Minnesota Wild 3, Nashville Predators 1: Back Outside the Playoff Picture

Horrid start, penalties doom Predators in loss to Minnesota

This is normally where I do a brief breakdown of the game.  I give some overall thoughts, offer perspective on key moments, and I get to be THAT guy who looks at the game in retrospect and say “Well actualllly... they SHOULD have done X instead of Y... tsk tsk.”

But I’ll be honest.  I’m not feeling it tonight.  It’s been a long, painful 24 hours for my hometown, and hockey’s not exactly front-and-center in my mind.

So instead of wasting any more time on this dumpster fire of a game, I’m going to use this opportunity to plead to all of you.  If you’re able, please considering helping the recovery efforts for this morning’s devastating storms.  Whether you want to donate money or necessary supplies, volunteer your time, or just offer up a show of support, any little bit helps.  We’ve set up a running list of ways you can help out everyone impacted by the storms, which you can find here.  More are bound to pop up throughout the week, so stay tuned to Nashville’s local news outlets and social media for updates.

What Happened?

The Wild’s first goal, which came just four minutes into the game, was another microcosm of the sloppiness we saw last night.  Mattias Ekholm goes to play the puck behind Juuse Saros, but it slides off his stick, and Joel Eriksson Ek manages to feed a wide-open Luke Kunin in front of the net for a 1-0 Wild lead.  Dante Fabbro was the guy who was supposed to be defending the front of the net, but he skated behind the goal line anticipating Ekholm’s pass around the boards.  You can’t blame him for that one.

That play would set the tone for the next ten minutes.  The Predators just couldn’t get out of their own way.  We saw Filip Forsberg blow a breakaway opportunity after the puck rolled off his stick.  We saw breakout passes bounce off the boards and careen out of reach of any Preds player nearby.  In all, the Predators had four giveaways in the period.

In some ways, you expected a slower start after playing last night... not to mention the travel, and the seriousness of what’s playing out back home in Tennessee.  But after being subjected to THAT kind of embarrassment against Edmonton, I expected more fire from this team.

The Predators get burned again with just under eight minutes left in the period.  Kevin Fiala toe-drags his way past Ryan Ellis, and wrists a shot past Saros to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.

All credit to Fiala, because that goal is filthier than a WasteManagement truck after a week at Bonnaroo.  But check out the still frame from right before Ryan Suter makes the pass to free Fiala.

We see four Predators in the offensive zone, none of whom have the puck.  Fabbro is front-and-center pressuring Suter, WAYYYYY in front of where he needs to be playing in that situation.  That leaves Ellis as the only guy back to defend two Wild players.  Positioning mistakes such as those have been the Preds’ Achilles heel at times this season, and quite frankly, it’s something that shouldn’t be happening to a team who wants any shot of getting into the postseason.

The second period starts the same way for the Preds.  They just couldn’t control the puck long enough to make anything happen.  They managed just two shot attempts in the first eight minutes of the period, and just one of those were on goal.

Oddly enough, it’s back-to-back penalties that spark Nashville’s first strong stretch of the game.  Fabbro gets tagged for slashing, and with 20 seconds remaining in that penalty, the Predators are called for a highly questionable too-many-men penalty (the fifth man was being held by a Wild player at the bench.)  I thought the Preds’ penalty kill did a fantastic job of clogging up Minnesota’s shooting lanes during this four minute stretch, keeping the Wild from getting many dangerous looks.  Saros made a couple of saves on the shots that did manage to get through the defense.

The Predators get a power-play opportunity right after that.  They don’t score, but you could have probably guessed that.

The Preds do start to pick up the pace a bit in the last ten minutes of the period, and finally possess the puck long enough to spur some offense against Alex Stalock.  Stalock, for his part, makes two good saves — first on a shot from Josi in the high slot, then from a wonky deflection by Austin Watson that nearly sneaks into the net.

However, all the positivity would be lost in the last few minutes of the period.  It starts when Dante Fabbro tries to go after his old college teammate, Jordan Greenway, after Greenway collides with Saros.  Marcus Foligno then gets involved and knocks down Fabbro, who couldn’t put any weight on his leg when he got up.

Just moments later, Ryan Hartman lays an absolutely brutal chop with his stick on Viktor Arvidsson’s hands.  Arvy goes down holding his wrist, and eventually skates straight to the dressing room.

I don’t know if I’d necessarily call either of those plays “dirty,” but they aren’t exactly plays that you’d call just a normal part of the game.

The Predators got a 5-on-3 from those two calls, but it was quickly wiped out by a holding call against Mikael Granlund which — to put it nicely — was an atrocious call.  Chris Mason said it best, that’s not a penalty you’d call in a playoff game.

The second period ends on that note.

The Predators couldn’t convert on their abbreviated power play, and once the Wild killed off both of their penalties, they made Nashville pay.  Zach Parise is left alone in front of the net, and beats Saros with a second-chance shot to make it 3-0 Minnesota.  Once again, it appears the Preds lost sight of their man.

The Preds would get one back on a power play (I know, weird right?) about three and a half minutes later.  Stalock deflects a shot into the air, Craig Smith grabs the rebound out of mid-air, drops it on his stick, and immediately fires a shot past Stalock to make it 3-1.  If not for Forsberg’s Michigan goal, this may low-key be in the running for the Preds’ goal of the year.

The Predators would build some positive momentum after that, but it proved to be too little too late.  Minnesota wins the game.

OTF’s Super-Duper Star o’ the Game

  • All of the first responders, emergency personnel, and volunteers who helped our neighbors recover in the wake of last night’s devastating storms.  Also, a big thank you to anyone who donated to the relief efforts, including tonight’s opponents, the Minnesota Wild.  This has been a heartbreaking day across Middle Tennessee, but we are absolutely floored by the outpouring of support all of you have shown to your fellow Tennesseans today./

What’s Next?

The Predators are back home Thursday for a MASSIVE match-up against the Dallas Stars.  Puck drop is at 7:00 P.M. CST.  Honestly, this feels like a make-or-break game.

The Wild start a West coast swing Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.