Predators vs Blue Jackets 2/27/21 Preview: Tactical Nuke Inbound

Counting the minutes that we have left before the blowup isn’t exactly a fun way to pass the time.

Hello y’all. It’s time for another preview. The Predators will take on one of the two teams they’ve managed to beat with consistency this year in Bridgestone Arena today at 2 PM. Will Nashville continue to get the better of Columbus, or will John Tortorella’s tire fire be slightly less toasty than that of John Hynes? Find out next on today’s edition of How Low Can We Go? presented by David Poile and his messy front office.

How To Watch

The game will be aired on Sportsnet as well as Fox Sports Tennessee. Radio call will be provided by 102.5 The Game Nashville, featuring Pete Weber on play-by-play. If you haven’t checked in on Pete lately, take a moment to do so; he’s not particularly pleased with having to watch this team, and he’s a nice break from the relentless optimism that’s being pushed by Preds brass via the Fox crew (those poor people have to tell me that this team can turn it around).

The Predators

What else is there to even say, man? Nashville has a .500 record against Detroit, and I think that essentially tells the story. The Predators are slightly too good to get the first pick—barring luck—and they’re entirely too awful to make a miraculous postseason run unless God himself descends from the heavens and bestows the hockey IQ of Wayne Gretzky upon Viktor Arvidsson. The Preds enter this game fifth from the bottom of the league in points percentage, and honestly there’s no end in sight. Can you name a team unequivocally worse than Nashville in this division? I can’t.

The Preds will look to remain dominant against a listless Columbus team that they’ve racked up three of their eight wins against. Eeli Tolvanen will likely see another start alongside Ryan Johansen and Nick Cousins on the third line. Ben Harpur appears to be here to stay given a bit of context (Jarred Tinordi was waived yesterday), and Mattias Ekholm remains out with an injury.

In net we’ll likely see Juuse Saros, who has failed to assert himself as the starter so far this year. The team has played tangibly worse in front of him through a small sample of games as compared to Pekka Rinne, so hopefully that will change. I have nothing else exciting to say about the team as a whole. Bleh.

The Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets roll into town having won just one of their last six, with that sole victory coming against...the Nashville Predators. Yay. The Jackets have seen some improvement in their defensive zone coverage and structure lately, especially when it comes to defenders marking their man properly. Columbus continues to struggle with neutral zone pickups and covering the trailer, something John Hynes will likely look to take advantage of.

The Jackets also boast a miserable power play, similar to Nashville, but the first unit has been better lately thanks to new additions Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. Speaking of Roslovic, the Ohio native has cooled off mightily, totaling just two points in his last four games. Columbus will look to get on the board early before suffocating the Preds and forcing them to shoot from the perimeter; Nashville’s best hope is to hold key players (Laine and Roslovic) off the scoresheet while attacking the slot. As we all know, neither of those things are exactly this team’s strength.

Three Big Things

  1. Watch Erik Haula. John Hynes keeps putting him in the lineup, but I keep seeing him be a complete non-factor or worse. He consistently loses puck battles, makes poor decisions and ends up a step behind the play. I don’t hate the guy and he’s shown flashes of the playmaker he once was, but he’s an older player who’s suffered massive regression after a set of injuries. Get the young players into the lineup over him.
  2. Does the team help Saros out? Columbus isn’t an especially threatening offensive attack, but even then I don’t trust Nashville’s coverage in front of the “little” Finn. The Predators have allowed over double the amount of offensive threat when Saros is in net as compared to Rinne, and that’s contributing to the perception that Saros has been god-awful this year. Rinne isn’t the future, and it’s time to stop acting like it (as sad as it makes me).
  3. Can Eeli Tolvanen get on the board in back-to-back games with increased ice time and better support? I wouldn’t be shocked.

Gameday Tunes

I recently made my debut over at Broad Street Hockey, and the title of that article was inspired by a pretty great song.

Tell me you don’t feel awesome playing that song rolling down the road and I’ll call you a liar/robot. Happy game day folks, and as always, go Preds.