Power Play: Preds lose Fisher, but gain their confidence
As cheesy as that sounds, it's exactly what happened in this game. Nashville's 5-2 confidence-building win over Arizona was a little bittersweet as we await further word on the status of Mike Fisher.
Change of focus early
Something that's stood out to me over the last week of action, outside of Nashville's games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers, happened to be the Predators inability to truly drive towards the net, execute their planned strategies and really put pressure on opposing goaltenders.
Mike Fisher, who has goals in each of Nashville's past three games including the first marker after nearly 230 minutes of scoreless hockey, has been one of the few exceptions to the rule, continuing to do what's made him so successful over the course of his career.
And that's what could be the most frustrating thing for head coach Peter Laviolette. His teams have always prided themselves on their work ethic and ability to out-hustle the opposition. When Nashville started the game against Arizona on Tuesday night, it was very reminiscent of its two games against the Blue Jackets and Rangers -- high-pressure, great execution and tons of shots.
There comes a time when a dam has to break after enough pressure has been applied to it. Maybe it just hasn't been enough yet?
Hard to really believe that's the case, isn't it?
Especially in the first period against the Coyotes, Nashville executed the strategies that made it a successful team over the first handful of games to start the season -- including switching lines around to hopefully produce better offensive chances -- and it almost seemed as if they couldn't buy a goal even if it was put on a clearance sale at a $0.99 store.
"I thought we played really well [in the first period], actually," said Predators defenseman Roman Josi, who finished the night with an assist, a plus-three rating and a team-high five blocked shots. "It kind of went the way it's been going lately for us. We got a lot of chances and couldn't get a goal."
As the game wore on, though, Nashville seemed to finally have things go its way. Although winning the game 5-2, early on things couldn't have been going much worse.
Loss of Fisher not a great sign for Nashville
Noted in the entry above, Fisher has been one of Nashville's best offensive weapons in arguably its worst offensive slide so far this year.
His three goals in the Predators last six games prior to Tuesday night had accounted for half of their total offense produced -- that's not an exaggeration, either.
Losing him due to a lower-body injury not even halfway into the second period against Arizona could be a devastating blow to the Predators lineup for however long Fisher is out of action.
Driving the puck deep in the offensive zone alongside James Neal, Fisher grabbed a pass and attempted to press the play to the boards. Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal gave a bit of a push to Fisher, causing him to lose his balance and fall to his knees before slamming his entire right side into the boards.
Slow to get up, Fisher skated gingerly to the bench and went straight to the locker room -- not putting any weight on his right leg and having two of Nashville's training staff help him down the tunnel.
"It's a big loss," said Josi. "He's a leader on our team. He goes out there and works hard in every game and every practice. Hopefully it's not too bad."
He hasn't had the hottest start to the season, only five goals and two assists in his 24 games played, but the biggest thing that Fisher brings is his ability to drive to the net and cause havoc upon opposing netminders. None of Nashville's centers outside of Fisher have the same ability.
"Guys jumped around quite a bit," said Laviolette after losing Fisher for the duration of play. "We were juggling the lineup. [Jarnkrok] had a really good game, he was starting on the wing with Ribeiro and then he moved to the center for Mike. Colton Sissons got more ice time and more responsibility."
"We adjusted, we juggled and we managed, but certainly I think losing Mike is always tough."
With the Predators already without a true number one center to begin with, I'd expect them to start hunting around if they're without one of their best centers for longer than a handful of games.
When things finally start going right
Who would have thought a line comprised of Colton Sissons, Mike Ribeiro and Cody Hodgson would be the catalyst to start the Predators up in the third period?
As I've mentioned countless times before, it's been no state secret that Nashville hasn't had the best of luck trying to find the back of the net. Sometimes, though, it take being the recipient of a lucky bounce or two to get off that schneid.
Two minutes into the third period and down by a goal, Ribeiro found himself in the right place at the right time. Intercepting an Oliver Ekman-Larsson outlet pass in an attempt to clear the zone, Ribeiro strolled up to Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith and lasered a wrist shot past to tie the game at two.
Less than three minutes later, Filip Forsberg -- who's seemed just as snakebit as the majority of Nashville's offense -- circled around the entire offensive zone and sniped a shot through traffic to give the Predators their only lead of the night, one that they would hold for the remainder of regulation for the win.
It's a huge change of pace for a Nashville team that nothing has seemed to go right for lately.
"It was good to score some goals," said Laviolette. "The third period was good, but so was the first and second. They were no different. It can be frustrating when you're playing like that and not getting the results you're looking for. I was really happy we stayed with it, we didn't get frustrated, we didn't take penalties. We just kept our eye on the ball for 60 minutes. It was a real solid 60."
A game like that, especially when you're trailing in the third period, can do wonders for a team's confidence going down the road.
"We've been going kind of cold on scoring goals lately," said Josi. "Scoring five tonight was huge for us. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight; did the right things. We just couldn't score early on. [The goals] going in during the third was great for our confidence."
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators -- After scoring only two goals in his first 21 games, Forsberg has three in his previous three outings -- including a double-dose against the Coyotes. It always helps when he has eight shots on net.
Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators -- Ribeiro has had plenty of trouble of finding the back of the net lately, however his goal early in the third helped the Predators tie the game on the way to their second win in the past four games.
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators -- When the captain is producing, it's going to be a solid night for the whole team. Weber's three assists marked the sixth three-assist game of his career.