Wednesday was one of the strangest sports experiences I’ve ever had. I watched the Nashville Predators play at Bridgestone Arena as part of a crowd of less than 20 while a storm raged on outside, making Bridgestone seem more like the Thunderdome.
Before the Predators took the ice, two officials showed up to take a few laps around the freshly Zamboni-ed ice. Turns out, the officials were former Predator (and current GM of the Milwaukee Admirals) Scott Nichol and the team’s strength and conditioning coach David Good.
The full Training Camp roster suited up in a Gold vs White format. Here’s how they lined up:
The most noticeable addition to the ice was Connor Ingram, who was on the bench to back up Juuse Saros.
It was obvious quite quickly that this scrimmage would bring with it the intensity and physicality of practice the day before. And it didn’t take long for Filip Forsberg to light the lamp for the White team. Forsberg came around the back of the net, looking for Viktor Arvidsson, who was waiting at the back door. However, his pass was redirected—I believe off of Matt Duchene’s stick or skate—into the tiny gap between Juuse Saros’s glove and skate.
Despite the celebration, the Gold team would not be kept down for long, as Craig Smith scored a goal on the power play to tie things up at 1-1. Next, Colton Sissons pressed the Gold team’s advantage by scoring a backhanded beauty to put them ahead 2-1.
The Gold team continued to run up the score to close out the first period as Kyle Turris scored not one, but two goals to put the Gold team up 4-1. I didn’t get a clear shot of his first goal, but here’s the second one:
The second period had a lot of shooting, but no scoring. Here are some observations about the rest of the scrimmage.
- I saw a lot of the things the team has been practicing come together at game speed.
- The team is moving the puck quickly through the neutral zone with a focus on getting controlled exits and entries.
- We’re seeing a lot of hard, physical play in the defensive zone—focused on neutralizing the opponents and stripping the puck.
- They’re playing with an emphasis on speed, causing skaters like Rocco Grimaldi and Viktor Arvidsson to have a prominent role in breakouts.
- It seems as though the Towers of Terror (that’s what I’m calling the defensive pairing of Jarred Tinordi and Korbinian Holzer) will see an expanded role as the third pairing, as they seem to be functioning as a “it’s gonna hurt to play against these two” pairing on the boards and in the corners. However, the dual meaning of my nickname for them also points to their defensive abilities, so take that as you will. I will say, they can dole out punishment and it doesn’t exactly seem like it bothers them too much to dole it out either. Holzer even looks like he enjoys it.
- Juuse Saros looks great under pressure. Check out the barrage he handles from the top line during special teams drills:
- With Saros turning in some lights-out goaltending performances it seems he is making his case to be the Game 1 starter. Pekka Rinne had some difficulty today stopping shots from the second and fourth lines. I could go into a goal-by-goal breakdown of who and how and why, but the fact remains that Rinne allowed four goals on seven shots in the first period. It appears the starting spot is Saros’s to lose.
- Now, saying all of that, I’ll also add that everything we’ve heard—from them and from everyone else—is that these two goalies are incredibly close friends and the competition between the two of them is healthy, friendly, and supportive. If Saros is named the starter, expect Pekka Rinne to be the first one to congratulate him and throw his support behind him.
- Nick Bonino is an incredible penalty killer with a penchant for blocking shots and stripping pucks.
- The majority of the special teams drills I saw was focused pretty heavily on killing penalties.
All in all, I like what I’m seeing on the ice. Having seen the development of different parts of this strategy and style of play over the past few practices, it was nice to see it all come together. I am looking forward to seeing how the power play continues to develop.
Training Camp continues today. Follow me for updates on Twitter @SCSOTF.