Nashville Predators 1, Florida Panthers 2: Rinne Dazzles, Offense Fizzles

Is it 2012 again?

After a thrilling comeback win in overtime last night, the Nashville Predators looked to get back above even for the season, while the Florida Panthers were trying to avenge their unexpected loss. The biggest concern for the Predators is Ryan Johansen’s absence; he was injured last night, and Calle Jarnkrok is left filling in as the second-line center. Pekka Rinne, who got the win in relief last night and played the final period and overtime, had the start for the Preds.

The new second line did not get off to a great start, with Jarnkrok, Rocco Grimaldi, and Viktor Arvidsson getting outplayed easily in the offensive zone. Fortunately, the Preds’ depth scoring appeared to step up, as Colton Sissons scored the first goal of the game—giving the Predators a rare lead—thanks to a pinball move and a bungled save by Panthers goalie Chris Driedger. The goal was later credited to Roman Josi, although this season he’s also depth scoring for the Preds, and then re-credited to Sissons.

By about six minutes into the game, I was having serious questions about the ice quality, as several players on both teams wiped out within a couple of shifts. A few of those helped slow down what has otherwise looked like an alarmingly effective Panthers breakout, but it wasn’t just the Panthers having trouble.

Speaking of trouble, Mark Borowiecki got back into the lineup and promptly took another penalty, putting the Predators shorthanded less than halfway through the first period. Pekka Rinne made several excellent saves to start the kill off, and somehow the Predators were able to successfully kill it off.

Just over halfway through the first, shots on goal were 11-2 Panthers. For the record, making your goalie work five times as hard as the other team’s goalie is rarely an optimal way to win hockey games.

Mattias Ekholm rang iron on a spectacular shot that Driedger never even saw, which would have been the Preds’ fourth shot on goal of the night if it had gone on net. The lack of offensive generation has been even more frustrating given how beatable Driedger has looked; he made his third save of the night (fourteen minutes into the game) swimming clear outside the blue paint.

On the next shift, Rinne made his fourteenth save of the night against Anthony Duclair and a spectacular five-man offensive press. The Preds located the offensive zone, only to take another penalty. Mathieu Olivier may have been framed by the weird ice situation, but the result was the same: the Predators were once again shorthanded, but thanks to some great work from Rinne and the physical presence on the ice of the penalty killers, they were again able to escape the penalty unscathed. (All right, Jarnkrok wasn’t bad.)

The rest of the period after the penalty kill proceeded the same way. Excitingly, the Predators started the second period in the offensive zone, getting at least one shot on goal within the first minute (the Florida scorer has been struggling these last two games, with shot totals decreasing or new shots getting added very late).

Radko Gudas interrupted another promising offensive shift, this one by the fourth line, by provoking Olivier into a scuffle. The scuffle was broken up without penalty, but it feels like this isn’t the end of that. Speaking of penalties, Mark Borowiecki got tripped with no call. Later that shift, Aleksander Barkov finally scored on the Panthers’ 22nd shot on goal of the night, as the Predators’ top line and third pairing were trapped in their zone for an extended period of time.

Our moment of levity for the night: a Panthers player getting stuck under the linesman at a faceoff.

Erik Haula took a shot up high and fell to the ice late in the period, but seemed okay when we returned from commercial. The Panthers were right back on the attack, ferociously enough that the Preds’ net was knocked off its moorings, but the breather did the Preds no good as they continued to be unable to get a clear.

Carter Verhaege scored seconds after Ekholm appeared to wipe out in the slot, giving the Panthers the 2-1 lead that felt like it had been coming for a period and a half. The Panthers got a goalpost of their own almost right after, as Rinne also got beat on a shot; with a little over two minutes left in the second, the Predators were badly in need of a break.

The first scuffle of the game came between Nick Cousins and Jonathan Huberdeau, and somehow resulted in 4-on-4 play to end the period despite Huberdeau initiating the aggression. The officiating has not been great. The Preds have also not been great, to be clear, and I’m not sure better officiating could save them.

If you saw the first and second periods, you didn’t miss much in the third. The Panthers stifled the Predators’ offense, managed some dangerous attacks, and controlled the game. Pekka Rinne made several excellent saves while his teammates struggled. Mackenzie Weegar slashed Filip Forsberg’s stick in half and the referees missed it. The Preds got their first power play of the game with 8.7 seconds remaining, and unsurprisingly did not score.

Here is a video of cute baby seals, because I deserve it and you probably do too:

OTF’s Stars of the Game:

  1. Pekka Rinne
  2. no
  3. absolutely not

Three Thoughts:

  • The Predators’ offense, or lack thereof, is a serious problem. I know Bryan is looking into putting together a more detailed breakdown about how offense works, but the Predators pretty consistently have not been good enough this season, seemingly operating on the principle of “better lucky than good”.
  • Quenneville’s defense is spectacular. The man was not the problem in Chicago. That said, it’s not like Quenneville is a newcomer to the league and his tactics are unfamiliar, or like effective passing to get up the ice and generate offense should be a wholly unfamiliar concept to the Preds.
  • With Connor Ingram unavailable and Juuse Saros in his early-season slump, but Rinne looking as sharp as if it were 2012 instead of 2021, there could be a real workload problem for the Preds in goal. It will be interesting to see how Hynes manages his goalies’ workloads, but it’s also concerning. Similarly, Ryan Johansen’s injury has the potential to be a big problem for the team, as despite his many strengths Calle Jarnkrok has never been an effective offensive top-six center, and some of the Preds’ offensive struggles might be mitigated with their full roster available. Neither of these are immediately fixable, but they’re both still concerns./