Power Play: Awful start dooms Nashville Predators against Colorado Avalanche
Would it kill Nashville to start games with as much fire as they did against the Blackhawks? Apparently it would, seeing as they haven't strung together consecutive wins in nearly a month.
Great start on Thursday, awful start on Saturday
Nashville came out of the gates on Thursday night with what seemed to be jets on their skates, however the same couldn't be said on its start against the Avalanche.
There wasn't the same urgency that the Predators had against Chicago, but in the same regard it wasn't as if the team was necessarily being blown out of the building either. Colorado netted two goals in the first period -- one on the power play, which shouldn't come as a shocker to anyone, and one as a power play expired.
"We weren't very good in the first period," said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette. "They scored two goals and they were better than us. We fought hard in the second and third, but we couldn't catch up to them."
"It's tough right now," said Mattias Ekholm. "We're creating chances. We're there. First period was a little so-and-so, but I thought in the second we came out with a different mindset."
"We got that goal in the third to tie it up and we hit a post, but it just doesn't want to go in. They get half of a chance and it bounces in somehow. It's just biting us in the ass right now. We just have to bear down and we just got to be better."
What's most frustrating, however, was Nashville's apparent inability to deploy the right lines into the offensive zone once earning control of the puck. On multiple occasions I noticed the Eric Nystrom, Paul Gaustad and Miikka Salomaki line -- the final trio of forwards on Nashville's lineup -- hop off the bench as the Predators were swirling with the puck either behind Rinne or pressing it towards the neutral zone.
I'm not exactly sure what that accomplishes, either, as they primarily matched up against Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and John Mitchell while on the ice and their underlying numbers for and against were absolutely atrocious.
Granted, their presence did coincidently lead to Nashville's opening goal late in the first period, although that benefited heavily from Ryan Ellis tossing it towards the net and watching it bank off Salomaki's stick and in the net.
Regardless, it left me scratching my head.
Roman Josi: A man who can do no wrong
Many continue to say that Josi is still one of the most underrated defensemen in the league. To those folks, I ask them one simple question: how do you still consider Josi to be underrated?
Besides earning more than a handful of Norris votes last season to push himself into the top five among contenders for the trophy, he's been all-around the best defenseman on the the Predators roster this season.
Make no jokes about it, without Josi on the roster I feel Nashville would be hard-pressed to find itself in half as good of a position that it currently sits in.
It's absolutely absurd how easy puck handling, skating, stick checking, passing and pretty much anything else associated with the sport of hockey seems for Josi, but he makes the most difficult of plays appear to be child's play.
Not only that, but Josi could have easily been a baseball player in another life.
Golden Glove winner Roman Josi. My word— Kristopher Martel (@kmartel_sports) December 13, 2015
During a Predators power play midway through the second period, Josi stopped two Avalanche clearing passes thanks to his ability to leap and grab the puck out of the air. I've seen that happen only a handful of times in my time watching this sport -- where a player leaps off their feet near the blue line to stop a clearing attempt -- and Josi did it twice during one power play.
He's done a great job this season of making opposing players look silly on the ice trying to cover him. It's amazing to think that David Poile locked him up until 2020 for only a $4 million cap hit per season.
"He's been [consistent] since I've been here," said Laviolette. "Top offensive defenseman last year. The pair of him and [Shea Weber] have been excellent. He's very consistent with his game is what I've seen."
Name one other defenseman who can do the same with that low of a cap hit. I can't think of another.
Youth-infusion in Nashville's lineup working out well
Prior to the season starting, I thought both Austin Watson and Viktor Arvidsson deserved playing time to some degree in Nashville's lineup.
I had zero clue that both would become staples for the Predators -- partially due to injuries -- after the first 30 games.
Not only that, but another fellow youngster in Calle Jarnkrok has done wonders for the team -- including lodging himself into the first line center spot for the foreseeable future until Fisher's return.
Watson has done more with his physical presence than most of Nashville's lineup as a whole, while Arvidsson continues to impress me with both his speed and peskiness towards the puck.
Jarnkrok, though, is by far the most impressive of the three. Fellow Swede Filip Forsberg easily overshadowed him last season, as Jarnkrok dwelled in the bottom six for most of the year. Head coach Peter Laviolette has had enough confidence in him to not only boost him up off the third line, but to the top of the lineup at that.
All three have combined for 10 goals and 18 points on the season. It's not a whole lot in comparison to other players across the league, but more than I figured the trio would have up to this point -- especially since I didn't expect any to contribute at the level they are.
Jarnkrok won't remain in the top six for the rest of the season. Watson and Arvidsson may not stay on the team for the duration either. Their presence, though, has been an added boost to the roster. Something that says a lot for the future of this team and organization. At the very least, the future for these players.
Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche -- Without Varlamov between the pipes tonight, there's zero chance Colorado would have found itself allowing any less than five goals to the Predators. He was in net, though, and that's what counts. Varlamov stopped 34 of 36 shots for the 3-2 win for Colorado.
Francois Beauchemin, Colorado Avalanche -- Beauchemin earned a very critical opening goal for the Avalanche that started the ball rolling and contributed an assist later on to the game-winner for a fantastic multi-point outing.
Ryan Ellis, Nashville Predators -- Although I wasn't too pleased with some of his doings inside the offensive zone during the power play, the results can't be denied. A goal and an assist for one of the better offensive defensemen on Nashville's squad.