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On The Backcheck: Reviewing NSH vs LAK

Shaun was at Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night to see the Predators defeat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1. Here are his thoughts on the game.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Bryan Bastin’s Thoughts from the Tire Barn, this will be my column you should expect to see the morning after games I cover from Bridgestone Arena. I wanted to use a different title because I don’t want anyone to click on an article of mine expecting to see the stats you’d expect from Bryan because if you did, you’d be really let down. The general layout is that I’ll be looking for specific things when I attend each game. I’ll let you know what they are and then I’ll report on them. Often, it’ll be things I saw that I liked and things I saw that could be improved on. I’ll also put anything else important that happens in here. I’ll try to close up with videos from the post game media session as well. So, Nashville vs Los Angeles and the Return of Viktor Arvidsson...let’s go!

The Setup

I went into Bridgestone Arena last night focused on looking at a few specific things. First, I wanted to see how the Predators were playing in transition. Transitional play is something the team has been working on since John Hynes took over as head coach of the team and I’ve seen improvements since then. Second, I planned to pay close attention to passing. It has seemed to me that the passing game has led to some untimely turnovers over the first two games of the season. I also noticed a abundance of passes off the boards that didn’t reach their intended target. Last, of course, Tommy Novak, fresh from Predators’ AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, was going to get his first NHL start and I wanted to pay close attention to him.

Viktor Arvidsson

Viktor Arvidsson got the tribute he deserved. From fans not telling him he “sucks” when he was announced as part of the Los Angeles Kings starting line up, to this wonderful video and spotlight moment, he had to know how much the fanbase loves and misses him.

It should be noted that Viktor Arvidsson did not score, but played on the Kings first line and their PP1. He looked great and was an active threat each time he was near the net.

Transitional Play

The Predators transitional game looked a little stale in that I saw a lot of players gain possession in the defensive zone and carry the puck through the neutral zone in an attempt to enter the offensive zone. I didn’t see as much dynamic passing as I would have liked. While it’s true that many of these carry-ins were controlled, the end result was that the rest of the team had to follow the puck carrier into the zone. And, while the team was occasionally able to get into a scoring pattern, the remaining four players being forced to wait at the blue line and enter from a stand still often resulted in quick turnovers that made it harder to get as many good chances up close.

Passing Game

Building off of what I saw transitionally, I wanted to see more passing through the neutral zone in order to get more personnel into the offensive zone with speed and ahead of defenders. However, I didn’t see as much passing off the boards and passes at both ends of the ice looked much crisper and controlled, especially when North-to-South. Cross-ice passes continue to be an area that is improving. I imagine this will be an area of continued focus.

Tommy Novak

If you were expecting Novak to join the team and set the world on fire with a furious offensive barrage, you may have been mistaken. Playing center between Nick Cousins and Rocco Grimaldi isn’t exactly playing on a line that’s designed to put up huge offensive numbers. Head Coach John Hynes puts a lot of stock in lines developing an identity. This 3rd line seems too be designed with an expectation of defensive responsibility with some offensive upside. Novak looked calm and collected on the ice, showing skill in the faceoff circle, and seemed comfortable in the his debut. While there were a few moments that stood out to me where it seemed like Novak realized the level of competition was higher than the AHL, there was nothing that screamed that Novak didn’t belong out there. Despite not scoring, I think it was a solid debut.

SURPRISE TOPIC!

Way back when Dan Hinote joined the coaching staff of the Predators, I had to the opportunity to talk to him and one of the most interesting statements he made was that he wanted to impress upon the team the idea that a clear path to victory was to do all of the little things over the course of the game (finishing checks, playing hard on the puck, making your opponent earn every inch they take) in order to see it pay off toward the end of the game when the other team is worn down and the ice starts to open up to you. While many might say last night’s game was a low-event game, I believe this is the kind of hockey they Predators will thrive on this season. Plain and simple, the Predators were “hard to play against” and wore the Kings down. From high above the ice on media row, it was clearly visible that the Predators had a lot more room on the ice during the 3rd period. The increase in offense wasn’t because of any changes that were made, but were, instead, the result of playing a full 60 minutes and playing heavy the whole time.

Post Game Media

I did have a chance to talk to Tanner Jeannot and I asked him specifically if he thought the game was an example of what I mentioned earlier about Coach Hinote’s comments. Here’s his response:

Matt Duchene also spoke about what it was like to play against former teammate, friend, and recent dinner date, Viktor Arvidsson:

Head Coach John Hynes had this to say about Tommy Novak’s debut: