On the Backcheck: The Preds, adversity, and playing the full 60
How is this team making it work?
The Nashville Predators were making a quick New Year’s Day stop at home to play the Chicago Blackhawks after two games on the road (a regulation loss against Washington and an overtime shootout loss to Columbus). After the one-game homestand, the team heads back out on the road for a West Coast road trip.
Before the game, it was announced that both Roman Josi and Colton Sissons would be returning to the lineup after a brief stint in COVID protocol, while Dante Fabbro was added to the list. This made Tommy Novak and Dante Fabbro the only two players on the COVID list. Prior to the reimplementation of the taxi squad, the Predators thrived during the pre-pause absence-riddled stretch, winning seven games in a row.
In analyzing the game, I decided to focus on the team’s playing a full 60 minutes (you’ll see why below); also, with the addition of Fabbro to the COVID list, it seemed Philippe Myers would get a chance to play. With so many questions about his absence from the ice, I thought it would be a good idea to focus on his play. It’s also worth noting that both of the Blackhawks’ NHL goaltenders, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen, were in the NHL’s COVID protocol and were unavailable. This left Collin Delia to start with Arvid Soderblom as a backup.
Playing a Full 60
During the third period of the most recent game (the overtime shootout loss to Columbus), the Predators seemed to take their feet off the gas when playing with a lead, which allowed Columbus to capitalize on a mistake, tie the game, and take the extra point in overtime. Post-game, John Hynes mentioned that this was an area of improvement moving forward. Most fans will remember what became known as the “turtle” of coasting with a lead in the third, often resulting in a tie or loss due to the loss of momentum. However, this season that seems to have been addressed with a great deal of success. I decided to pay attention to the team playing a full 60.
I soon found I was going to get the opportunity to not only watch to see if the team played a full 60, but also to see how the team would play with a lead. By the middle of the second period, the score was already 5-0. The Blackhawks pulled their third-string goalie after the first in favor of their fourth-string goalie, who was seeing NHL ice for the first time. Even after five goals, the Predators continued to play with tenacity through the second period. They didn’t let up on the physical side of the game by continuing to finish their checks, as well going into the corners to battle for every loose puck.
The game ended at 6-1 and the team played hard the entire game.
Myers was part of the return for Ryan Ellis (along with Cody Glass) in a trade made this summer. This, alone, has meant there is a lot of scrutiny surrounding both players and how they are being used this season. Cody Glass, of course, is playing with the Milwaukee Admirals, receiving coaching from Karl Taylor and—quite frankly—thriving. However, Phil Myers has been with the NHL squad all season but hasn’t seen much action. In fact, when asked about Myers, John Hynes spoke about a number of things he was working on behind the scenes. The combination of all these factors means that there will always be a microscope on Myers when he sees NHL ice this season. Given my bird’s eye view, I will be looking through that microscope.
Myers was called for interference mid-way through the first period after slowing up Brandon Hagel on a zone exit through the neutral zone. Personally, I’m not a fan of the penalty, as he successfully removed his man from the puck and that would have drawn strong reviews from me. However, the follow-up to the hit (Myers leaned Hagel into the boards and held him up for too long) drew too much attention, especially after the puck was so far removed from Hagel. The Predators did manage to kill off the penalty, so that’s a positive. But I will say, Myers did a great job of tracking the puck and his player after a turnover. Pulling back after the successful removal of man from puck is a minor adjustment.
Once the score was 5-0, Myers found himself in the middle of a 2-on-1, which he was able to break up. Later in the second, Myers was locked in a heated battle with Kirby Dach in front of Saros. He won the physical side of the battle, but was also able to help in clearing the puck out of the Predators’ defensive zone. Later in the game, he took a hooking penalty for no real reason.
My overall takeaway on Myers’s game Saturday is that he showed strong defensive instincts, but made simple mistakes. Those mistakes, when viewed under the microscope I mentioned earlier, are going to be enough to keep him off the ice in favor of Matt Benning. For now, it seems when there’s a defensive need on the left side, we’ll get Ben Harpur. When there’s a need on the right, it’ll be Philippe Myers.