Anaheim Ducks 4, Nashville Predators 2: Duck, Duck, Lose

The Predators revert back to their old mistakes in a ho-hum loss to the struggling Ducks.

I don’t think you can call a Thursday night home game in the middle of January a “must-win” in any context.  But if the Predators want to climb back into the playoff picture, these are the kind of games you have to win down the stretch; at home against a conference rival who’s inching closer to tank mode.

Yeah... that didn’t happen.

The Ducks outplayed the Predators most of the night en route to a fairly easy 4-2 win.

Considering this was the Preds’ first game at home after three solid efforts on the road, it’s hard for fans not to be disappointed with the team’s effort tonight.  There were several points in which the team reverted to the old habits that have plagued them throughout the year: ho-hum play in the neutral zone, a run of low-quality shots from the point, and — once again — goaltending that left a lot to be desired.

What Happened?

We start with the weirdest scoring chance of the entire game just two minutes in.  The puck bounces off the corner boards, and slowly trickles past three different players (who I’m not sure even knew where the puck was) and right in front of the Anaheim net.  Johansen tries to one-time it, but Gibson makes the save.

A few minutes later, Gibson comes up with perhaps the best save of the entire game.  Johansen and Blackwell get loose for a 2-on-1, Joey makes a beautiful pass to set-up Blackwell for the one-timer, but Gibson slides over to get a piece of the puck, before it then bounces off the post.

There’s a cool moment at the next stoppage.  Bridgestone Arena finally gets a chance to celebrate Pekka Rinne’s goal.

The goal horn and “I Like It, I Love It” after that montage is just (insert chef’s kiss GIF here).

Unfortunately, the next goal celebration comes courtesy of the Ducks.  Ondrej Kase finds Josh Manson streaking towards the net, back door, and Manson buries the pass for a 1-0 Ducks lead, Manson’s first goal of the season.

Let’s find solace in the fact that, for one glorious week, Pekka Rinne had more goals than an Anaheim player averaging 20 minutes of ice time per night.

The Predators respond well to the goal with a good sequence of chances, the best coming via a Calle Jarnkrok wrist shot directly to Gibson’s left.  And to be honest, this game would probably be 3-1 Preds right now if not for Gibson’s hot start.  Buy the man a fruit basket, Anaheim.

The Preds’ momentum stops again when Dante Fabbro gives the puck away in the neutral zone, and on the ensuing back-check, Fabbro hooks Chase de Leo to give Anaheim the game’s first power play.

Anaheim’s first shot on the man advantage is a one-timer from Richard Rakell that APPEARS to be stopped by Saros.  Except the puck trickles loose behind him.  Adam Henrique pounces, and the Ducks take a 2-0 lead.

The Predators get one back a minute and a half later.  Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Josi fires a wrist shot that Arvidsson tips in to make it 2-1.  It’s Josi’s first point since his 12-game point streak ended a week ago.

Each team would get their fair share of chances over the remainder of the period, but no one else can find the net, and we head into the intermission 2-1.

I agree with Bryan.... No.

Forsberg almost ties it up 40 seconds into the period, when he tries a wrap-around on a WIDE open net, but muffs the shot.  Gibson never saw the play.  It was as close to a gimme as you can get.

Anaheim gets some bad luck of their own a minute later, when Jacob Larsson’s shot rings off the post.  Like Gibson, Saros never saw the play thanks to a couple of well-executed screens.  It’s the start of a rough stretch of play for the Preds, who can’t seem to generate any sort of pressure on the Ducks’ net this period.  After a great string of games on the road, it’s hard not to expect more.

We get to see some P H Y S I C A L  H O C K E Y when Blackwell hip checks de Leo into the Predators’ bench.

While Blackwell’s busy destroying Anaheim physically, the Ducks continue to destroy Nashville’s fans emotionally.  Ryan Getzlaf back hands a shot on Saros from right in front of the net.  Juuse makes the save, but he can’t control the rebound, and Rakell bats it in for an easy goal.  3-1 Anaheim.  Saros’s rebound control tonight has been... oof.

It seems the goal wakes up the Predators a little bit.  They get five of the next seven shots.  That includes a wild sequence in which Bonino, Arvidsson, and Grimaldi each had a chance at the puck with Gibson down in the crease.  Somehow, Gibson’s able to cover it up.

Arvidsson gets another great chance when he dekes his way past an Anaheim defenseman, setting up a 1-on-1 chance against Gibson.  However, he runs out of room, and Gibson makes an easy stop.

It caps off a good flurry of chances for the Predators to end the period, but it’s not a good second period overall.  The Predators seemed to revert back to their old habits a bit.

Bad news, the “brutal” play continued into the start of the third.  The Preds had four giveaways before they recorded their first shot on goal, 10 minutes and 11 seconds into the period.

The Predators finally get their first power play of the night when Nicolas Deslauriers gets called for holding.  It’s a good opportunity for the power play to get some good chances, pump up the crowd, and maybe get the Preds back in the game....

Derek Grant forces a turnover on the boards, then beats Saros with a backhander on a breakaway for the short-handed goal.  Ducks go up 4-1.

The Predators look like they’d get a second chance at a power play.  Larsson initially goes to the box for a double-minor high sticking on Jarnkrok.  But thanks to new NHL rules, the refs were able to review the call, and found that Craig Smith actually caught Jarnkrok.  No penalty.

Instead, it’s the Preds who wind up shorthanded next.  The team gets caught with too many men on the ice.  Rocco Grimaldi goes to the box to serve it.  The Predators, though, get a bit of short-handed revenge, when Mikael Granlund rips a wrist shot up and over Gibson’s shoulder to make it 4-2.

It’s too little, too late, though.  The Predators can’t do anything else with the goalie pulled, and the Ducks take the game.

The Good Stuff

  • Krazy Kyle adding The Mandalorian theme to the organ rotation.
  • The combination of Trenin-Turris-Blackwell.  There’s just something about the way these three play together that just... works.  It’s the concept I think Laviolette was TRYING to go for when he put Turris with Sissons and Watson earlier this year, except this time, it’s not an intense trash fire.
  • On that same note, Arvidsson moving to Bonino and Grimaldi’s line seems to have woken him up.  This was #33’s best game in weeks.

The Bad Stuff

  • The Preds’ effort level for the vast majority of the game was extremely disappointing, especially given how important this game could be for the long-term picture.
  • One of the big factors in Saros’s struggles this year has been rebound control, and you got a first-hand look on Anaheim’s second and third goals as to the importance of that skill.
  • Turnovers, man....
  • No, really, stop that penalty kill guitar twang thing./

OTF’s Super-Duper Stars o’ the Game

3. Colin Blackwell: The hit was his highlight of the night, but he’s played well the past few games, so he gets a shoutout.

2. Viktor Arvidsson: Maybe the best Predator tonight, and got a goal to boot.

1. The wine I’m going to drink to forget this game happened.

What’s Next?

It’s a WHIIIIIIIIIIIITE OUUUUUUUUUUUT cough cough HACK... ahem, excuse me.  There’s a White Out at Bridgestone Arena Saturday for the Preds’ game against the Sabres.  After that, the Preds have a nine-day vacation for the All-Star break.

Anaheim is back at it tomorrow night.  They’ll take on the Hurricanes in Raleigh.