After a disappointing loss to the Winnipeg Jets last night, the Nashville Predators are back in action early this evening against the Minnesota Wild. It’s not likely to be an up-tempo game, as the Wild also played last night—winning in overtime against the Anaheim Ducks—leaving both teams tired.
The Minnesota Wild
The Wild are off to a 4-0 start to their season. Their fairly significant roster turnover hasn’t stopped them from playing stifling defense and effective offense. Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov lead the team in scoring and have contributed to the effective possession game, but really, the whole roster has contributed to the effective possession game. Alex Goligoski has a team-worst 57% xG share at 5v5; the Preds only have five skaters who’ve done better than that.
We’ll see a few familiar faces—Kevin Fiala (third on the team in iXG at 5v5), Ryan Hartman (who scored last night’s overtime winner), and Frederick Gaudreau (third on the team in xGF% at 5v5). Rem Pitlick, claimed off waivers by the Wild heading into this season, has yet to play a game for them.
Cam Talbot, a member of the apparent Former Edmonton Oilers Goalies Rehoming Project, has started all four games for the Wild so far this season. For the shots he’s faced, he hasn’t done a spectacular job; the Preds’ best chance for a win is probably going to be making what they can get past the Wild’s defense count, instead of trying to overwhelm the defense.
The Wild have had a rougher season on special teams than the Preds; it’s their only obvious weakness heading into this evening. Neither their power play nor their penalty kill has been terribly effective, though they’ve had good luck with the skater advantage so far.
The Nashville Predators
Roman Josi played 26:31 last night, which isn’t an ideal use of the 31-year-old’s minutes in the first half of a back-to-back. On the other hand, last night’s game looked winnable until it didn’t; I can see the temptation.
This is not a great matchup for the Preds, who are, as predicted, going through the growing pains of the youth movement. The best we can hope for is, of course, a win; the second-best we can hope for is a loss with high points like last night’s.
I’d like to see Head Coach John Hynes using the young players—not just Philip Tomasino, Eeli Tolvanen, and Tommy Novak, but also Luke Kunin, Tanner Jeannot, Dante Fabbro, and (although he’s not technically a young player in the same sense) Alexandre Carrier. Seeing the rookie line get important minutes last night—and use them well—made the end of that ugly loss worth it; more chemistry and production from the kids would be great.
Ideally, I’d also like to see the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Matt Duchene start clicking. They’ve been off to a rough start and a lot of the team’s misfortunes would be mitigated (or gone entirely) with a productive group of stars. Whether that will happen tonight...who can say.
Although I can’t blame Juuse Saros alone for the loss last night given how little help he had, he did still allow six goals, and tonight’s game does start about 20 hours after last night’s game ended. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Connor Ingram in net this evening.
How to Watch
Puck drop is at 5 PM Central. The game is airing on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.
Statistics cited from naturalstattrick.com. Additional background referenced from hockeyviz.com.