Predators Weekly is my series on how the Nashville Predators performed the previous week. Generally published on Tuesdays, Predators Weekly isn’t simply a recap of games, but rather my takes on said games and the themes that emerged 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 Weekly
The time has finally arrived. It’s the last week of the regular season. The Predators are now tied with the St. Louis Blues for second in the Central Division, and the Blues hold the tiebreaker. Both teams are two points back of the Winnipeg Jets, and all three have played 79 games.
Last week, the Predators went 1-1 against two playoff teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets. Once again, the Predators didn’t put forth consistent efforts and it’s a recipe that will spell disaster in the playoffs. On a positive note, Viktor Arvidsson had a great week after reaching a career milestone and tying a franchise record. Plus, Dante Fabbro made his NHL debut. Both will be discussed, but first, the week that was.
The Week That Was
The Predators opened the week with a road matchup against the Penguins, just eight days after the two teams played in Nashville. That game ended in a 2-1 shootout win for the Penguins after the Predators made a third-period comeback. The March 29 game had a different storyline and better outcome for the Predators and their fans.
They went up 1-0 less than two minutes into the game on Craig Smith’s 20th goal of the season. Arvidsson tacked on a power-play goal in the second and P.K. Subban put it away with a goal late in the third. Nick Bjugstad scored late in the third to pull the Penguins within two goals, but it was too little, too late as the Predators held on for the 3-1 win. Pekka Rinne turned aside 42 of 43 shots and Smith and Subban both had two points in what was a great game in all ways.
The next night, the Predators welcomed the Blue Jackets to town and Juuse Saros got the start after missing the previous game with an illness. Perhaps he hadn’t recuperated from being sick and shouldn’t have played in this one, but Saros never really gave the team a chance, letting in five goals on 32 shots.
Cam Atkinson scored to put the Blue Jackets up 1-0 less than a minute into the first period. Arvidsson scored a shorthanded goal to tie it at the 8:50 mark, but two more Columbus goals in the period, including a dagger with three seconds left, largely put the game out of reach. Filip Forsberg netted his 27th of the season in the second period, but two more Blue Jacket goals made it 5-2, which held for the game’s duration.
Viktor Arvidsson’s Big Week
Arvidsson scored two goals this week. His tally against the Penguins was his 32nd of the season and the 100th of his career. In doing so, he became the 11th player in Predators history to score 100 career goals. Arvidsson reached the mark in 274 games, the second-fastest Predator to do so after Jason Arnott.
The next night, against the Blue Jackets, Arvidsson scored again. That goal gave him 33 for the season, tying him with Arnott (2008-09) and Forsberg (2015-16) for most goals in franchise history in a single season. With three games left, it seems a safe bet that Arvidsson will establish a new franchise record. His .60 goals-per-game mark this season is the highest in franchise history among players with at least 25 games played. It’s also second in the league this season, behind only Alex Ovechkin’s .65 mark.
Arvidsson’s 33rd goal of the season (the 101st of his career) passed Steve Sullivan’s 100 goals and he now sits 10th all-time in franchise history. He is five behind Patric Hornqvist and Scott Hartnell for eighth on the list and six behind Arnott for seventh.
Dante Fabbro’s Debut
In last week’s Predators Weekly, I discussed that Fabbro was forgoing his senior season with Boston University and joining the Predators. Since then, Fabbro has signed his contract, a three-year deal with a $925,000 cap hit and performance bonuses attached the next two seasons. He also made his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets on home ice after traveling with the team to Pittsburgh.
Considering it was his first game of professional hockey and he’d just played a college hockey season, Fabbro looked comfortable. He didn’t register any points, was a minus-one and had three shots on goals in 16:12 of ice time. He played on the third pair with Dan Hamhuis in his return from injury and even saw time on the penalty kill. Fabbro displayed his strong skating, as well as his ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone.
Even though Fabbro didn’t score, he and Hamhuis looked better together than Matt Irwin or Yannick Weber have on the third pair this season. Head coach Peter Laviolette needs to stick with this defensive lineup and give Fabbro playing time down the stretch. He’s the best option to be Hamhuis’ defense partner and therefore gives the team the best chance to win.
News, Top Performers and the Week Ahead
- With his assist against the Penguins, Ryan Johansen became the third Predator ever to total 50 in a season.
- Craig Smith hit the 20-goal mark for the fifth time in his career. That ties him with Filip Forsberg for most 20-goal seasons in franchise history.
- Goaltender Troy Grosenick was recalled from the AHL on an emergency basis due to Juuse Saros’ illness. He was returned after the Penguins game.
- The Predators recalled Miikka Salomäki and Austin Watson from the AHL. Both players were there on a conditioning stint.
- P.K. Subban – 1 goal, 2 assists
- Craig Smith – 1 goal, 1 assist
- Viktor Arvidsson – 1 power-play goal, 1 shorthanded goal
- Pekka Rinne – 1 game played, stopped 43 of 43 shots, .977 save percentage
The Week Ahead
- April 2: at Buffalo Sabres
- April 4: vs. Vancouver Canucks
- April 6: vs. Chicago Blackhawks
*All stats came from Hockey-Reference