There’s a lot of good stuff to take away from this game. First, and most importantly, the Predators picked up a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators. That’s two big points, and that keeps the Preds in striking distance of a wild card spot. They’ve won nine of their past 14. They’re hot at the right time.
We saw the Preds rally back from a slow start en route to a strong finish. We saw the power play, stale for weeks, suddenly come through with two goals. We saw Ryan Ellis play his best game since returning from injury. Juuse Saros, with 33 saves tonight, played spectacularly after an iffy second goal.
That’s all great!
There’s also plenty of things from this game that makes you wonder if this team can compete down the stretch.
Sure, the Predators overcame that slow start. But once again, there was a slow start. It’s just a reminder that there are still times when this team can go through long stretches of games where they sort of fall off the face of the Earth. It’s a bit easier to overcome those moments in the first period against the second-worst team in the NHL. Against Dallas or Colorado? Those stretches might cost the Preds a game — and a playoff spot.
There’s also still concern over the line combinations. Yes, the goal is to have four lines that A.) can score at any time and B.) can be trusted in any situation. But you get the sense that some of this constant juggling may be hurting the chemistry a little bit. We got halfway through the second before John Hynes started moving forwards around again.
I’m all for making adjustments, creating “matchup advantages,” whatever. But eventually, you’re going to have to give some of these forwards some time to work together.
But hey... again... the Preds won the game. Let’s not lose sight of that.
Despite some good early pressure from the Preds on their first power play, it’s Ottawa who strikes first. Thomas Chabot skates into the slot after Filip Forsberg blocked a shot, and puts the rebound past Juuse Saros for a 1-0 Senators lead. This one really wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was simply a case of a blocked shot ricocheting to the one spot on the ice you didn’t want it to.
Luckily, the Preds wouldn’t have to wait long for revenge.
Just twenty seconds later, Colin Blackwell pokes a rebound from a Mattias Ekholm shot past Craig Anderson, and the Preds tie the game 1-1. This is two games in a row we’ve seen an early goal from Ryan Johansen’s weird maybe-fourth-line/maybe-second-line group. Who knows? Maybe that combination is lighting a fire under everyone involved.
If you were hoping that goal would spark some momentum... lol, welcome to the 2020 Nashville Predators.
The rest of the period is all Ottawa. The Senators outshoot the Predators 15-3 in the last 15 minutes of the period (that includes a stretch in which Nashville goes more than 13 minutes without a shot). That stretch is marred by bad giveaways (six in the period) and — for some reason — a number of Predators falling down mid-play. In one case, Fabbro loses his edge while handling the puck behind the net, which leads to a three-on-two chance for the Sens that Saros stuffs with two really good saves.
Eventually, this burns the Preds late in the period. Another turnover leads to an odd-man rush for Ottawa. Saros makes the initial save, but gives up a fairly ugly rebound, and Filip Chlapik puts it home for a 2-1 Ottawa lead. That’s one Juuse probably should have had.
Tinordi-Ekholm-Johansen-Sissons-Blackwell the only unit above water, purely on Blackwells goal https://t.co/WUhrGcXPvk— Bryan Bastin (@projpatsummitt) February 26, 2020
There’s no way to sugar coat this: this was a bad period for the Predators. I can’t tell if the constant line shuffling makes it harder for the forwards to get on the same page early on, or if you can simply chalk it up to a “sluggish start.” But those kinds of starts can kill your chances against good teams.
Luckily, things turn around in the second.
The Predators still look somewhat stale to start the period. They get a power play opportunity, but for the most part, can’t posses the puck long enough to threaten Anderson.
I say “for the most part” because...
With 15 seconds left in the man-advantage, Ryan Ellis gets the puck from a face-off, and wrists a shot past Anderson to tie the game, 2-2. It’s the first power play goal in 14 chances for the Predators. There is much rejoicing.
There’s a bit of a scary moment following the Ellis goal. Colin Blackwell takes an errant stick either in or right around the eye. He missed most of the rest of the period, and even though he returned, you could tell he was in serious pain. Either way, Ottawa gets a two-minute penalty.
We see a huge momentum swing on the ensuing man advantage. A Roman Josi turnover leads to a two-man short-handed breakaway for the Senators. It looks like Chris Tierney had Saros beat, but his shot sails over the crossbar.
And to further the point of the Senators not having nice things, the Preds take the puck down to the other end of the ice, and Viktor Arvidsson deflects a Calle Jarnkrok shot past Anderson to give the Predators their first lead of the game, 3-2.
That’s TWO power play goals in a span of four minutes! Get your affairs in order, because the end is nigh, probably.
(In all seriousness, the puck movement in the power play has been fairly good the past couple of games... rough first attempt aside)
Ellis gives us maybe the best defensive game with about five minutes left in the period. He’s the only Pred back on a 2-on-1 chance, but lies down at the perfect time to break up the pass. He then leads the rush to the other end and sets up Arvidsson for a great chance at the other end.
Just as Ryan Ellis sacrifices his body for the #Preds, I would sacrifice by body for him.— Austin Nivison (@AustinNivison) February 26, 2020
I loved the response from the Preds in the second period. Apart from that stale start to the power play (which, reminder, ended in a goal), you could tell the team was more in sync this period. The stats back that up.
Both teams get a couple of chances to start the third period. Ottawa gets a power-play after Josi hits Thomas Chabot from behind into the boards. That leads to Ellis coming through with his biggest defensive contribution of the game... stopping an irate Scott Sabourin from absolutely clobbering Josi into the glass in retaliation. (The Preds kill the penalty, by the way.)
We get a long stretch of the third where not much happens. Despite going about eight minutes without a whistle, neither team really generates any chance that causes any danger.
OTF’s Super-Duper Stars o’ the Game
3. Colin Blackwell - The dude makes things happen whenever he’s on the ice.
2. Juuse Saros - Apart from that second goal, another A+ performance from the Finnish bear-child
1. Ryan Ellis - One Goal, One Assist, one highlight-reel defensive play, one Josi-murder prevention, and one heckuva night for the big bearded blue-line bulldog.
Other Random Takeaways
- It took us 18 seconds to get some Brady Tkachuk shenanigans, which is about 8 seconds later than usual. Good for him on learning restraint.
- I know it’s a Tuesday night game against a low-level Eastern Conference team, but man... some of these Bridgestone Arena crowds have been downright awful this year.
- These slow starts are going to wind up dooming the Preds against better teams, but the response to start the second was exactly what you wanted.
- We desperately need an Abby Grimaldi - Matt Duchene duet sometime soon.
- Meanwhile, In Orange County...
The Predators get some more sweet maple-y Canadian action on Thursday, when they host the Calgary Flames at Bridgestone Arena. Puck drop is the usual 7 P.M. CST.
The Senators return to Ottawa Thursday for a tilt with the red-hot Vancouver Canucks. That game starts at 6:30 P.M.