Last Night in Review: Preds Played the Full 20 Minutes in Game 1

Wait, there are supposed to be more than 20 minutes in a hockey game?

The first game of the series between the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars got off to a great start for the Preds, and then it...didn’t. Kate and Rachel break things down.

The Good:

Rachel: Defenders. No one else.

Kate: I think Kyle Turris was surprisingly decent apart from his penalty, which is promising, but yeah. The defensive system the Stars are using to keep the slot clearish is not prepared for the kind of plays the Preds’ defenders make when they go roving.

Rachel: Roman Josi did a great job slipping around Mats Zuccarello for Nashville’s first goal. When he activates, he ensures that he doesn’t just stand still...he makes things happen instead of waiting for pucks to arrive on his stick.

Kate: P.K. Subban did something very similar when he scored, too. I half-joked on Twitter last night that Montgomery should put everyone on their counterparts—forwards on the Preds’ forwards, defenders on the Preds’ only legitimate scoring threats. Of course, that’d potentially open up the forwards more...

And they did get off to a good start. I have to give them that. They blew it after the first period, but they are clearly able to play well against this Stars team.

The Bad:

Rachel: The zone time in the first period was great. The zone time in the second period was awful/nonexistent. The Predators took what seemed like five shots on goal the whole period. The third period wasn’t much better in terms of puck possession in the offensive zone.

Kate: Rumor has it they actually got shots on goal in the third period, but I don’t believe it. They definitely didn’t get the kind of sustained OZ time we saw in the first, and they came out extremely flat after they had a whole intermission to reset and adjust after a bad second—the second period is a strength of the Stars’ and a weakness of this season’s Preds, so at the very least they should have been prepared. It’s so disappointing that they weren’t. They got outcoached in general, really. Rachel has a little more to say about that—

Rachel: Dallas’s trap game is working exactly as intended. Nashville cannot get positioning in front of Ben Bishop, much less get good shot lanes. There’s plenty of low-danger chances, but not nearly enough high danger chances to really test Bishop.

Kate: If only he shared Pekka Rinne’s vulnerability to shots taken practically from center ice. Though both of those were through an entire cineplex’s worth of screens, which does get back to the getting-in-front-of-Bishop problem. On the other hand, if they get in front of Bishop, we’re probably going to see more special teams action on goalie interference and/or embellishment calls. Back to the special teams in a minute.

The other big concern I had was their response to trailing. They didn’t respond after Miro Heiskanen scored his first. They didn’t respond for a while after Miro Heiskanen scored his second. I was afraid they were waiting for the hat trick to get their tails in gear.

[A scoring change this morning re-credited the Stars’ second goal to Alexander Radulov, who tipped the shot.]

Rachel: Nashville has to find an answer for this before Saturday, otherwise they’ll be in a 0-2 hole.

The Ugly:

Rachel: The power play is a dysfunction and there aren’t any more words to say about it.

Rachel, moments later: The Preds can’t win a faceoff in the offensive zone on the power play to save their lives.

Kate: And then when they get bounced back out of the offensive zone they really struggle to enter it again. They need to change their entry strategy if they want to get any use at all out of the PP. It killed the momentum they were building after Subban’s goal, and earlier it’d denied them a chance to pad or recover their lead.

You also get things like John Klingberg fearlessly cross-checking a prone Viktor Arvidsson further into the ice because nobody’s scared of the Preds’ power play. Why not take shots at the Predators’ best players? And then, at the other end of the ice...

Rachel: Penalties WILL get the Predators in trouble. If they can’t score on their power play, they shouldn’t take a penalty when Dallas proved tonight that they can score on the man advantage.

Kate: I mean, they probably shouldn’t take a penalty regardless. The interesting thing was that it was the Stars’ PP2 unit (Heiskanen, Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa, Esa Lindell, and Justin Dowling) that gave the Preds such a hard time. Bobby went into a lot of detail about the PP1, but the PP2 was the one that kept getting the zone time, chances, and ultimately the goal. PP1 gave up about as much as it got.

That’s a good thing, I guess.

Ultimately, the Predators are down 0-1 in the series. If they come back to get the series win, it will be the first time in franchise history they’ve done that after dropping the first game.

They’ve struggled to win on home ice over the last two postseasons, and as the higher seed for Laviolette’s tenure as head coach. If they’d played the whole game almost perfectly and just gotten unlucky, that would still be bad—trailing in a playoff series makes you much less likely to win it, unsurprisingly enough—but they didn’t.

A lot of these things are issues that have plagued the Preds for the whole season, or longer.

The completely impotent power play? Oh yeah.

Scoring totally carried by the defenders? There are things I miss about the pre-Johansen era, but that isn’t one of them.

Sloppy defense (most notably on the Zuccarello goal on a rebound nobody cleared)? Come back to us, Phil Housley.

Lack of a full-game effort? We were told that they were just waiting to kick into playoff gear. Well, it’s the playoffs now—where’s the gear?

“We have to do better”? Well...yeah.

The Predators have a lot of work to do if they want to even the series on Saturday. This team has the talent; we’ll have to wait and see what they do with it.