Game Preview: Nashville Predators (8-8-1) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (10-6-1)

Nashville is riding the wave of their first three-game win streak, while the Bolts get some reinforcements back in the lineup

The Nashville Predators (8-8-1) face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning (10-6-1) at Bridgestone Arena tonight on Hockey Fights Cancer night.  The Lightning enter the contest sixth in the Eastern Conference while the Nashville Predators surprisingly sit in the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, just behind the Edmonton Oilers.

The Predators have seen some improvement lately - not just in the standings - as the power play, while still bad, has scored some goals and some of the stars look to be getting back into mid-season form.  The Lightning are only two games ahead of Nashville,  but this is still a team coached by Jon Cooper (Author’s note: I think he’s one of the best three coaches in the game, along with New York’s Gerard Gallant and Colorado’s Jared Bednar), and still a team with a ton of stars, and let’s not forget - three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, so Nashville can’t get complacent.  So let’s take a closer look at both teams.

The Nashville Predators

The Predators are coming off a three-game winning streak this week after victories at home over the New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders to get them back to an even 0.500 record (8-8-1).  Unfortunately though, being perfectly average seems to be pretty telling for this team - in the Western Conference they are 6-0-0 against teams lower in the standings from the west, but are 0-5-1 against the teams above them in the standings, getting outscored 35-14 in those games.  The Predators will have to make the the performance of the last three games become the norm, or this team could be headed for another race for a playoff spot and immediate first-round loss.  Again.

The good news is that the Predators have looked pretty good and had some great play against their last three opponents.  The arrival of rookie Juuso Parssinen has contributed in just his first three NHL games with three goals and one assist, including the game-winning goals over the Rangers and Islanders.

Roman Josi looks close to being back to his Norris-winning form as of late, picking up 4 assists in the victory over the Islanders, his second 3 point+ game of the season.  His switch to the right side with Ryan McDonaugh worked very well against the Islanders - time will tell if coach John Hynes has found the right spot for McDonaugh and if Josi can continue playing on his off side.  Speaking of McDonaugh, this is the first time he’ll face the Lightning, his former team, since he arrived in Nashville.

Filip Forsberg leads the team in points (17) , and his sixth goal of the season against the Islanders puts him second on the team in goals behind Nino Niederreiter.  Forsberg has been perhaps the most consistent player on the team throughout the stretch of losses, and hopefully that continues to happen - this time hopefully with some teammates.

Coach John Hynes has confirmed that goaltender Juuse Saros (6-6-1, 90.5% save percentage) will get the start in net for the Predators.  Hynes also mentioned there would be no healthy scratches tonight, but several lineup decisions are “game-time” - so we’ll see what that means at puck drop.

Last Five Games

11/08/2022 @ Seattle: Kraken 5, Predators 1

11/10/2022 @ Colorado: Avalanche 5, Predators 3

11/12/2022 vs New York: Predators 2, Rangers 1

11/15/2022 vs Minnesota: Predators 2, Wild 1

11/17/2022 vs New York: Predators 5, Islanders 4

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts enter the game perhaps a bit lower in the standings than expected, but they have help on the way.  As our sister site Raw Charge mentioned, Anthony Cirelli is close to a return (perhaps next month), but they may have a return tonight:

The always-great Andrei Vasilevskiy (6-5-1, 90.6%) has virtually identical stats as Juuse Saros, and much like Saros, I don’t expect that to last long.  Even with a less-than-good record, Vasilevskiy is always a threat to shut teams out, so Nashville will have to be on their game tonight.

The Lightning have no shortage of firepower, despite a few injuries.  Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos lead the team in goals with nine, and Kucherov also leads the team with 25 points in 17 games.

Tampa Bay has a couple of great defensemen, with Mikhail Sergachev (4 G, 17 points) and Victor Hedman (1 G, 9 points) can play on both ends of the ice, and so Nashville will have to be consistent up and down the lineup to matchup well with the staggering amount of talent the Lightning have.

