The Nashville Predators now find themselves in a 2-0 series hole after last night’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2. Luckily, the series now shifts to Nashville, where the Predators will get a boost from what’s expected to be the NHL’s largest crowd since the start of the pandemic.
Still, the Predators have work to do ahead of Friday’s pivotal Game 3 matchup. Nick and Shaun debate the biggest takeaways from last night’s game, and what the Preds can change moving forward
Nick: Pray Tell, How Do You Fix This Power Play?
And that’s a question I sincerely pose to anyone in the comments. Seriously, what do you do to fix this?
What’s more jarring to me than the 0-for-10 power play total this series is how Nashville has LOOKED with a man up. Carolina has completely dominated play while short-handed, to the point where the Hurricanes four best scoring chances of the game (outside of the first Aho goal) all came short-handed.
I one-hundred-percent understand Carolina is a great penalty-killing team who deserves a lot of credit this series. But the Predators aren’t exactly making it a tall task. The Canes were practically gifting Nashville power play chances in Game 2. Sooner or later, you have to convert if you want any chance of winning.
I’ll put this in a way that’s as neutral as I can make it. Personnel isn’t the issue with the power play right now. This is a foundational problem. Structure, formation, movement... all of these are things that have plagued the Predators’ power play for the past three seasons. No one player is going to fix that, unless Connor McDavid or Alex Ovechkin join the Preds later this series.
Shaun: Better than Game 1, but...
In his post game media availability session, Head Coach John Hynes appeared to be frustrated by a few of the questions. While one of them was poorly worded, Hynes seemed to take the questions to be leaning toward the conclusion that Juuse Saros had a game stealing performance that was squandered by poor offensive play. Which, if we all watched the same game, was pretty clear.
But Hynes insisted that Game 2 was much better than Game 1 and that the team needed to make some adjustments on the power play in order to right the ship. Realistically, he was right about Game 2 being better than Game 1. However, it’s hard to overlook the elephant in the room (that Nick mentioned above) of a lifeless power play. Sure, the team looked better. Sure, it was a one goal game up until the last few minutes of the game. But the failure to convert, or even really get a good shot off, on 7 chances at the power play leaves a lot of fans shaking their heads. Just converting on one of those 7 chances makes it a tie game.
The inability to score on the power play allows the opposition to take a few more chances at aggressive play. If they aren’t concerned about the Predators threatening to score on the power play, it’s really easy to throw them off their game. That’s not the situation you want to be in when you’re down two games to none.
Nick: Juuse Saros Has That “Steal a Series” Vibe
Both of my points are the most obvious takeaways from Game 2. But hey, when life gives you lemons...
Juuse Saros has that 2008 Dan Ellis or 2004 Tomas Vokoun vibe right now; He’s kept the Predators in games in which they’re simply being outplayed by a better team. Saros is taking obvious goals off the board. And yes, I’m well-aware Nashville is in a 2-0 hole at the moment. But the point is as long as you have a goaltender playing as well as Saros, you’re going to have a chance.
The trick is now going to be finding ways to squeak by Carolina on the scoreboard, and a hot goalie opens up more options. You don’t need to have those perfect, peaches-and-creamy 4-1 wins where you dominate from start to finish. But you DO need to start capitalizing on the opportunities you get: power plays, weird bounces, flash odd-man-rushes. Those are the plays that helped Nashville crawl back into past series as the gritty underdog, and they’re going to be the type of plays Nashville need to start capitalizing on Juuse’s solid outings.
Shaun: Home Ice?
The Predators are headed back to Nashville and they’ll head back to Bridgestone Arena where the biggest crowd an NHL team has seen in over a year awaits them. Every player that I’ve spoken to over the past three days has mentioned how happy they are to play in front of opposing fans and have been over the moon with their excitement to play in front of a home crowd on Friday.
The team needs every advantage they can get at this point and needs to make sure they capitalize on their home-ice advantage while they have the opportunity. Leaving Nashville with the series tied gives you the opportunity to have Juuse Saros steal a game in Carolina and try to get the upper hand. However, if the team can’t get it done at Bridgestone, in front of their own fans, we may be in for a rocky post season.