The Nashville Predators are back in action tonight, returning to Amalie Arena to get a rematch against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After a strong first period that was followed by a second period horror show, Nashville should be eager to get back into the W column in their second of eight games against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions.
This team is really good, folks. The visiting Predators got a taste of how lethal this team can be in the second period of Saturdays’ game, when Tampa turned a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead in a span of five minutes. Callan Foote and Steven Stamkos both blasted shots past Rinne from nearly the exact same spot, and Victor Hedman slung one into the net as he crossed the blue line. Bolts goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky had an average game in net for the home team, with the exception of one near-blunder on his own goal line. Overall, Tampa should be content with their performance in the first game against Nashville, but they would like to close out the game better; a Viktor Arvidsson goal and a Matt Duchene almost-goal almost sent this game to overtime.
The Lightning had four different players notch at least two points on Saturday, which goes to show how deep this lineup is. Any of their four lines can cause you problems, and working to shut each of them down exhausts any team they play. Add a Vezina winner to the mix, and you’ve got a team that can compete for cups. Oh wait, they just won the thing. If Nashville wants any shot at a win tonight, they will need a great performance from whoever helms the net, and they will need to slow the game down and just grind out a win. Ugly, defensive-minded wins are probably going to become the norm this season.
Despite losing the game, Nashville definitely can take some positives away from Saturday night. Pekka Rinne looked really good, at times, and I don’t think he was the reason they lost the game by any means. The Predators got two power play goals two nights ago, doubling their season total in one game, and generated quite a bit of pressure late in the game after Arvidsson had brought the game to within one goal. While Duchene and company couldn’t find the back of the net (stop me if you’ve heard that before), it served as a nice way to kickstart some momentum for tonight’s game.
Tonight’s game has likely been circled on the calendar of Filip Forsberg since the schedule released; today is February 1st, a.k.a. the beginning of Fil-bruary. While we have not been treated to such massive Februarys from the Swede lately, he has been one of the only bright spots of Nashville’s offense so far this year, so a boost from him would make a world of difference.
Keys to the Game
- Start strong—Nashville is tied for last place in the league in first period goals this year, and tied for third-to-last in second period goals. The Predators cannot wait until the third period to pull out their heroics and surge back into the game, especially not against a team as talented as the Lightning. Get a couple early goals to get Tampa on their heels, and Nashville could have a chance.
- Stay out of the box—With a league-worst penalty kill percentage, this should go without saying. Tampa scored twice with the advantage on Saturday, and I would expect similar levels of production again if Nashville can’t clean up their game.
- Get a great game from Rinne or Saros—I’m not sure who will start in goal, though I expect Saros, but it doesn’t really matter; the bottom line is that when Nashville plays these great offensive-minded teams, they simply do not have the firepower to match them in a high-scoring game consistently. To counter that deficit, they need some great saves from the goaltender to bail them out and keep the game close enough for the offense to scrounge up a few goals.
Where to Watch
The bout between the Preds and Bolts can be seen on FS-TN, and heard on 102.5 The Game. Puck Drop is at 7:00 Eastern, 6:00 Central.
Song for the Game
Somewhat describing my feelings for our current core is a great track from Tame Impala’s latest album, “The Slow Rush.”