The Nashville Predators managed only their fourth win of the season on Thursday night, beating a Calgary Flames team that’s struggled to get production from some of its recent acquisitions. The Vancouver Canucks, tonight’s opponent, are less of a doppelganger, but they’re also having a rougher season. At 3-6-2 they’re near the bottom of the Pacific, with only San Jose and Anaheim outpacing them in losses.
This is a great opportunity for the Preds, if they can take it. Although the Canucks have some definite strengths that shouldn’t be overlooked, they also have some salient weaknesses that Nashville can exploit.
The Nashville Predators
The Preds looked much better in Thursday’s outing than they have...maybe all season? Definitely in a long while. They played well defensively in front of Kevin Lankinen. They played well offensively, getting set up in the offensive zone and playing well off the rush. They remained disciplined, drawing more penalties than they took—it probably helped that they were playing with the lead for the whole game.
There were still some issues, including getting absolutely caved in in the third period. It’s just about unheard of for one NHL team to hold an opponent to nine shots on goal for the entire game (which is what they were on pace for after the first period), so I don’t blame them for letting the Flames push back some, but they’ve struggled to close out games for a long time, and it would have been nice to see them working on that more. On the other hand, the Flames were trailing at home, so in this case some of that pushback was probably inevitable.
The Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat are the Canucks’ dynamic duo on offense. Pettersson leads the team in points with 15 and assists with 5, while Horvat’s team-second 13 points come mostly from his team-leading 10 goals. Andrei Kuzmenko and J.T. Miller sport identical 6G/4A lines to tie for the team third, and Quinn Hughes has made significant offensive contributions from the blue line.
Luke Schenn and Dakota Joshua, meanwhile, both have above 20 PIM on the season already.
The Canucks are struggling in goal, especially on the penalty kill, where they’ve killed only 19 of the 33 they’ve taken (a 58% kill rate). Thatcher Demko’s sv% on the season is .876, while backup Spencer Martin’s is a barely-better .899. They do, however, make up for it somewhat on offense, where they’re scoring at an above-average rate and their power play is converting at a significant clip (around 31%).
If the Predators can take more chances than they give up, this could be a great opportunity for them.
How to Watch
The game airs at 9 PM Central on Bally Sports South and 102.5 The Game.