Nashville Predators at Vegas Golden Knights Preview: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Walk Down the Right Back Alley in Sin City, and You Can Find Anything

Tonight, the Predators invade Sin City for the second stop on their three-game roadtrip.  Both the Preds and the Vegas Golden Knights have been among the Western Conference elites since the latter broke into the league, and, as a result, most of their previous games have been a lot of fun.

Let’s hope tonight’s no different!

The Match-Up

Nashville Predators
Record: 3-2-0; 6 pts (4th in Central Division)
Last Game: Lost to Los Angeles Kings 7-4 on Saturday

Team Leaders:
Goals - Filip Forsberg (4)
Assists - Matt Duchene (7)
Points - Duchene (9)
Penalty Minutes - Austin Watson (7)
Save % - Pekka Rinne (.894)

Vegas Golden Knights
Record: 4-2-0; 8 pts (2nd in Pacific Division
Last Game: Defeated Los Angeles Kings 5-2 on Sunday

Team Leaders:
Goals - Mark Stone & Reilly Smith (4)
Assists - Max Pacioretty & William Karlsson (6)
Points - Stone (9)
Penalty Minutes - Karlsson & Deryk Engelland (12)
Save % - Marc-Andre Fleury (.933)

The Last Meeting

Vegas beat Nashville 5-1 back on February 16th.  Max Pacioretty scored twice, and nine different Golden Knights registered a point.  Kevin Fiala (aww) scored the Preds’ only goal

The Key Storylines

  • ...But Tonight I Bounce Back?: Tonight’s a chance for one of those classic “rebound” games for Nashville.  Third-period comeback aside, last Saturday’s loss to the Kings was a rough effort all around.  The Preds were outplayed for most of the first two periods.  And yet, they almost came back to win the game.  That should tell you how potent this team can be when they do get firing on all cylinders./

It looks like Peter Laviolette is already making some tweaks ahead of tonight’s game.  We saw Craig Smith move over to play with Nick Bonino and Colton Sissons halfway through the Kings game, and the results weren’t bad.  It looks like Lavy’s going to stick with that combo tonight.

It also looks like Rocco Grimaldi could make his way back in the line-up either tonight, or Thursday against Arizona.

  • Let’s Get Offensive: We’ve talked a lot about the Preds’ red-hot start on offense.  They’re currently leading the league with 4.44 Goals/60, and their 23 goals are the most through five games in team history. /

But Vegas’s start is nothing to scoff at either.  The Golden Knights have found the net 11 times in their past two games, and as a team, they rank fourth in the league in expected goals per game (meaning they get a lot of high-quality chances in the more dangerous scoring positions on the ice).

Like the Preds, the Golden Knights have two lines who could realistically be considered the #1.  There’s the familiar trio of William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault (combined 14 points in the first 6 games), and the high-powered group of Paul Stastny, Mark Stone, and Max Pacioretty (22 points in 6 games.)

With both teams having some issues on the defensive side of the ice (the Preds rank 29th in Goals Against per 60, while Vegas ranks 23rd in Expected Goals Against), this game has the potential to be one of those wild 6-5/5-4 offensive shootouts.  Then again, with Pekka Rinne and Marc-Andre Fleury in their respective nets, who knows.

  • HEY LOOK! POWER PLAY PROGRESS!!!: The Preds have now scored a power play goal in each of the past four games.  They’re still average in terms of overall percentage.  But considering Nashville was dead last in the league last year, it’s a small victory thus far./

Obviously, we’re dealing with a very small sample size here, and this could all go downhill again by December and doom us all.  But on the optimistic side, the team actually LOOKS better with the man advantage.  There’s more movement and rotation compared to last year, the possessions are crisper, and they’re generating better quality chances (a respectable 6.59 xG/60 so far this season).

It could the new scheme brought in by Dan Lambert.  It could be the addition of Matt Duchene, one of the NHL’s best pure passers.  It could be better execution from guys like Ryan Johansen and Roman Josi, who lead the team with three power play points each (each with 1 goal and 2 assists).

The Preds’ power play should get a big litmus test tonight.  Vegas has killed off all but 1 of their opponents’ 22 power play chances this year.

Another goal tonight would be rad.

Tonight’s Song to Get You HYPPPPEEEEDDDD

How to Watch

Puck drop is tonight at 9:00 PM Central.  You can catch the game locally on Fox Sports Tennessee, or listen in on 102.5 The Game  For you fine folks out of town, the game’s available on ESPN+.

All stats in the game preview come courtesy of NaturalStatTrick, EvolvingHockey, and