The Nashville Predators return to Bridgestone Arena tonight for game three of their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Preds return, according to everyone not named John Hynes, without much momentum. After two losses in Carolina that were plagued by power-play embarrassments, Nashville will need to find some rejuvenation from playing in its home barn to avoid a 3-0 hole that would all but end the series.
Despite actually earning more high-danger scoring chances in game two than game one, the Predators were shut out for the first time in the series by goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. A 25-year-old Parma, Ohio, Nedeljkovic has taken this series and the national media by storm with his unlikely story of being dropped to waivers by Carolina. After every team passed on him, he returned and has now started for both games this series. Pretty neat.
For Nashville, this is a familiar tale: Mike Smith, Ben Bishop and Darcy Kuemper are all goalies that have stolen series against the Predators in recent memory. For Nedeljkovic, the jury is still out; Nashville could rally in Music City and figure out how to solve the goaltender, but I simply haven’t seen anything to suggest that it will.
The focus of the online discourse for Nashville has been the power play, and rightfully so; it has been bad. However, instead of wallowing in sadness that my team has more than likely missed its cup window, I will shed some optimism.
This team didn’t look good for long stretches of the regular season. At some points, they looked like the second-worst team in the Central Division, at best. Regardless, they are in the playoffs. Why is that? Because for as bad as Nashville looked in moments, there were moments that this team looked pretty damn good. Cup-winning good? I’m not sure. But definitely “take a first-round series to six or seven” good, that’s for sure. The Nashville Predators have shown that they are able to flip a switch and transform into a good hockey team after weeks of ineptitude; all they need to do is find it.
Cashion’s Three Keys to the Game
- Get another great performance from Saros — Juuse Saros did just about everything he could on Wednesday night to win the game, and it wasn’t enough. I’m not sure if the offense will decide to put the puck in the net a few times tonight, but I am sure that if Saros isn’t on his “A-game,” it won’t matter.
- Ignite Bridgestone early — If there were any questions about how loud a playoff game in the COVID era could be, they were answered by watching the games in Carolina. Predators fans have generated momentum for their team as long as I can remember, and they need them more than ever tonight.
- Earn goals from the people who should be scoring them — Besides a beauty of a goal from Filip Forsberg, no player in the top-six forwards has tallied a goal this postseason. Against a team with as much firepower as the Hurricanes have, one goal in two games won’t cut it.
Where to Watch/Listen
Tonight’s game can be viewed on CNBC or Bally Sports at 8:00 Eastern/ 7:00 Central. You can also listen to the game on 102.5 The Game.