Exhibition [ex-suh-bish-uh-n], noun: a public display as of the work of artists and artisans, the products of farmers and factories, the skills of performers, or objects of general interests.
Under normal circumstances, there may not be quite as much buzz around an exhibition game as there is in Smashville over the Predators’ game against the Dallas Stars. Of course, nothing about the 2019-2020 season for Predators fans has been “normal”. After a five-month Ross Geller “we were on a break” from hockey and the up and down season prior, Predators fans are hungry to see the skills of the performers as the team begins a postseason run. This exhibition game against Dallas may give Smashville important insight into how this post season may go.
First point of note - Juuse Saros starts in goal. (I suspect fans may see Pekka Rinne in net at some point in the afternoon.) Ben Bishop starts in net for the Dallas Stars.
JoFA starts the game <insert “Reunited” by Peaches and Herb>...and promptly goes offside.
Tyler Seguin isn’t in the lineup for Dallas—listed as the newly-minted, super-specific “unfit to play”.
We finally get a look at the Predators power play a few minutes into the game...AND A POWER PLAY GOAL! Traffic in front of the net opened up a perfect shot and Viktor Arvidsson scores the first goal of the game off a long rebound. Assists Duchene and Josi.
Viktor Arvidsson opened the scoring at 3:53 of the first period.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) July 30, 2020
He is one of 13 players on the @PredsNHL's roster who dressed at least one postseason game with the club the during their run to the #StanleyCup Final in 2017. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/L4MTXSY9ID
Filip Forsberg’s mustache should be the new temporary mascot for the Nashville Predators because it. is. magical.
The Predators attended some earlier games to get a feel for how the arena would sound without fans. Seems like an interesting exercise, but my children are saying that I’m yelling loud enough for the players to hear anyway, so perhaps unnecessary.
And now time to kill a penalty after Yannick Weber is called for interference. Let’s see how the Preds play a man down...good kill by the Predators.
Now some 4v4 hockey as Arvidsson and Dickinson hit the sin bin to end the 1st.
Blackwell and Oleksiak collide behind the net. Camera pans to Blackwell on the bench saying a slow motion “Owwwwww.” Ten bucks says he does it again.
Preds back on the power play after a slashing call on Dallas (Hintz). Good looks and puck possession, but no score.
Juuse doesn’t seem to have missed a step over the months-long break. Calm, strong in net, seeing the puck well.
ARVY AGAIN! With a gorgeous backhand assist from Forsberg! 2-0 Preds! Let’s go JOFA!
Kyle Turris blocks a shot with the inside of his lower leg and looks a little sore heading back to the bench. That needs to not be a thing.
Ladies and gentlemen, Pekka Rinne is in net with 9:27 left in the second period. Tested right away on a breakaway and gets the save. Another save on a 2-on-1. Two goalies ready for playoffs? Well, all right!
With 7:07 left in the period, Viktor Arvidsson heads to the penalty box for tripping. Strong penalty kill by the Preds, and Kyle Turris is back on the ice so my hand wringing has stopped.
No. No. NO. Arvidsson takes a strange hit to the leg and struggles to get up. One thing the Predators must have for any playoff success is a healthy Arvy. Don’t panic (which we ALL did—let’s be honest). He’s back on the ice.
Tinordi is not afraid to mix it up on the boards or in front of the net. I like it. Period 2 ends with Preds up 2-0.
JoFA line puts pressure on Anton Khudobin immediately.
A perfectly lovely poke check sends Duchene send his not-quite-Forsberg-level-facial-hair to the box for a (pathetic) tripping call. As a theatre major, I can spot embellishment a mile away.
Penalty kill successful. This is really encouraging. Hate the penalty. Love the kill.
A bit of a Dallas offensive scramble, but the Predators didn’t break down on defense and held strong with a save by Rinne.
Stay in the goal there, Peks.
Nice shot attempt by Rocco Grimaldi that leads to a Nashville power play chance, but no strong scoring opportunities for the Predators.
The Predators spend significantly more time in the defensive zone as the third period begins to wind down. The Preds are blocking shots faster than Lin-Manuel Miranda can rap about not throwing his away.
Empty net for Dallas with 1:25 left to play.
What Are the Takeaways?
Biggest takeaway is the (re)emergence of the JoFA line. While the idea of splitting up the trio might have made sense in theory, today’s game emphatically argues for keeping Johansen, Arvidsson, and Forsberg together from here on out. Today fans saw glimpses of JoFA circa 2017. It was a beautiful thing.
The Predators were prepared to play hockey. Despite the months-long break, the team took the ice with game-level energy, focus, and play. They looked sharp in most every facet of the game. There were, of course, a few sloppy plays, but overall, this game was cleaner than many earlier season games.
While the JoFA scores are exciting, I am loving the defensive play from the Predators today. When facing defensive pressure during the season, there were times the defense looked confused and a step behind. Even when playing with an extra attacker, the Preds played calm, focused, physical defense.
Juuse and Pekka. Both are ready. Both will be needed. Plan to see Saros in goal to start on Sunday.
It’s only one game, but John Hynes seems to have addressed what needed to be addressed in March and is getting seriously strong play out of this team.
Overall, this is the game Predators fans desperately wanted, but probably didn’t dare hope for. After an up-and-down season and the pause, it was difficult to know what to expect from the team, but this game was about as strong as anyone would have dared hope for.
The Predators begin official play on Sunday at 1:00 PM CT in the play-in best of five round against the Arizona Coyotes. The game will be televised on FSTN and USA Network. If you aren’t near a television at puck drop, tune into 102.5 The Game for the call.
The Dallas Stars will begin their round robin games on Monday at 5:30 PM CT against the Vegas Golden Knights on NBCSN.