Predators Prowl: Mom’s Trip Ends Losing Streak

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 have played poorly in recent weeks. They entered this past week on a four-game losing streak and it took until their final game of 2018, a Dec. 31 road match against the Washington Capitals, for them to end said streak. Prior to that game, the Predators hadn’t scored more than three goals in a game since Dec. 13 when they netted four against the Vancouver Canucks. The game against the Capitals may have wrapped up the past week and rang in the new year on a high note, but the week didn’t start that way.

They dropped a Dec. 27 game against the Dallas Stars 2-0 despite a lopsided control of play. The Predators outshot the Stars 49-30, including 39-27 at five-on-five, and held a 28-20 lead in control of five-on-five scoring chances, although the Stars controlled six of 10 high-danger chances.

Although the Predators put plenty of shots on net, few were above low-danger quality, and Stars netminder Anton Khudobin stopped everything. Pekka Rinne, on the other hand, did not. On both Stars goals, he failed to make a save that he should have.

Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne Dallas Stars Jason Spezza
Pekka Rinne didn’t make the saves he needed to in the Predators’ first game back from the Christmas break. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

In the team’s next game, at home and against the New York Rangers, the Predators once again lost, this time by a 4-3 score, for a sixth straight defeat. They held a lead in this game and were up 3-2 entering the third period, but two Rangers goals proved to be the difference-makers. The Predators once again controlled five-on-five play, however, they gave up a power play goal and Rinne was beat by a shot he should have stopped.

On the bright side, they did score two power play goals for the fifth time this season. The strong play they demonstrated against the Rangers was carried over to their New Year’s Eve matchup against the Capitals.

Mom’s Trip a Success

In what was the team’s first mom’s trip, a change from the typical dad’s trip and following in the footsteps of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Predators players, coaches and staff members brought their moms along for the one-game road trip to Washington D.C. And if the team’s performance on that trip is an indicator, the team should make mom’s trips an annual event or even have more than once per season. Perhaps, based on how well they performed, they should just bring their moms with them all the time.

The Predators’ game against the Capitals may have been the team’s best performance this season. For one, their six goals marked a season-high and helped end their six-game losing streak. Plus it occurred against the defending Stanley Cup champions. Rocco Grimaldi, who has been playing well in a bottom-six role since his call-up on Nov. 25, scored his second goal of the season on a beautiful redirect.

They held a 34-25 shot advantage in all situations and at five-on-five, they controlled 31 of 54 shots, 26 of 50 scoring chances and 15 of 22 high-danger chances. They made a comeback in the game, down 2-0 and 3-1 before the halfway mark, before they pulled away to earn a 6-3 victory. Each of the Predators’ six goals was scored by a different player, four of the goals were on high-danger shots and their final goal was a Viktor Arvidsson power-play tally to give the team back-to-back games with a goal on the man advantage for the first time since early December.

In addition to scoring a season-high number of goals, the Predators tied a season-high in number of high-danger scoring chances and set a new high in number of five-on-five goals in a game. Their 68.2 percent control of five-on-five high-danger scoring chances was also their fifth-highest of 2018-19. Although making a big deal out of one game isn’t a good idea, it appears as though having their moms with them helped them play with a bit more passion.

Arvidsson and Subban Are Back

The other key theme of the week was the return of Arvidsson and P.K. Subban to the lineup. Both returned for the Stars game and had mixed results in the three games. With Subban on the ice, the Predators controlled less than 50 percent of five-on-five shots in two of three games and less than 50 percent of five-on-five scoring chances in all three. His time on ice increased each game since his return, skating 17:02 in the Dallas game and 21:48 against the Capitals.

Viktor Arvidsson Predators
Getting Viktor Arvidsson back from injury was important as he played a key role in the team’s 6-3 win over the Capitals. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What has been interesting is that upon his return to the lineup, Subban was partnered with Matt Irwin on the team’s third pair. Perhaps this was simply to insulate him in his first game back following a 19-game absence. However, that pair struggled as the team controlled less than 43 percent of shots and 28 percent of scoring chances at five-on-five with the pair deployed. In the two games since, Subban has been paired with Mattias Ekholm, his typical partner.

Unlike Subban, Arvidsson was put in his normal role immediately with over 21 minutes of ice time in every game back. In two of his three games, the Predators controlled over 50 percent of shots and scoring chances at five-on-five with him deployed. Against the Capitals, he registered an assist in addition to his power-play goal, giving him multiple points in a game for the fourth time this season and 15 points in 16 games in 2018-19.

The return of Arvidsson and Subban gave the Predators the jolt they needed to get past the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals and the team looked better than they have in a long time. If their return is a sign of things to come, the Predators should find themselves in the win column more often than not moving forward, which they’ll need given their tough schedule in 2019.

News, Top Performers, and the Week Ahead

The return of Arvidsson and Subban is great news, although the team’s injury list is still lengthy. Filip Forsberg remains on injured reserve with a hand injury, Colton Sissons joined him on Dec. 19 with an ankle injury and Yannick Weber went down with an undisclosed injury and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27. Kyle Turris also missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. The team recalled Nicholas Baptiste from the Milwaukee Admirals as a result.

Predators defenseman Yannick Weber
Yannick Weber was the latest Predator to hit injured reserve, which he did on Dec. 27 with an undisclosed injury. (Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)

The World Junior Championships are underway in British Columbia. The Predators have two players competing at them, Eeli Tolvanen with Finland and Jachym Kondelik with the Czech Republic. Vladislav Yeryomenko also represented Belarus at the U20 Division 1, Group A World Championship which concluded on Dec. 15. Top defense prospect Dante Fabbro, playing for Boston University, represented Canada at the 2018 Spengler Cup and helped his nation win a silver medal. To learn more about those and other team prospects, read my most recent Growing Fangs.

Related: 2019 World Juniors – Canada’s Smith Making Minutes Count

Top Performers

  • Kevin Fiala – 1 goal, 3 assists
  • Ryan Johansen – 1 goal, 2 assists
  • Mattias Ekholm – 3 assists
  • Nick Bonino – 2 goals, 1 assist

The Week Ahead

  • Jan. 1 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
  • Jan. 4 at Detroit Red Wings
  • Jan. 5 at Montreal Canadiens
  • Jan. 7 at Toronto Maple Leafs

*All stats from Hockey-Reference, Natural Stat Trick and Corsica