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 had a full slate of games this week with four games on the ledger, including back-to-back matinees on Saturday and Sunday against the St. Louis Blues. They went 2-1-1, which is good, but they dropped both games against the Blues to close out the week. They currently sit second in the Central Division, two points behind the Winnipeg Jets and 10 points up on third place.
They opened the week with a home game against the Arizona Coyotes having lost both matchups against them earlier in the season thanks to solid goaltending performances from Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill. The Predators weren’t stymied in this one, however, as they overcame a 1-0 first-period deficit and scored three goals in the second en route to a 5-2 win.
Two nights later they hosted the Dallas Stars having lost their two most recent games against the Stars thanks to excellent goaltending from Anton Khudobin. He was strong in net in this game, too, but the Predators found a way to put three behind him, including the overtime game-winner from Ryan Johansen, who beat Khudobin glove-side with a wicked wrist shot.
Predators Acquire Brian Boyle
The game against Dallas also marked Brian Boyle’s debut with the Predators after general manager David Poile acquired him on Feb. 6. Poile landed the 34-year-old center from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2019 second-round pick. This trade made a lot of sense, as I discussed in my analysis of the trade.
The Predators needed additional center depth, they have a right-shot heavy forward group, and Boyle is a left-shot, and they have struggled to establish a net-front presence this season, something his 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame can help with. Additionally, with Austin Watson’s suspension, Boyle’s physicality and grittiness replaces that which was lost with Watson’s absence.
Starting with his first game as a Predator, Boyle immediately got to work making life difficult on opposing netminders as he parked himself in front of the crease on the power play and at even strength. In his three games since the trade, Boyle hasn’t registered a point yet, but has put six shots on net.
Furthermore, at five-on-five, he has generated at least one individual scoring chance in each of the last two games. After playing on Kyle Turris’ wing on the second line in his first game, Boyle has since centered the fourth line with Ryan Hartman and Cody McLeod.
Tarasenko Victimizes Predators in Both Games of Back-To-Back
For all the positivity that acquiring Boyle brought, it was quickly tamped down thanks to the team’s struggles against the Blues. In what should have been two winnable games against a team struggling to get back into the playoff discussion, the Predators lost both, although they did earn a point in Sunday’s overtime loss.
It started on Saturday with the Predators getting outplayed in every way as they were out-shot and out-chanced and Pekka Rinne struggled in net. But that was an away game, and losing to a streaking team on the road on a Saturday afternoon isn’t a big deal. So they turned their attention to Sunday’s game, where they’d be at home and would have the goaltender advantage by pitting Juuse Saros against Jake Allen.
None of that mattered, however. The Blues jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the first period. The Predators eventually tied it up 4-4 in the third period and the game went to overtime. Unfortunately for the Predators, it took 16 seconds to end the game as Vladimir Tarasenko beat Saros with a perfectly-placed shot. It was a continuation of hot play for Tarasenko as he scored four goals in the two games, including a hat trick on Sunday.
Perhaps it was the early start, something they’ve struggled with this season with a 2-4-1 record in afternoon games. Well, unfortunately, afternoon games are a reality in the postseason, and they’ll need to get up for them to win rounds. Maybe it’s that they don’t play the Blues well. There’s merit to that given their 1-2-1 and minus-seven goal differential against them this season. If that’s the case, the Predators need to overcome their struggles because they play the Blues one more time in the regular season, a road matchup on Feb. 26.
There’s also a possibility that they’ll face each other in the postseason if St. Louis continues its climb up the Western Conference standings. Either way, whatever the reasoning is for it, the Predators need to figure out a way to consistently earn wins in all situations, including afternoon games, and against the Blues.
News, Top Performers and the Week Ahead
In addition to acquiring Boyle, the Predators also traded for McLeod on Feb. 6 from the New York Rangers, sending a 2020 seventh-round pick the other way. He was a Predator last season before the Rangers claimed him off waivers on Jan. 25.
In an AHL transaction, the Predators sent Emil Pettersson to the Coyotes for forwards Laurent Dauphin and Adam Helewka. In 49 games with Nashville’s AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, Pettersson had 11 goals and 33 points. Dauphin appeared in one NHL game this season and 34 AHL games where he had six goals and 20 points. Meanwhile, Helewka had 13 goals and 31 points in 41 games.
- Roman Josi: 2 goals, 5 assists
- Ryan Johansen: 2 goals, 4 assists
- Viktor Arvidsson: 3 goals, 1 assist
The Week Ahead
- Feb. 12: vs. Detroit Red Wings
- Feb. 14: vs. Montreal Canadiens
- Feb. 16: at Vegas Golden Knights
*All stats from Hockey-Reference and Natural Stat Trick