Before the exhibition game with Dallas I wrote the following about the keys for the Nashville Predators fate in the qualifying series…
• Defensive questions - It is ironic that a team with such a history of excellent blueliners has this question in front of them. Obviously the top pair of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis are above question, but after that, the pairings get… shall we say… interesting. Mattias Ekholm has had an excellent season, but Dante Fabbro has shown his inexperience… the talent is most definitely there and last season’s playoff experience should help tremendously for this young defenseman. The third pairing? Pick between Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber, Korbinian Holzer, Jarred Tinordi, or Alexandre Carrier… The pairing of Holzer and Tinordi seemed to be cementing a place as the third pairing in late February, but now… who knows?
• Reunited and it feels so good – Head Coach John Hynes put the JoFA line back together in camp and frankly… I have identified this line as a real key to the Predators playoff success. Prede Nation has seen this line be absolutely dominant at times… and now, this team needs Ryan Johansen to be the pot stirrer, Filip Forsberg to be the physical sniper and Viktor Arvidsson to be the epitome of Arvy Hustle… that happens… and this team goes deep.
• Between the pipes - This is where heart and head get into serious conflict, and today’s performance may determine who gets the start come Sunday, that being said… Juuse Saros did have a slightly better camp than Pekka Rinne… Rinne has the experience, but Saros may get the nod. The changing of the guard is afoot in Smashville… but I believe both of these players will be needed if Nashville makes a run.
In looking at those three things, I missed an important one. Discipline. When the Preds have shown discipline, they have won, when they lacked it… well… you got Sunday’s loss. But in yesterday’s win over Arizona, the team showed drive, hustle and a commitment to initiating, not retaliating, resulting in a 4-2 win.
Now the attention turns to today’s all-important game three.
The Predators have gotten the goaltending they have needed from Juuse Saros and the JoFA line has been a force, defensively… well… the third paring has not been phenomenal and late breakdowns cost Saros a shutout yesterday, but overall it has been solid.
The JoFA line? They have six points in two games and four of the Predator’s seven goals. Forsberg has been a force, Johansen has shown a little snarl and Viktor Arvidsson’s goal from yesterday’s game two was vintage Arvy Hustle. The JoFA line’s performance has opened up opportunities for the other lines and we saw that pay off with goals from Bonino and Jarnkrok yesterday.
So… what about today.
Does head coach John Hynes go with Juuse Saros in the back-to-back? Does he make the move to veteran Pekka Rinne? In this observer’s opinion… you go with Saros, on a short leash in a critical game three in this best-of-five. ON the other side of the aisle… does ‘Yotes head man Rick Tocchet make a change? Kuemper has been good… but how will he fare in a back-to-back situation.
Lather, rinse, repeat… that needs to be the Predators game plan today… come out with some fire and take Arizona’s heart early. First goal has been crucial in this series so far. Game time is 1:30pm CDT with pregame at 12:30pm on the Predators flagship 10-2.5 the Game… pregame on Fox Sport Tennessee starts at 1pm. Game coverage starts at 1:30 on both media.
Nashville businesses should be prepared for a productivity drop today, starting at about 1:15pm and lasting until at least 4…
Random Notes – Presented by
- Congrats to the Bunch of Jerks… Carolina swept the Rangers in a series that wasn’t even close.
- Critical game threes today… Islanders/Panthers at 11am, Preds.Yotes at 1:30pm, Penguins/Habs at 7pm and Oiler/Hawks at 9:30pm.
- The only team with a chance to move forward today is the NY Islanders, they lead their series with Florida 2-0.
- There is a pretty cool “Inside the Bubble” blog on NHL.com from NHL Chief content officer Steve Mayer and Event EVP Dean Matsuzaki… worth a read.
SlapShot Radio is back for our summer season as Zack, Brent and I are on Monday night’s at 7pm. The best hour of hockey talk on the longest running hockey show in the southeast … Join us Mondays at 7pm on 102.5 the Game.
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