It’s Halloween in the National Hockey League and the Nashville Predators have been a treat to watch this season with a 7-1-1 record in its first nine games. The defense and goaltending have been top-notch, while there has been scoring from many contributors.
However, there have been a couple of things that reminded them of the feeling that Charlie Brown had when he continued to get rocks while trick-or-treating. However, Predators fans really haven’t had that much to complain about so far this year.
This list will delve into three tricks and three treats so far this season for Nashville. The Preds look like one of the scariest teams on the block, and the Bridgestone Arena is looking as intimidating as “The Last House on the Left” or 33 Mockingbird Lane.
The tricks are obvious ones, while two of the three treats might be a little under the radar.
The Loss to the Islanders
It’s the only regulation loss that Nashville has suffered, but it still stings. The Predators were enjoying their first trip to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Oct. 15, as they got out to a 2-0 lead after goals by Austin Watson and Filip Forsberg. Usually a two-goal lead is a pretty secure one for Nashville.
However, the Islanders fought back and managed to rattle off four consecutive goals and then managed to hold off the Predators for a 4-3 win. Thomas Griess settled down to help the Isles overcome the Predators with 44 saves.
The loss did not sit well with Nashville (and former Islanders) coach Peter Laviolette.
“It was our best game of the year by a mile,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Worst result of the year. Just a couple good bounces for them. Tough ending, tough result.”
The Predators have gotten contributions from most of their forward groups. Depth was an early concern for Nashville, but the fourth line of Eric Nystrom, Paul Gaustad and Watson have been playing solid-checking hockey and adding a few goals here and there.
However, the third line has been a bit of a headache. Cody Hodgson is continuing to struggle like he did last season in Buffalo with the Sabres. There’s been a rotation of players to go with Calle Jarnkrok and Hodgson. Some thought Steve Moses would be an answer, but he’s still trying to readjust to the North American game.
Gabriel Bourque has still been a solid penalty killer and Jarnkrok did get the game winner against San Jose. Hopefully that kickstarts this group.
Milbury and the Seth Jones Extension
I did watch most of the Predators’ 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night, but I had stepped out in between periods. Little did I know, that commentator Mike Milbury “broke the news” of Seth Jones signing an extension at $3 million for three years.
All hell broke loose on Twitter, and the extension was quickly debunked.
Milbury went 0 for 3 on that.
Wrong dollar amount.
— Dan D Bradley (@DanDBradley) October 29, 2015
I wish I had stuck around during the intermission to see what all the fuss was about. I’m sure general manager David Poile and Nashville fans would have loved to have gotten Jones at that price, but it was not to be.
I’ve made mistakes before, but it was a real slip up by Milbury in goofing on that information.
The Defense Not Resting
The Nashville Predators defense already came into the season with a lot of hype, but the team is not resting on its preseason laurels. Roman Josi has been handing out assists and his partner Shea Weber looks like he’s back to his old self again after his playoff injury.
Barret Jackman and Jones have gelled as a partnership that’s helped Jones round out his offensive game, and the underrated pair of Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm is probably the best third unit in the league. (Ekholm was rewarded with a six-year contract extension.)
Let’s also not forget how well Pekka Rinne has played in net. He’s acting like a top-five goaltender, and gives the defense confidence in case it falters. The Preds have done a great job of building out with their team strength, and it’s rubbing off on the rest of the team.
A Great Start
Nashville knows that a good start was needed to keep pace in the rough Central Division. It did the same thing last year before things fell apart later in the year with the lack of scoring depth and injuries. The depth issue has been somewhat corrected by the strong play of the fourth line.
This year’s team is mirroring the start of the 2014-15 squad as it has seven wins in nine games, and points in eight of nine. Only the Dallas Stars have matched the Predators fast start, but some wonder if the Stars can sustain their blistering pace of goals and late-game comebacks.
Nashville is built for the long grind of the regular season, and hopefully for a sustained playoff run. Defense and goaltending do win titles, and the Preds have that in spades.
It was nice to see the national media start to acknowledge how good this team really is. Keith Jones, Liam McGuire and Milbury were gushing about the strong defense and how good Rinne is. Nashville is not the most well-known market in the league, but they’ll be on the lips of casual hockey fans if they keep this up.