On Monday, the Nashville Predators headed west for a three-game road trip against Pacific Division teams. An important six points were on the line as we move closer to the playoffs, but the Predators only earned two points. The week started out well with a 6-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, but after that, 12 goals slipped passed goaltenders Juuse Saros and David Rittich. As a result, Nashville fell 6-1 to both the Los Angeles Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights.
Forsberg Shines in Anaheim
Filip Forsberg, whose future in Nashville is in doubt, ended the night with five points (2 goals, 3 assists) against the Ducks. All but one of his points came in the third period when the game was knotted up at two goals. Forsberg lost the puck in the offensive zone and then showed tremendous vision when he created a turnover to get the puck right back. He skated in all alone and beat John Gibson short side with a fantastic individual effort.
Forsberg also assisted on Matt Duchene’s goal — the eventual game-winner — on the power play a few moments later. He saw Duchene coming around from behind the net and sent the puck in his direction. Duchene then showcased his talents with a quick between the legs shot. Then, when the Ducks thought they would get back into it midway through the third, the Duchene and Forsberg show went back to work on the power play. This time, Forsberg sent a pass from the right faceoff circle to a wide-open Duchene for the one-timer.
This was the best performance by the team on the road trip. Special teams played well, converting on 3/5 power-play chances, as well as a perfect 4/4 on the penalty kill. The defense gave Saros the the support he needed and allowed him to stop 25 of 28 shots
Slow Start Stifles the Predators in La-La Land
Three first-period goals by the Kings were too much for the Predators to overcome. Adrian Kempe, who ended the night with two goals, opened the scoring just over three minutes in, and Rittich let in three goals on the first eight shots of the game. Nashville was simply outplayed in the first. Their lone goal came off the stick of Philip Tomasino for his 10th goal of the season. However, LA continued to lay on the pressure, and two goals by Quinton Byfield and another from Kempe finished off a dominant performance.
Related: Predators’ Roman Josi Should Be a Norris Trophy Favorite
It was in this game that we began to see the breakdown of special teams and the lack of defensive support. Special teams were atrocious in this one. The power play failed to produce anything on their two chances of the night and even gave up a short-handed goal. The penalty kill was only at a 50% success rate as well, while the defense was often out of place and didn’t give Rittich the support he needed, making some pretty awful turnovers in the defensive zone.
Josi Continues His Point Streak in Sin City
Another slow start in Vegas proved to be the Predators’ downfall. Golden Knights center Mattias Janmark scored just 1:31 into the game, and it was an uphill climb from there. Nashville finally found the scoreboard on the power play when Roman Josi found Forsberg with a perfect pass in front of the net. The assist moved Josi’s point streak to 12 games and tied his career-high. He finished the road trip with four points (1 goal, 3 assists) and continues to force the Norris Trophy voters to recognize his play this season.
Other than Josi, there weren’t a lot of positives to take away from this one. The struggle on special teams continued, with three power-play goals against while converting on only one power play of their own. The defense isn’t off the hook either. Their failure to clear the puck out of their own zone and allowing 50 shots on net gave the Golden Knights too many high-quality scoring chances.
Bright Spots From the West Coast Swing
Forsberg played very well during the trip despite all the talk about his future with the team. He put up six points (3 goals, 3 assists) and showed just how much of an asset the ten-year pro from Sweden can be. The only other bright spot would be that the St. Louis Blues have also dropped two of their last three games, so Nashville hasn’t lost any ground as they try to move up from a wild-card spot into one of the top three seeds in the Central Division.
Predators Must Be Better
After two slow starts on this west coast trip, the Predators have a lot to work on before they take on the Philadelphia Flyers this coming Sunday. The penalty kill wasn’t good, the powerplay was ok, and the defense did not give the goaltenders a lot of support. As teams reach their playoff form, if this road trip is any indication of how Nashville will perform in the playoffs, we may see a first-round exit from a team that started the month of March red hot.