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Predators vs. Lightning Game Preview 2/9/21: Fourth Time’s A Charm

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Today is a new day. I wish I could say it’s a new opponent.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators are back in action tonight as they finish up the second half of their back-to-back against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After losing all three games to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions so far, it can’t get much worse, right?

[Ed.: Oh no.]

The Lightning

By now, you should be familiar with this team. They can score, they can defend, and they have elite goaltending; they can exploit whatever weakness their opponent has, and thus they can win in plenty of different ways. We have seen them run up the score on the Preds in an offensive surge, like they did last Monday, but we also saw last night that the Lightning can simply shut down the opposing team’s offense. With Andrei Vasilevsky expected to get the start in net, scoring goals won’t get any easier for the offensively inept Predators.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We have already begun to see the effect that playing the same team so often has on both squads. The tension reached a fever pitch last night, as Mathieu Olivier opened the game with a brawl against Luke Schenn. Later in the game, a scuffle led to Steven Stamkos and Viktor Hedman being sent to the box, along with Predators forward Nick Cousins, for roughing. I would expect this physical play to continue between the teams as the currently lopsided season series goes on.

The Predators

This must be starting to sound like a broken record, but the special teams deficiencies for Nashville continue to rear their ugly heads. With the exception of the two empty-net goals, the game-deciding goal for Tampa came on the power play. Nashville needs to figure something out on the penalty kill if they want to even compete in games against the Lightning, let alone win. Luckily for the Predators, they have had about 21 hours to practice and tinker with their game plan since the end of last nights game.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

One player to watch for the Predators would be Eeli Tolvanen. While he didn’t register a point last night, he played one of his best games as a Predator in his career. His line had the highest expected-goals percentage on the team, and a hearty amount of the credit for that goes to the young sniper. If Tolvanen could break out and score a goal or two tonight, the Predators could maybe win this one!

Keys to the Game

  1. Special Teams—We have to keep saying it, folks. Fix the power play, fix the penalty kill, and this team is automatically better than they are right now by a country mile.
  2. Figure out how to score on Vasilevsky—The Predators have been outscored 9-5 in the two games against the Bolts’ starting goaltender. If Nashville can get four goals on Vasilevsky, I think they win the game.
  3. Hope that the closed-door meeting helps—After last night, there was a players meeting. Who knows what was said, but I’m sure it didn’t include “We need to be tougher to play against!”
NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Where to Watch

The game between Nashville and Tampa Bay can be seen on FS-TN, and heard on 102.5 The Game. Puck Drop is at 8:30 Eastern, 7:30 Central.

Song for the Game

As the Predators become increasingly familiar with their new divisional foes, this classic from Queen incapsulates my feelings about the new Discover Central Division.