Nashville Predators vs Florida Panthers Preview: Here Comes Barkov
Those fans who wanted to see the Nashville Predators draft a star center during the 2013 NHL Draft will get an up-close look at the one who got away in Florida's Aleksander Barkov.
The Nashville Predators are off to a solid 2-1 start at Bridgestone Arena, and look to build on that record against the Florida Panthers, a team which is trying to find its way out of the darkness after finishing in the NHL's basement last season.
|Florida Panthers||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Save %||.861||29th||.922||15th|
|# of PP's/Gm||4.50||3rd||3.20||24th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.50||12th||4.00||19th|
Holy cow, that Florida goaltending looks all kinds of ugly, doesn't it? When you're losing the possession battle and your keeper can't stop a beach ball, that's a tough obstacle to overcome.
After finishing in 30th place last season, things don't sound like they're off to a better start this year. Check out the recap from Litter Box Cats after Florida was shut out by Los Angeles on Sunday:
The Panthers 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings was atypical of Florida's effort while playing a good team, if only because they didn't give up 7 goals. What was typical was a lack of offensive pressure leading to the team being shutout for the second time in 6 games, another game in which the forwards couldn't contribute in the defensive zone, and another game in which the defense couldn't help the goalie out. This result shouldn't be terribly surprising after last game, since they weren't facing a goalie making his first career start and being left in for the entire game. Florida has scoring problems, and they'll only face shaky backup goalies so often.
The real story to watch with Florida is the development of #2 overall draft pick Aleksander Barkov, who looked like a likely choice for Nashville, until Seth Jones fell into the Preds' lap at #4. Barkov is producing offensively with five points in six games so far, bolstering a depth chart at center which lost Stephen Weiss to Detroit via free agency, but picked up Scott Gomez over the summer.
There is also a former Nashville Predator to keep an eye on, as Marcel Goc makes his first post-Preds visit to Bridgestone Arena wearing enemy colors:
#57 / Center / Florida Panthers
Aug 24, 1983
|2013 - Marcel Goc||6||2||0||2||-5||4||0||0||1||6||33.3|
In goal, we're likely to see Florida's hope for the future in Jacob Markstrom, as Tim Thomas is injured and didn't make the trip to Nashville.
Winning two out of their three home games (and playing pretty well in the loss to Toronto) has the Predators feeling confident these days, despite the continuing absence of Roman Josi on defense (and who knows how long he'll be out). Both of the teenage phenoms have scored their first career NHL goals, and Pekka Rinne looks like, well... Pekka Rinne once again.
At this point, the interesting story lines involve which two forwards will be scratched each night, and how some of the line combinations will work out. On Saturday against the Islanders, it was Rich Clune and Nick Spaling who watched from the press box.
One guy to watch tonight may be David Legwand, who has five goals and seven assists in 12 career games against the Panthers. That's the highest scoring rate he owns against any NHL opponent.
#11 / Center / Nashville Predators
Aug 17, 1980
|2013 - David Legwand||5||1||1||2||-2||0||0||0||0||6||16.6|
The puck drops shortly after 7:00 tonight at Bridgestone Arena, so stay tuned for updates throughout the day ahead of the game, including 3 Questions with a writer from our SB Nation colleagues at Litter Box Cats.