The Nashville Predators preseason slate wrapped up on Saturday night with a 7-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena. The blowout loss was an unusual end to a preseason that had been fairly kind to the Preds.
There weren’t any major injuries of note, and there seemed to be some encouraging signs: the Predators beat the Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning twice; the power play showed signs of life; and team captain Shea Weber is looking like he shook off the knee injury he suffered in the playoffs.
However, Saturday’s loss to Columbus had some distressing signs. All-World goalie Pekka Rinne was lit up for seven goals and the team looked out of sorts against a team that could be a dark horse in the Metropolitan Division.
So this begs the question of how much stock Nashville fans should take in the exhibition season.
Nashville’s offense looked to be even better in year two of the Peter Laviolette system. The team looked faster than it did last season and seemed to be grasping more of what’s going on. These aren’t the same grind-it-out Predators.
The three-on-three overtime lines the Predators can put out are absolutely scary. Mattias Ekholm potted the game-winner in the 3-2 victory over the Lightning on Sept. 22. Nashville’s versatile defensemen can cause matchup issues for the opposition, as they’ve got guys like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Ekholm that are excellent puck movers on the backline. Add that to a group of solid forwards, and the Preds have one of the most lethal overtime units in the league.
Shea Weber seems to be at 100-percent following his offseason knee surgery. The captain was eased into the preseason by Laviolette and he showed off his trademark accurate shot with a power play-goal in the preseason. If Weber can stay healthy, he might finally get his hands on the elusive Norris Trophy. Weber on a retooled power play could be killer for the Preds.
Viktor Arvidsson and Austin Watson really stepped up in training camp and earned a place on the roster. Arvidsson and Watson managed to beat out 2014 first round pick Kevin Fiala for their respective places on the roster. Both did really well in Milwaukee last season, and their hard work has paid off.
It was disappointing to see former Kontinental Hockey League record-setter Steve Moses get sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. There was hope that he’d be another David Poile bargain-basement special that would help solidify a third line that needed some scoring punch.
Moses might still need a little time to adjust to the NHL game and the level of talent in North America. The move to the AHL could be a blessing in disguise, but some thought he was a nice little pickup and could be a steal in fantasy drafts. Moses could still contribute to the Predators, but Preds’ fans were hoping it would be from the start of the season.
I was also hopeful that Fiala would crack the roster, but sending down may be a similar move to what the club did with Filip Forsberg, key in allowing him to develop.
The loss to Columbus proved that things can pile up when a team makes mistakes against a good team like the Blue Jackets. Rinne had a very off night as he gave up seven goals to an opportunistic Columbus team. He made 26 saves before getting replaced by backup Carter Hutton with 5:50 left in the third period.
Nights like that don’t happen very often, but can be distressing to see in the last preseason game with most of the regular roster playing. Let’s hope this is a blip on the radar and not a trend.
The last game was a concern for Nashville, but there were some very good signs from this team. The Predators are projected to be back in the postseason, and they have a good chance to claim their first division title in franchise history. There’s reason for hope in Smashville.
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Covered hockey since attending SUNY Oswego in Upstate New York in the early 2000s. Has written about college, major junior and professional hockey for the last five years.
Resides in Watertown, NY.