After the trade deadline, the Nashville Predators escaped a week that got away from them with a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. The team’s three-game road trip kicked off on the right foot with a big 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks, but disaster struck in their back-to-back against the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights.
Dropping both contests 6-1, it was clear the team was running on fumes after playing three games in four nights. With two days of rest, the Predators hit the ice in front of their home crowd and brushed off a shaky start to keep the game close against the Flyers before Tanner Jeannot’s 22nd goal of the season late in the third was the difference-maker.
With their 2-2-0 record from last week, Nashville now sits in third place in the Central Division and just four points back of the second-place Minnesota Wild. There won’t be room to breathe easily as both the St. Louis Blues and Golden Knights, both wild-card teams, are four points behind. Luckily, the Predators did get some help from the Blues, who have dropped their last two games, but April will be a busy month, and a losing streak could spell disaster for their playoff aspirations.
This week should be the calm before the storm. The Predators host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday before hitting the road to take on the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. A two-game schedule against two bottom-feeding teams is an opportune time to collect points and put some distance between themselves and the rest of the teams in the Western Conference. But as history dictates, no game is an easy win. Before we get ahead of ourselves, here are some of the top stories to come out of Nashville last week.
Predators Opt for Safe Route at Trade Deadline
While some of the top contenders in this year’s run for the Stanley Cup added big-name pieces to their squad at the deadline – like the Florida Panthers acquiring Claude Giroux from the Flyers – Predators general manager David Poile opted for the safe route. Jérémy Lauzon‘s arrival stabilizes the team’s bottom-pairing duo, but the price was high as they sent a 2022 second-round pick to the Seattle Kraken.
In his first four appearances with the team’s minor-league affiliate, Milwaukee Admirals, Lauzon failed to register a point, but he finished with an even rating. The most impressive sign is that he’s seeing more ice time as he gets comfortable, amassing 19 hits in four games and only taking one minor penalty.
Poile made two smaller trades before the 3 PM deadline hit, acquiring forward Brayden Burke from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Frédéric Allard and then adding defenseman Alex Biega for future considerations. Essentially, the Predators have put all their faith in the current roster, adding a bottom-pairing defenseman and depth for the Admirals. It’s doubtful either Biega or Burke will receive time with the big club, but Lauzon’s inclusion adds a physical edge that head coach John Hynes loves to utilize.
Related: Predators’ Struggles Were on Display During 3-Game Western Road Trip
The biggest takeaway from the deadline is that Poile did not add more salary than necessary. Lauzon makes $850,000 and will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season, and both Burke and Biega will become unrestricted free agents. The Predators need as much cap flexibility as possible as priority number one this offseason will be to re-sign Filip Forsberg. Keeping him past the deadline should mean they intend to keep the most prolific goal scorer in franchise history, and he won’t come cheap. It’s crucial that Poile signs him long-term, as losing him for nothing could spell the end of the Predators’ first and only general manager.
Jeannot’s Dad Power Leads to Gordie Howe Hat Trick
Dad power refers to a player who welcomes a child into their life and then follows it up by returning to action and tearing it up. Jeannot is enjoying a wonderful season, leading all rookies in goals and points while leading the NHL in fighting majors. On March 25, he welcomed Jayce Robert Patrick Jeannot into the world, and he will likely never forget his first game back. With the Predators and Flyers tied at four, Jeannot scored the game’s final goal with 1:19 remaining, giving his team the win. It was also his first career Gordie Howe hat trick, adding two assists and fighting Hayden Hodgson.
The fight was his 12th of the season, while his 22nd goal put him two ahead of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting for the rookie lead. Jeannot may not receive the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year, but he’s put himself in the conversation. He’s ranked fifth in points among rookies, but the three forwards ahead of him all play top-six minutes and receive ample time on the power play, while Jeannot is primarily used on the Predators’ third line. It’s almost certain the league will vote for Moritz Seider, who is becoming the Detroit Red Wings‘ top defenseman in his rookie season, but that Jeannot is receiving any consideration in a season with plenty of top-ranked rookies is an accomplishment in itself.
Jeannot brings an element to the Predators’ third line that has been sorely missed. His secondary scoring, paired with his tenacity and physicality, has made him a fan favorite in Nashville. The playoffs are made for a player of his ilk, and he should thrive and could help elevate the Predators’ chances at making a strong push towards their first franchise Stanley Cup.
