As the saying goes, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. I won’t sugar-coat things for you: Sunday afternoon’s game one against the Arizona Coyotes was not pretty. For some Predators fans, it confirmed their worst fears. For other Predators fans, it validated their feelings toward this team and the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Though game one didn’t provide much to be optimistic about, this is a best-of-five series and there’s time left for Nashville to right this ship.
Series observations (so far):
Any promise seen in Nashville’s lone exhibition game against the Dallas Stars is so far non-existent. As of game one, gone was all the fight and potential seen against a conference rival. Instead, that promise was replaced with a team sinking back into old, familiar bad habits. It’s essentially like watching your friend break up with her toxic boyfriend while you cheer her on, for her to turn around less than a week later and take him back because because they’re “in love.”
It was clear Sunday afternoon that one team did their homework and prepared thoroughly for the matchup — and it wasn’t Nashville.
Arizona knew all of the Predators’ weaknesses. They knew Nashville’s defense isn’t physical. They knew nearly the entirety of Nashville’s offense runs through captain Roman Josi and shut him down. They took advantage of the Predators’ weak penalty kill and penalty-prone behavior. They knew that regardless of who was in net, the goalie would not be a brick wall as in previous years.
Meanwhile, Nashville looked like a high-school student who didn’t even bother studying for the big exam. They broke formation near the net, could not generate offense, left Juuse Saros without help in front of the net, and took penalty after penalty.
#Preds 1st period observations:— Sarah Hager (@SarahKHager) August 2, 2020
• Forsberg might be the team’s only hope
• Preds desperately needed that successful PP right at the end
• Team is falling back into bad habits
• Johansesn, Arvidsson, Duchene nonexistent
• defense is weak
• Terrible Penalty Kill
#Preds 2nd period observations:— Sarah Hager (@SarahKHager) August 2, 2020
• sloppy play
• JoFA + Duchene non-existent still (as is the entire offense)
• Coyotes were prepared to shutdown Josi
• Arizona did their homework on the entire defense
• stupid penalties continue
• this is Nashville’s worst nightmare
#Preds 3rd period/ ending observations:— Sarah Hager (@SarahKHager) August 2, 2020
• Forsberg appears to understand the severity of needing to step up
• Forsberg + PP = a hint of promise?
• it was good to see the Predators refuse to “roll over and play dead”
• there are 0 moral victories here. This was bad
All hope is not lost for Nashville. Though I stand by saying there are no moral victories from game one, I can also say that the third period showed strength from the Predators.
Filip Forsberg found the back of the net twice on the power play (the same power play that caused fans and the coaching staff much concern during the regular season). Forsberg seemed to pick up the slack for the team and put the offense on his back while the Coyotes covered Josi. It’s great to see Forsberg step up into a leadership role for the team and it’s sorely needed.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski tweeted after game one that head coach John Hynes declined to say whether Saros would be the starter for game two. Wyshynski also said that Hynes did give praise to Saros for not letting the game get further out of hand.
John Hynes doesn't commit to Juuse Saros for Game 2, but praised his effort in the latter part of the game to "keep it at four." @PredsNHL— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) August 2, 2020
If the Predators have any hope of making it out of the first round of the qualifiers, this team is going to need to find the anger and poise they had against Dallas in their exibition game. The JoFA line needs to find the back of the net, Matt Duchene needs to find the back of the net, the defense needs to find their footing and play physically. It’s possible to come back from game one angry and hungry for a win and to prove everyone wrong.
As I said above, the Coyotes did their homework. While the Predators won their exhibition game, the Coyotes lost theirs to the Vegas Golden Knights, something head coach Rick Tocchet admitted was a good thing for his team. Wyshynski tweeted this quote from Tocchet about what he feels his team learned from the loss:
Tocchet said Vegas was the perfect prep team for the Coyotes, because it showed the players they have to pay a physical price to win the postseason. "We need some guys to feel uncomfortable out there." @ArizonaCoyotes— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) August 2, 2020
There isn’t much the Coyotes need to change or work on between games one and two. The most important thing for the Coyotes is to continue to apply pressure to Nashville’s defense, keep Roman Josi covered once again, and force penalties.
I think many Predators fans still underestimate Arizona and think of them as one of their unsuccessful past iterations. However this team led by Oliver Ekman-Larsson and young NHL star Clayton Keller is hungry for success.
Reasons to watch and have faith in this team
As disastrous as Game 1 was, it was also a learning experience. It set the tone for what the Predators can expect from the Coyotes. While Arizona showed their cards, Nashville has yet to show what they are capable of. Regardless, Arizona is a well-coached team and will be ready, but the Predators can still surprise them with discipline — assuming they don’t fall apart after one loss.
Soundtrack to Game 2
Yes, this screaming goat is a rallying cry for the Predators played on the jumbotron at Bridgestone Arena. However, this is also the inner monologue for many fans currently. So, enjoy. All 10 hours of it. You’re welcome.
Where to watch
Puck drop: 1:30 p.m. (CST)
Radio: 102.5 The Game