It’s Saturday and we’re going to keep it short and sweet. If you are curious about the precautions the team is taking with members of the media entering the facility, take a look at my last practice report. The same precautions were in place this time around will continue to be for the duration of training camp.
Three Things I Noticed
Who’s In? Who’s Out? How Does It Work?
Rocco Grimaldi was absent from the ice. I’ve seen a few people question how all of this works, so here’s my best guess. During a post-game interview, when asked for an update on Grimaldi, Head Coach John Hynes stated, “We’re not commenting on guys that are not going to be involved in the main group.” During the two days I’ve been in the facility, there have been two goalies, eight defenders, and 14 forwards practicing with the main group.
I am aware that Yakov Trenin was deemed “unfit to play” on Day 1, but was on the ice on Day 3 (I actually thought he looked pretty strong). Without typing out a giant list, the additional players that have been out there (but subbing in on the third and fourth lines) are Colin Blackwell and Yakov Trenin, while Jarred Tinordi and Korbinian Holzer seem to be making up the fourth pairing. This seems to be the current formula for what’s happening on the ice during practice.
With Grimaldi out, Daniel Carr was in and skating with Bonino’s line. The lack of comment on Grimaldi’s absence isn’t indicative of something sinister. While his absence certainly raises the question, “Where is he?” I don’t know that it’s necessarily something worth getting worked up about at this point. All I can say, based on what I’ve seen, is that Daniel Carr practiced in his place today.
The remainder of the training camp roster skates in what have been called “free skates”, but those sessions are unavailable to the media at large. However, Darren McFarland was able to capture this footage of Rem Pitlick during “quiet time”:
Who winds up making the “in the bubble” roster is yet to be seen, but so far, if they aren’t consistently on the ice, they probably aren’t going. That is, except for goalies. Based on this tweet, it appears Connor Ingram is planning to travel to Edmonton:
Is the West Edmonton Mall water park included in the bubble in Edmonton? Asking for a friend.— Connor Ingram (@CBIngram1) July 16, 2020
As much as the players and coaches are talking about sacrifice, the buzz word I keep hearing from Coach Hynes and the skill I continue to see being hammered over and over in practice is SPEED. Many of the drills I’ve seen in practice focus on getting through the neutral zone as quickly as possible.
At practice on Wednesday, I saw two separate drills where players worked on doing things quickly. The first was quick passes from defenders exiting the defensive zone to forwards entering the offensive zone. While there was a focus on control, the main focus was on getting it done quickly. The other drill involved neutralizing attackers in the defensive zone and getting the puck to someone near the blueline. This was done in a 5 attacking/3 defending set up.
However, Friday’s practice ramped this drill up a bit with some heavy contact. I’m not going to say it was full-contact, but it was intense:
Intensity aside, the drive the players have to clear this puck is incredible. Once you marry these two drills together, you have a scenario in which the Predators could wind up with an odd-man rush.
The uncertainty of this entire situation is a clear theme for the Predators. Realistically, it’s more than likely a theme for all of the teams involved in the postseason. This has never happened before. Players are questioning what to pack—once they’re in the bubble, they can’t leave the bubble. Making it to the Stanley Cup Final would take around two and a half months.
Do you plan for the best case scenario and bring two and a half months worth of stuff? How will you stay entertained during down time? Colton Sissons bought a Kindle, but doesn’t know what to read yet. John Hynes plans to re-read a book on Winston Churchill. What kind of food and entertainment options will be available in the bubble? These are all some of the uncertainties the players, coaches, and staff are dealing wtih. However, the biggest uncertainty of all is whether or not teams will actually make it to Phase IV. Even with all of the precautions in place, it’s still possible that the impact of COVID-19 could work its way into some of these camps and wreak havoc.
Two Things to Think About
The Starter’s Crease
Of course, this is on everyone’s mind. OTF’s very own Nick Morgan has a piece coming out early next week, so I won’t go into too much, but I noticed something about the goalies over the past two practices—Pekka Rinne is suiting up and playing with the third and fourth lines. Juuse Saros is playing with the first and second lines. However, this means Rinne is taking shots from the top two lines. So, the starting goaltender situation remains unclear.
The Full Hynes
This will be the first chance Coach Hynes has had to install his full system. Since he took over the reins from former head coach Peter Laviolette, any changes he had to make to the system the team was using had to be made between a rigorous schedule of games and travel. With a long break that allowed players to get back up to full health and strength and a three-week training camp period, this will be the first chance we get to see what the John Hynes Nashville Predators look like. I can’t wait to see it. I like the way the man runs a practice.
One Thing to Look For
Friday’s practice saw glimpses of “live” game scenarios, but there still wasn’t any full-ice 5-on-5 action. It will be interesting to see what happens when some scrimmaging actually takes place, as it will be the first good look at how the reunited top lines perform. It will also be a chance to see how the incredible line of Nick Bonino, Craig Smith, and Rocco Grimaldi fares in competition. Of course, I’ll also be curious to see how both the fourth line and third pairing wind up.
The Predators will practice today and Sunday. I’ll be there in person on Sunday; tune in for updates.