Nashville Predators 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 4: Turd in the punch bowl

On what could have been a fun night with playoff-clinching joy and whatnot, the Predators laid one of their biggest eggs of the season.

The Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets played a hockey game tonight, and boy oh boy was it boring! What happened, who stood out, and where does the team go from here? All that and more below.

What went right?

In short, opportunism and skill plays. The Preds flashed their superior talent a few times, including some sequences where Roman Josi and Filip Forsberg flexed their ridiculous stick handling. Combine that with some quality finishing by Tanner Jeannot and Calle Järnkrok and you get a game that looked pretty close, despite Nashville really getting outplayed for the entire deal. Nashville honestly ended up beneficiaries of a terrible Patrik Laine pass to make this game look as competitive as it was; otherwise, you’d have a more lopsided, hopeless-looking score.

The other tangible positive was, of course, Juuse Saros. Despite getting outdueled by Elvis Merzlikins, Saros was equally excellent, coming up with enormous saves on Columbus breakaways and slot attempts. The diminutive Finn remains deserving of Vezina finalist status.

What could have been better?

There were some glaring issues with tonight’s game, chiefly that there were spans where the Preds forgot how to exit their own zone. The Blue Jackets produced the majority of their offense during these inexplicable lulls, including their third goal of the game. Facing the possession juggernaut Carolina Hurricanes with a team that can’t get the puck out of their end doesn’t exactly bode well, in this writer’s humble opinion.

There were also myriad mistakes that went unpunished, particularly when it came to leaving the backdoor pass uncovered. The Preds frequently had their sticks anywhere but the passing lane, which didn’t help with limiting scoring chances, as you’d imagine. Luckily, the Jackets missed on most of these attempts, saving the Predators from a much uglier final score.

Lastly, the Jackets (a team short on speed) found themselves wide open with cuts to the net entirely too often. The defense had plenty of moments where the classic “guy warps the entire unit’s coverage” thing occurred. Juuse Saros was rock solid in goal again tonight, but he cannot be expected to stop 10 uncovered shots from what could vaguely be considered the slot in every game. For a roster built around the blue line, Nashville needs to get more out of the likes of Fabbro, Ellis, and Ekholm, all of whom have been a bit lackluster down the stretch. The defensive zone play of their key members cannot remain as chaotic as it’s been.

Three Big Things

  1. The Predators can’t keep playing like this and expect to win in these next two games against Carolina, barring the Hurricanes icing an AHL team to rest their starters. The sluggish starts, reliance on opportunism and goaltending, and the overall lack of consistency from this group can be startling at times. They need a better showing in their next game.
  2. Nashville deserves credit for putting greater emphasis on attacking the slot tonight, as opposed to their usual refusal to shoot from there/pass to that area. While it didn’t result in earth-shattering results, these are the types of tweaks that need to occur as the postseason races towards them.
  3. Tanner Jeannot is everything fun about bottom-six hockey rolled into one person. If David Poile remains the GM of this team that probably means an eight-year contract, but hey, not my money I guess. Good for the Moose Jaw product, who’s had to claw his way to the NHL with outstanding play in the minors.

Post Game Tunes

Feeling some CCR.

Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Preds.