Dropping a season opening game is never fun, especially when that game goes into a shootout. But the Nashville Predators have a lot to be proud of in their opening loss to Columbus as they move forward in the season.
The Predators did well out-shooting the Blue Jackets 34-28 by the end of the game, and lead in faceoff wins (37-32) and takeaways (11-4). They were also able to capitalize on their lone power play of the night to add another tally on the scoreboard. As far as the physical play went, both teams ended the night with 21 hits.
However, the glaring numbers after the game were Nashville’s lost pucks. They gave 11 loose pucks to Columbus while the Blue Jackets only gave away four opportunities. Almost three times as many loose pucks as their opponents will, no question, lead to more scoring opportunities. If more pucks were handled by Nashville, Columbus’ shots and scoring opportunities drop, and the scoreboard might as well.
After the game, Nashville Coach Barry Trotz referred back to the shortened season, and lack of pre-season, as to his team’s rocky start. There’s no doubt that those early games help players in the locker room get their emotions, muscles, and team chemistry under control, but those games also allow the coaches and front office find ways to best utilize the talent on the roster. Those were missed chances due to the lockout. Now Nashville has to scramble faster to get those loose ends tied up.
But credit does go to Nashville Captain Shea Weber. Nashville fans know as well as he does that there is a lot of pressure on him to support and represent his team and he was willing to do that right at the start of the season. Evidence can be seen in his scrap with Columbus’ Jared Boll in the second period. That tussle was more that just a message in the game, it was a shout out to Weber’s teammates and fans that he will do what it takes to represent his team well. Regardless of the games outcome, message received.
From there, the Predators carried their momentum when they faced the St. Louis Blues, and again went into a shootout. Yes, it’s disappointing to lose in a shootout, but Nashville was showing strong signs of resiliency during a stressful schedule. Nashville topped the Minnesota Wild the following night and things were starting to look promising for the Preds. However, a tough game two days later, their first on the road, would seem to halt Nashville momentum in it’s tracks as the Predators lost again to the Blues, 3-0.
Only three more games in January and the Predators need to regain that momentum they had when the season started. Shootout loses are hard to swallow, but they show that teams are evenly matched and can compete for the full 60 minutes, and then some. Those are strong signs for a team that was on shaky ground during the lockout. Once the confidence is gained in the locker room, Nashville has the potential to string some wins together and turn heads around the league.
David Schauer is an award-winning writer who has been published in both print and digital media hundreds of times. He has written breaking news stories, features and editorial columns along with sports articles. He has also been involved in organized hockey for over 20 years.