending the defending Stanley Cup champions back home in defeat would be a good step along that road.
There’s a lot going on in addition to the Predators’ game itself, as well:
- The Black Hockey History Tour, a traveling museum, will be in Nashville again this year. The museum will be set up outside Schermerhorn Symphony Center and opens at 11 AM Central, and will allow fans to learn more about the contributions to hockey made by Black players past and present. On Monday, the museum will be at Ford Ice Center in Bellevue from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is free.
- Willie O’Ree will be visiting Nashville this weekend as part of the celebration of Black hockey history. At this point O’Ree needs little to no introduction to hockey fans, as the Hockey Hall of Fame’s voters finally caught up to his historic importance to their sport’s top-level league and inducted him. I would love to see the NHL doing more to also celebrate additional trailblazing Black players, instead of always presenting just the first one in the league, but I am glad that they are at least celebrating O’Ree now, and it’s very exciting that he’ll be in Nashville this weekend.
- On a different note, some of the public skating sessions at The Rink on Broadway on Sunday will be filmed as part of NBC and USA Hockey’s “Hockey Day in America” broadcast as “Hockey Week in America” begins—I guess we can’t let Canada upstage us for too long? There is a fee for the public skates, but if you’re looking for the chance to find yourself on television while showing off the growth of hockey in Nashville and the South, it could be something to do while you wait for puck drop.
- The Predators have given special thanks to 7Element: Veteran and First Responder Athletic Fund for collecting ticket donations for Sunday’s game. 7Element is an organization that’s very important to OTF’s own Rachel K; they work not only to get veterans and first responders to Predators games, but also to give them an opportunity to play—admittedly at a different level.
We’ll have game previews, threads, and recaps for the Blues games coming on Saturday and Sunday, as well as on-site coverage from Shaun Smith for Sunday’s events. We’d also love to see FanPosts from the community as the Preds start their Hockey Is For Everyone celebrations.
Game statistics from hockey-reference.com.
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