The Week That Was: Chapter 21
New faces, and games in tough places. Also, let’s try to jolt somebody back to life.
Some things change, while others stay the same.
Right now, that could very well be the mantra of the 2018-19 Nashville Predators.
The past week brought some of those changes in the form of two major trades designed to help bolster a stagnant offensive unit and power play, and perhaps help with team chemistry down the line as well.
Oddly enough, the Preds won the game immediately after those trades were made (though neither Wayne Simmonds nor Mikael Granlund were available to play yet), then lost the next two in Simmonds’s and Granlund’s debuts, respectively.
Time will tell if these trades — which resulted in the departures of Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala — will ultimately improve the roster, but in the short term, Nashville’s increasingly-impatient fan base will have to watch the chemistry build and hope the Preds work toward peaking at the right time. Just like two years ago.
Though they’re not scrapping just to get in the postseason — it’d take a total collapse in the final month for them to fall out of the playoff picture — they’d be better served putting a run together quickly and snatching the Central Division for themselves, leaving Winnipeg and St. Louis to bludgeon each other in the first round of the playoffs.
It can be done, but certain guys had better snap out of it (more on that below), and fast.
The Fast Money Round
Monday: Predators 3, Edmonton Oilers 2 (shootout)
The Connor McDavid-less Oilers nearly stole two points in Nashville. Of course, what can you reasonably expect in a game where you have to dress Matt Irwin at forward? Forget the specifics — getting two points in any way, shape or form was huge.
Tuesday: St. Louis Blues 2, Predators 0
A lot of griping over the refs. What should be griped about more was that the Preds were thoroughly outplayed with the exception of Juuse Saros’s outstanding effort. All that outrage is wasted energy that could have been better used. Take care of what you can take care of, then put the officiating on blast later.
Friday: Winnipeg Jets 5, Predators 3
Blown opportunity. Simple as that. That four-point swing could decide who plays St. Louis in the first round.
Sunday: Predators 3, Minnesota Wild 2 (shootout)
That goal from Filip Forsberg couldn’t have come at a better time. Is it the spark that sends him on a late-season tear? We didn’t really get Filbruary, but we might get our Fil in March. Also, it’s not a good idea to let an inferior team on the second half of a back-to-back control play after you score.
Player of the Week
For his work between the pipes both in St. Louis (where he kept it from being 7-0 or worse) and in Minnesota (where he helped them hang on to get two points), Juuse Saros takes the honors this week. He really needs more starts down the stretch.
Favorite Thing of the Week
The Granlund trick: trade, kid, birthday. It’s over a two-day span, but what a week.
Idea of the Week
Kyle Turris looked better on Sunday, but I still think he needs to sit out a game. He’s not been great this season when he’s been in the lineup. Injuries are one thing, but he hasn’t been consistently good at all and it’s hurting the second line tremendously.
Apparently that second line was statistically good on Sunday. Maybe getting Granlund and Craig Smith with Turris is just the elixir he needs to get going. If not, then maybe he needs a night off. At the moment, I’ll keep him in. For now.
On trades and stuff
I was all-in on Mark Stone, but it seems like David Poile wanted to stick to his guns when it came to no-movement clauses, and good for him. By doing so, he set the groundwork for future deals for Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and others that’ll get contract extensions in the near future.
Adding Simmonds and Granlund will make this team better, in a few games. They do need some time to really work with their new linemates. Perhaps actual improvement on the power play could happen.
(Note: I reserve the right to change my mind at any time, because people nowadays seem to think that someone simply changing their mind is not possible.)
I hope Kevin Fiala does well in Minnesota. He has talent, but he really, really needed a change of scenery. To me, I think he put so much pressure on himself to perform that it manifested itself into the dressing room. It can happen. A guy can try so hard — too hard, in fact — and bring others down a bit. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, though.
Ryan Hartman gave us some moments, but can anyone really pin down his role? No, and Peter Laviolette couldn’t, either, so he was expendable. I do wish him all the best, though.
I’m excited about seeing Granlund work his way into a pivotal role on that second line. It really could pay dividends down the line. And the power play looks better with him on it, because of his willingness to move away from the puck and not stay stationary.
Simmonds’ edginess was on display against the Jets and that will be needed moving forward. Perhaps that move negates the need to have Cody McLeod in the lineup again (but they will find some way to put him in, probably at Rocco Grimaldi’s expense — which, again, should not happen).
This week’s grade
This team really still hasn’t put together a 60-minute effort this year, and I know we all wonder what that might look like. They showed some resiliency in Minnesota, bouncing back from a very bad second period and rough start to the third. But the St. Louis effort was bad and blowing that lead in Winnipeg was worse. And it took shootouts to win both games. Since I’m only grading on-ice play, the trades themselves won’t factor into the weekly grade — which, given the results, isn’t great, Bob. It’s completely average, which won’t cut it in five weeks. This week’s grade: C+
Who’s your Player of the Week for Week 21?