The Nashville Predators may have been late to the party at the 2016 IIHF Worlds, but two players got their hands on medals as Ryan Ellis helped Team Canada take the gold over Juuse Saros and Finland. Canada blanked Finland 2-0 in the gold medal game.
Ellis, who had really come into his own this season as a second-pair defenseman with his partner Mattias Ekholm, was able to cap a solid season by winning the gold. Saros continues to show the promise that he might be the next Finn in the Nashville net once Pekka Rinne ends his time in the Music City.
Ellis and Ekholm Excellent Additions
Thursday’s game between Canada and Sweden at the 2016 IIHF World Championships was unique for Predators’ fans as defense partners Ellis and Ekholm faced each other with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
Both suited up for their respective countries after the Predators lost in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinal to the San José Sharks. Ellis and Team Canada got a convincing 6-0 win against the Swedes and booked a date against Team USA.
Ellis may only have had a single point in his first three games, but he saved some of his best work for last when he got the game-winner in Canada’s 4-3 victory over Team USA. His blistering shot gave Canada an early lead in the third period.
Ekholm’s stay in the tournament was only a short one as Canada eliminated Sweden, but the soon-to-be 26-year-old did score on the power play in the Tre Kronor’s 4-1 loss to host Russia in the last preliminary game.
The Predators’ second defensive pairing could have taken a pass on playing in the tournament after going through two rough seven-game series. However, they both made their way across the Atlantic Ocean and immediately participated for their respective countries.
Saros Still Shining
Saros had been over in Russia since day one, helping a dominant Finland squad as they earned a second-place finish. The Milwaukee Admirals early elimination from the AHL postseason made that possible. The 21-year-old netminder didn’t get a lot of time in net thanks to the great play of Mikko Koskinen, but Saros had a pair of shutouts in the two games that he appeared in.
The young Finn wasn’t the number one goalie, but was unbeatable in his two starts at the tournament. Saros only had to save 13 shots against an overmatched, but plucky Hungary on May 11. Sometimes a goalie’s job is much tougher when he doesn’t have a lot of work, but the 21-year-old kept Hungary off the board in the 3-0 win.
Saros again seemingly had an easy night as he only needed to stop 14 shots in the Finns’ 5-0 blanking of Slovakia on May 15. He collected his third shutout at the Worlds dating back to last year’s tournament when he beat the Czech Republic. Saros still hasn’t been scored upon in his IIHF Worlds career.
The Verdict on the Predators at the 2016 IIHF Worlds
It’s been a short tournament for Nashville players, but they did get some hardware to take home. Ellis was the perfect addition for a Canadian squad that needed that little push to get over the top and bring home the gold for the second straight year.
At the end, Ekholm didn’t medal with Sweden, but Saros collected a silver, while Ellis got to take home the gold to cap a solid season.
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.