The Predators Prowl is a weekly post on how the Nashville Predators performed the previous week. Generally published on Tuesdays, Predators Prowl isn’t a recap of games, but rather a look at the themes, news and rumors that occurred throughout the week. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on how the team performed this week, your views on the week’s themes and any other ideas or questions you have about the team.
Related: Last Week’s Predators Prowl
The Predators closed out this week by going 3-1-0 and leapfrogging the Winnipeg Jets. They currently have a one-point lead on the Jets for the Central Division lead, although the Jets have three games in-hand, and are third in the Western Conference. Although the Predators were blown out in one matchup this week, they appear to be finding their game on a more consistent manner. That’s great news. Also of note, this week featured the NHL trade deadline, where general manager David Poile was busy.
The Week that Was
The Predators opened the week with a road matchup against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. Naturally, Anton Khudobin was in net for the Stars as he has been in four of the five games between the two teams this season. After the Predators dropped two of the first four matchups and sneaked out their two victories via overtime, it appears they exorcised their Dallas demons in the final game of the regular-season series by way of a 5-3 win.
It was another tightly-contested game between Central Division foes as the score went back-and-forth. Brian Boyle scored his second goal as a Predator, Filip Forsberg added a tally and Roman Josi netted two, including an empty-netter to seal the deal. Additionally, Rocco Grimaldi scored his fifth goal of the season as he skated around Miro Heiskanen as if he were standing still and then used his hands to score a goal in tight.
Two nights later, the Predators beat the Los Angeles Kings at home for the second time this season. This time it was by a 2-1 score as Kyle Turris netted a power-play goal for his first score since Dec. 22. Josi added a goal 46 seconds into the second period, as well.
Another two nights later, the Colorado Avalanche shut out the Predators 5-0 in an early evening battle, continuing their struggles in games with early start times. The game also illustrated their problems when facing the Avalanche as they’ve gone 2-2-0 against them this season. It was death by a thousand paper-cuts for Nashville who were only down 1-0 after the first period. However, the Avalanche scored two goals in the second and two more in the third to cap off the victory.
The Predators’ penalty kill let them down as they allowed two power-play goals. They were also burned by Nathan MacKinnon’s two goals as he continued his destruction of the Predators, now with four goals and two assists in four games against them this season. Luckily for Nashville, it was the final time the two teams see each other in the regular season.
To close out the week, the Predators hosted the Edmonton Oilers who were missing Connor McDavid as he was serving the second of his two-game suspension. Matt Donovan played in his first NHL game since 2014-15 following his call-up from the AHL and the Predators only dressed 11 forwards due to parting with Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman at the trade deadline. The result was Donovan and Matt Irwin playing less than 10 minutes and Josi, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm all with at least 23 minutes.
The Predators eked out a 3-2 shootout win after Forsberg and Boyle scored in rounds three and four and Pekka Rinne stopped three of four attempts he faced. Nashville controlled five-on-five play but gave up a shorthanded and power-play goal, both scored by Leon Draisaitl. Subban tallied two points, a goal from distance and an assist. Colton Sissons and Grimaldi both continued their strong play in recent weeks.
Predators Finding Their Game
Although the Predators were shut out 5-0 by the Avalanche, if you remove that matchup, they found their game this week in a more consistent manner than they have in recent weeks. This means playing a patented Peter Laviolette style in which they clog up the neutral zone, limit shots against their goaltenders, exit the zone quickly and attempt breakout passes that lead to odd-man rushes.
They did this against the Stars, Kings and Oilers and they won all three, even if all were close games. Turris and Subban appear to have recovered from their lengthy injuries and both played great at various points this week. Plus, Rinne bounced back from the debacle versus Colorado to earn a win against Edmonton. Yes, injury concerns remain and question the team’s depth, but the core is gelling at the right time, plus there are the trade deadline additions who should help.
Trade Deadline Activity
Poile made two big deals before the 3:00 pm trade deadline on Monday. First, out of nowhere, he acquired Mikael Granlund from the Minnesota Wild and gave up Fiala to do so. It was a big price to pay, but Granlund is a dynamic two-way forward with a proven track record, plus has one year left on his contract while Fiala is a restricted free agent this offseason.
The other trade was acquiring Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers. The Predators were connected to Simmonds throughout the deadline season and Poile pulled the trigger and gave up Hartman and fourth-round pick to made the deal. That’s a far cry from the first-round pick and a prospect that Simmonds was speculated to be worth.
Both players should have big impacts on the Predators. Simmonds will be a net-front presence guy and will bring a physical element to a team lacking one. Meanwhile, Granlund excels in all situations and plays a game similar to that of Forsberg. Simmonds should be in the lineup tonight against the St. Louis Blues while Granlund’s arrival will be delayed by several days due to the birth of his child.
News, Top Performers and the Week Ahead
- Subban scored his 400th career point with his goal against the Oilers. He reached that mark in 628 games.
- Craig Smith was placed on injured reserve on Feb. 21 with a lower-body injury.
- Dan Hamhuis was placed on injured reserve on Feb. 25, also with a lower-body injury.
- The Predators traded Nicholas Baptiste to the Toronto Maple Leafs for future considerations.
- Roman Josi: 3 goals, 2 assists
- Ryan Ellis: 3 assists
- Kyle Turris, P.K. Subban, Rocco Grimaldi, Filip Forsberg and Calle Järnkrok all had 2 points
The Week Ahead
- Feb. 26 – at St. Louis Blues
- March 1 – at Winnipeg Jets
- March 3 – at Minnesota Wild
*All stats came from Hockey-Reference