Checking in on the Admirals
Milwaukee squandered a chance to put some space between themselves and the Rockford Ice Hogs last week, going 0-1-1 in a back-to-back series against the Texas Stars. They dropped their first of the two games 6-5 in a shootout, despite erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period to force extra time. Burke recorded an assist in his debut, and Biega registered a minus-3 rating. The following night, the two teams again kept it close, but the Admirals were unable to secure at least a point, losing 3-2 in regulation. In his last five games, alternate captain Cody Glass has six assists and a plus-1 rating.
Milwaukee plays the Ice Hogs to end the March before their schedule gets weird. April begins with three games in three nights, featuring a home-and-home series against the Chicago Wolves on March 1 and 2, and then they host the Grand Rapids Griffins on March 3. They’ll get two days off before continuing with three games in four nights, all of which take place at home. The back-to-back against the Wolves will be a good test for the Admirals, as they hold the top spot in the Central Division with an impressive 39-11-8 record. They also take on the Manitoba Moose twice, the only other team ahead of them in their division, so the next two weeks will be a good opportunity to prove their worth.
Luke Evangelista Reaches 50 Goals
When the 2018-19 Ontario Hockey League season ended, 17-year-old Luke Evangelista faced a tough reality. In 27 games, he had no goals and two assists, and it was clear that the London Knights’ first-round pick in 2018 struggled with the leap to major junior. Last season, he played in 14 games with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves but again didn’t register a goal. In his three seasons in the OHL and AHL, Evangelista had scored 23 goals, an underwhelming result for a player that the Predators drafted in the second round of the 2020 Entry Draft. However, he is turning things around this season and turning heads as the Knight’s captain.
Scoring his 50th of the season and 100th point, Evangelista became the first Knights player to accomplish this feat since Christian Dvorak did it in the 2015-16 season. The list boasts some big names, including Dino Ciccarelli and Patrick Kane, and gives Predators fans some hope that his progression might continue at this pace.
His 50 goals lead the OHL ahead of Wyatt Johnson, Brennan Othmann, and Jordan Frasca, who all have 41, and he’s third in points. Only eight of his goals have come on the man advantage, along with five shorthanded tallies. He also leads the league in shots by a wide margin, firing 292 pucks on net compared to second-place Ty Tullio with 267. At this pace, Evangelista is shaping up to be one of the brightest prospects in the Predators’ pipeline and one that could make a splash in the next couple of seasons.
Predators’ Quick Hits and Rumours
- Jeremy Lauzon switched his number from #72 to #3 after two games. He becomes the seventh player to don the number, joining Steven Santini, Seth Jones, Wade Belak, Marek Zidlicky, Karlis Skrastins, and Bill Houlder.
- Roman Josi was named the NHL’s first star of the week (March 14-20) after he registered nine assists in three games. Kyle Connor and Lawson Crouse round out the three-star selections.
- Speaking of Josi, the odds of him winning the Norris Trophy this season, according to Betway, is at 5.50. For comparison, Cale Makar sits at 1.20, Victor Hedman is at 8.00, and Adam Fox trails behind the pack at 15.00.
- One last note on Josi. As stated on the NHL Public Relations Twitter, he became the fifth defenseman in NHL history to reach 80 points in 64-or-fewer games. Paul Coffey and Bobby Orr achieved this six times, Denis Potvin did it twice, and Al MacInnis did it once.
- This past week celebrated the one-year anniversary of Tim Peel’s infamous hot mic accident that cost him his job. In his 26 years as an NHL official, he handled 1,362 regular-season games and 90 playoff games.
- Philippe Myers is still a member of the Predators’ organization. However, he has been loaned to the Toronto Marlies for the time being. This likely has to do with the future considerations in the Biega trade.
- The Predators called up Jeremy Davies on March 26, ahead of the game against the Flyers. In his third game of the season, he was a minus-3 and limited to 10:08 of ice time; probably not the defensive help Hynes was looking for.
- The Predators announced they’ve signed 22-year-old Jachym Kondelik to a two-year entry-level contract. The captain of the University of Connecticut leads all players with 33 points in 36 games this season and has made great strides in becoming a complete two-way player.