Nashville Predators 3, Detroit Red Wings 2 (SO): The Offices of Josi and Juuse

The Predators survive a slugfest thanks to their captain and their white-hot goalie.

One Big Thing

Over the course of this game, I went from bored out of my mind to literally standing in my  living room glued to the TV. The pace and intensity from the first period to the end of game was that big of a 180.

It’s probably not the type of game you’d want to draw up if you’re the Nashville Predators, but Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings was exactly the type of win the Preds need to be able to pull out if they have any playoff aspirations this season. The stretch run of a season is full of these up-and-down, momentum-changing-on-a-dime type games that we saw tonight.

In the past few years, the Predators have really struggled in that situation, seemingly falling off a cliff at the slightest sign of adversity. Over the course of the past month or so, the Predators have probably faced more team adversity than they have at any point in the past five seasons. Not only are they surviving it, they’re excelling.

The two MVP’s tonight were Roman Josi and Juuse Saros. Josi’s workload, which was already pretty hefty anyway, increased due to an injury to Dante Fabbro, who left the game in the first period after a collision with Darren Helm. All Josi did in response was factor in on both Predators goals, add the game-winner in a shootout, and set his season mark for most TOI in a game this season.

For Saros, it’s the second year in a row he’s become white-hot during the stretch run, and the Predators desperately need it. He’s making saves that are keeping the Predators in games; the type of shots that you really wouldn’t fault him for if they went in. In the third period especially, Juuse stood on his head again, keeping the Preds in striking distance.

If you missed any of the action, here are the Clif Notes.

What Happened?

If you’re a fan of edge-of-your seat, fast-paced, back-and-forth offensive hockey, I’m praying with all my heart you didn’t have to witness the start of this game. It was ugly hockey at its finest, and I’ve already run out of words to describe anything meaningful that happened.

True to form, the first goal of the game wasn’t even a great scoring chance. Danny DeKeyser threw the puck meekly towards the net (it looked like he might have been trying to get it behind the net), but it took a deflection off Mattias Ekholm’s leg and beat Saros for a 1-0 Wings lead. Also notable on this play was a bad turnover by Rocco Grimaldi to set up that play.

The second period began much like the first, with a lot of sloppy play that stymied some fairly decent chances. One example was about three minutes into the period. Josi, Trenin, and Olivier were breaking into the zone on a 3-on-2, not a bad combination of skillset for an odd-man-rush. But the three got their timing off and came into the zone offside, killing the chance.

The pace started to ramp up a bit about five minutes in after a pair of penalties created a 4-on-4. The Predators got a great chance on a near-textbook low-to-high play. Josi’s shot from the blue line was deflected by Luke Kunin past Thomas Greiss, but the puck wound up hitting the post. (I should also point out Erik Haula had a fantastic screen on that play as well).

A couple of late Detroit penalties, both by Luke Glendening, opened the door for another flurry of Predators chances right at the end. Unfortunately, the Preds’ old nemesis, Posty McPostface, would step up to make a play again, this time robbing Josi of an easy wide-open-net goal. The period ended with the score still 1-0.

A mistake by Detroit finally opened the door for the Preds to tie the game. The Red Wings got caught in a bad line change; Josi recognized it, sprung Kunin for a breakaway chance, and Kunin beat Greiss to make it 1-1.

That goal seemed to send a jolt through the ice, because the entire vibe of the game changed after that. What started as a sluggish, trudging sort of defensive matchup suddenly gave way to a flurry of chances at both ends of the ice. Both Saros and Greiss really stood on their heads to keep this game close.

One of those back-and-forth plays is what led to the Red Wings’ go-ahead goal. A solid save by Greiss on one end led to an odd-man rush for Detroit, and Adam Erne beat Saros to put the Red Wings up 2-1. For a team in need of pieces across the board, Erne is settling into a nice little middle-six role with the Wings.

A few minutes later, the Preds get a little bit of an assist from the officials. Calle Järnkrok drew an interference call despite—let’s be honest here—not being touched (as Willy Daunic said, “hey, we’ll take it”). That led to a Preds power play ending with Mikael Granlund batting in a rebound from a Järnkrok shot to make it a tie game again.

Overtime was a fun mess full of plenty of great chances. None of those chances went in, of course, but it was an exciting little adrenaline rush nonetheless. Also, kudos to Roman Josi, who played probably close to four minutes of that five minute overtime.

The shootout battle went as follows:

Detroit: Larkin (STOPPED)
Nashville: Johansen (GOAL)

Detroit: Zadina (STOPPED)
Nashville: Josi (GOAL)

Preds get the win.

The Good

  • The first good: Chris Mason’s shoes. I mean that yellow is a bold A.F. choice, but by God, can he pull it off.
  • We obviously know Eeli Tolvanen can snipe, but I really think we’re overlooking how solid his 200-foot game has been over the past couple of months. He’s making good decisions in the defensive zone as far as when to pressure, when to be patient, and where to position himself to take away good looks. There’s still a few of those “microstat” areas of his game that need to improve, but there’s some encouraging signs Tolvy’s evolving into a guy you can put on the ice in any situation.
  • I’ll also use this to give Jérémy Davies some love tonight. He wasn’t asked to do a whole lot, but he’s also a guy who’s looking more settled into a “responsible bottom pair” role with each passing game. That might be his ceiling in the NHL, but with Josi, Ellis, Ekholm (for now at least), and Fabbro in the fold, that’s all they really need from him./

The Bad

  • Robby Fabbri wasn’t even playing, and we STILL couldn’t get through one Preds-Wings broadcast without a “hahahahaha Fabbro and Fabbri are similar names lmao” discussion.
  • Also, let’s hope Fabbro is okay. Seriously, the Preds’ injury situation this year is becoming a dark comedy.
  • Rocco Grimaldi is always going to be one of my favorite Preds stories from a hustle/heart/perseverance standpoint. But tonight was an example of why playing time for him has been hard to come by this year. He’s not the most reliable player in the defensive zone, and without Nick Bonino or Craig Smith next to him, it’s becoming a little more visible. Grimaldi’s a player who still has value in the right situations. But considering the Preds may get some forwards off the injury list soon, and guys like Olivier and Trenin are improving as the season progresses, it may be harder for him to find that consistent playing time./

What’s Next?

You know the drill by now. Same teams, same place. Puck drop for the second game is Thursday at 6:30 PM CT.