Historically, both of these relatively-newer teams have only played 40 games so far, with Nashville leading with a record of 18-16-2-4, with a barely-winning record at Bridgestone arena as well (10-8-0-3), however, Nashville dropped both games against the Lightning last season, including the Stadium Series game.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ever-present Corey Perry (2G 5 points).  Perry is no stranger to Predators fans and what he has a history of doing (Author’s note: my partner, who doesn’t watch hockey or know anything about it was told that Nashville was playing Tampa, and she gladly chimed in with “Don’t they have that guy everyone hates??”  So yeah, Perry has a reputation, and not a good one like Taylor Swift).  In addition to Perry’s history with Anaheim, former Nashville Predator Ryan Ellis hasn’t been the same since he was injured by Perry in the Winter Classic, only playing 3 games in two seasons for the Flyers due to complications from injuries.  Like they say, there are two things you can’t seem to get rid of: herpes, and Corey Perry.  The problem is, the disease seems like a better option.

Last Five Games

11/08/2022 @ Edmonton: Edmonton 3, Lightning 2

11/11/2022 @ Washington: Capitals 5, Lighting 1

11/13/2022 vs Washington: Lighting 6, Capitals 3

11/15/2022 vs Dallas: Lighting 5, Stars 4 (OT)

11/17/2022 vs Calgary:  Lightning 4, Flames 1

Top (Analytics) Performers

Note:  These rankings are based on Goals Above Replacement (GAR) rankings, which measures the individual impact made by players regardless of his teammates and opponents on the ice.  It is an attempt to measure how many goals a player contributes compared to a replacement-level player - essentially the equivalent of a team’s 13th forward or 7th defender - so essentially the value over an AHL callup.  It is broken down into even strength offense (EVO), even strength defense (EVD), power-play offense (PPO), shorthanded defense (SHD), and drawing (PENd) and taking (PENt) to create a single number evaluation.  We’re only 17 games into the season, and these numbers usually don’t mean much due to sample size until around twenty games, so at this point, it’s a pretty reasonable way to evaluate players at this point in the season.

Top 10 Players by GAR

Nashville vs Tampa - Top 10 Players by GAR

Steven Stamkos22-23T.BF5.81917335.
Alex Killorn22-23T.BF4.54117303.73.31.5-
Nick Paul22-23T.BF3.96317291.
Filip Forsberg22-23NSHF3.29517306.72.4-0.5-
Nick Perbix22-23T.BD2.911014215.74-1.3000.2-0.1
Philippe Myers22-23T.BD2.415110118.41.11.40-0.1-0.10
Corey Perry22-23T.BF2.216317216.80.4-0.12.1000
Roman Josi22-23NSHD2.117117415.
Ian Cole22-23T.BD218414270.3-
Nikita Kucherov22-23T.BF218417366.11.3-0.50.90-0.60.9

Bottom 10 Players by GAR

Nashville vs Tampa - Bottom 10 Players by GAR

Alex Carrier22-23NSHD-0.951915266.8-2.31.3-
Jeremy Lauzon22-23NSHD-1.657913213.5-0.6-0.200.3-1-0.1
Mikael Granlund22-23NSHF-1.657917327.5-0.7-1.2-
Vladislav Namestnikov22-23T.BF-1.657917232.5-1.6-0.2-
Patrick Maroon22-23T.BF-1.959917152.1-1.2-0.200-0.3-0.2
Colton Sissons22-23NSHF-2.361717259.30.4-1.60.2-
Victor Hedman22-23T.BD-2.5623153720-2.3-0.1-0.70.6-0.1
Cal Foote22-23T.BD-2.762910151.4-0.5-2.5-
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare22-23T.BF-4.265217200.6-1.1-2.10-1.10.3-0.1
Erik Cernak22-23T.BD-565813267-3.1-0.50-1.40.1-0.1