So, the Nashville Predators have closed out the second month of the season, and the word of the season for this team is inconsistency. February started off with probably the lowest point of the season, and then they ended the month with some big wins that one would hope get the season moving forward. As time is running out and the number of games is getting shorter, the Preds need to get moving in the right direction, otherwise, they’re going to be too far back in the Central Division.
With that said, we (myself and my fellow Predators’ writers here at The Hockey Writers) found the three stars of the month of February and we will get into those inconsistencies.
3. Eeli Tolvanen
Tolvanen got the recall from the taxi squad on Feb. 18, and since his return, he has had two goals (both on the power play), and an assist in the six games since returning. The first-round pick from the 2017 NHL Draft is finally getting the opportunity, time and development he deserves, and he showing why he is worth the high selection. He’s been playing very well since the line changes Predators’ head coach John Hynes has made, and the addition of him on the power play has been part of a pretty great surge after a pretty awful start. There were other very worthy candidates of the third star (Pekka Rinne has turned back the clock, and Erik Haula has been great on a much-improved penalty kill), but the young kid really deserves it for the spark he has provided the team.
One thing about Tolvanen is that he has left a very good impression on his teammate on the power play, Filip Forsberg. If you’re making a good impression on the leading scorer for the team as well as the captain, Roman Josi, then you’re definitely doing some great things here. We are really hoping we can see more of what Tolvanen can do going forward. If he can get more opportunities, he can definitely seize them.
2. Roman Josi
The captain, Josi, has navigated this team through the low points of the season and has given the team the leadership it needs through what has been a highly difficult first two months for this team that has not met the expectations of many of us whatsoever. Josi is second on the team in total points (13, two goals and 11 assists), but as much as he has done distributing the puck to score goals, he is an offensive-minded defenseman, and that mindset to score goals has not been there as it has been in the past with Hynes’ defensive preferred mindset. If he can do more to get more goals and get his offense going, that will make this Predators team a much better one going forward.
To expand on Josi’s leadership throughout this rough season is the fact that he is giving the conversations and answering the hard questions on the disappointment this team has faced. (from ‘Where has the Predators’ luck gone? Here’s how they’re trying to make their own,’ Tennessean, 02/28/2021) Not being able to beat the teams that they should be able to beat, and even losing and squandering games to the bottom feeders of the division. After a tough loss to the defending champion Lightning, a closed-door meeting was had to get things out, and we have seen better play since.
1. Filip Forsberg
It was a no-brainer to say that Forsberg was the Predators’ best player not just for February, but for the whole season, quite frankly. He leads the team in goals (nine), assists (10), and points (19), and he is the closest thing to a consistent goal scorer that the team has right now. Being that he has a contract that is pretty friendly to not just his team, it could be a potential bargaining chip for a team that is looking to contend, should Nashville decide to be sellers. But with a great close to the month of February having them, they’re still eight points behind the Blackhawks for the fourth and final spot in the Discover Central Division.
Forsberg has been playing well with Mikael Granlund at center since Hynes made the changes with the lines, something that my THW Preds writer Wray Perkin alluded to a few weeks ago. The line changes have seen to benefit the team and they are playing with more energy, and Forsberg is definitely reaping the benefits of these new changes, so there’s a lot to look forward to, even with the team getting wrecked with injuries to start the month of March.
The month of February started off horrendously, going 1-4, and having the aforementioned closed-door meeting when they got trounced by Tampa Bay 6-1. From that point, they were mediocre record-wise, going 5-3, but they also played with a renewed sense of pride and energy. The power play, which was lacking, improved tremendously, and the penalty kill that was not too much better, has improved as well. Also, the line switches on the forwards were beneficial, and new additions are finally stepping up with the opportunity given to them. As our panel of Predators writers alluded to on THW Live, this is a sprint to the finish, so the slow starts and fast finishes really have to stop and the consistency has to be maintained if they want to make it to the playoffs.
Nashville Predators writer. Graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and Northeastern University. Been into hockey since NHL 94 and not knowing what I was doing to having a pretty good idea of how to play. Based in Nashville since 2015. Sharks fan.