While the Nashville Predators’ season started off great, with two high-profile wins against the San Jose Sharks in Prague, things deteriorated rapidly after that: they lost both halves of a home-and-away against the Dallas Stars by a wide margin; then lost to the Los Angeles Kings in a shootout; before heading to Ohio and losing an early lead, and then the game, to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Preds now return home, ready to take on the Philadelphia Flyers and hoping for a much-needed win.
The Nashville Predators
Nino Niederreiter has gotten off to a great start in gold, leading the team with four goals, including the team’s only power-play goal. His former Minnesota Wild teammate Mikael Granlund shares the team lead in points, at five, but Granlund has really struggled defensively so far this season—he’s the only player who’s been in more than one game with below a 40% expected goal share at 5v5.
Granlund isn’t the only one who’s struggled in shot quality, though, as Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Dante Fabbro, and Eeli Tolvanen are also hanging out near the bottom of the rankings. The Preds’ most relied-on players haven’t been that reliable so far this season. New contributors like Cole Smith and Cody Glass have done very well in sheltered minutes, and Alexandre Carrier and Tanner Jeannot continue to impress, but for the most part the team has struggled.
Kevin Lankinen was in net for Thursday’s loss, which dropped his sv% for the season to .919. Some of the goals he allowed weren’t what you would have liked to see, but the team absolutely dropped the ball in front of him, and Juuse Saros is once again getting off to a slow start. October and November have been the worst months of Saros’s seasons, on average; if the Preds can tighten up their game and Lankinen can buy him some time to settle back in, things will hopefully look up soon.
If the Preds can play with discipline and consistent effort, they have a solid opportunity to make their way back to the W column tonight. When they’re playing well, they’re great; when they’re taking undisciplined penalties and easing up after getting out to an early lead, they’re...pretty awful. These are fixable issues, so here’s hoping they get to work on fixing them.
Player to Watch: Matt Duchene
Duchene’s started the season with some very bad shooting luck, but he leads the Preds in expected goals, and that’s the kind of thing that should even out.
Of course, this season he also leads the Preds in penalty minutes, so one way or another it’s safe to expect him to do something tonight.
The Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have gotten off to a good start in their first four games of the season, with their first loss coming on Wednesday against the Florida Panthers. They haven’t played since; whether they’ll be rested or rusty is an open question.
Travis Konecny and Kevin Hayes lead the team with six points each; Konecny is the goals leader with four, while Hayes holds the assists lead with six. James van Riemsdyk, Anthony DeAngelo, and Ivan Provorov have also been significant offensive contributors, but for all of those players it’s come at a significant cost to their defense—van Riemsdyk is the only of the team’s top five scorers to clear 40% in expected goal share at 5v5, and he only barely manages it.
Defensively, the Flyers have relied heavily on Nick Seeler and rookie Egor Zamula on D. Zamula has done okay; Seeler is one of only two Flyers to break even in expected goal share, along with forward Scott Laughton. Seeler has managed a goal and Laughton two, so they certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Flyers have had the good version of Carter Hart so far this season: in net for the team’s three wins, he’s stopped 99 of 105 shots for a sv% of .943. Backup Felix Sandstrom had a rougher game on Wednesday, allowing four goals on 36 shots.
This early in the season, it’s hard to draw conclusions about a team’s power play or penalty kill, but the Flyers have been much more disciplined than the Preds, and they’ve combined good shooting with good goaltending overall.
Player to Watch: Morgan Frost
Frost isn’t at the top of any one thing for the Flyers, but the 23-year-old forward has managed to be third on the team in both expected goal share at 5v5 and in individual expected goals at all strengths—despite getting heavily defensive usage in regular play.
Sure, he’s a threat on the power play (he hasn’t scored there yet, but it feels like only a matter of time), but he’s also a threat the rest of the time, putting up two goals and an assist at even strength while getting the lowest share of OZ faceoffs of any regular on the team.
How to Watch
The game starts at 7 PM Central and will air on Bally Sports South and on 102.5 The Game.
Statistics quoted are taken from naturalstattrick.com.