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Predators vs. Wild Plus/Minus: No Defending the Defense, Tomasino Oh So Close

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Photo of Luke Screen by John Russell/Nashville Predators

As good as the Nashville Predators had played during their six-game win streak, they performed equally as poorly in their 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.

The Predators never recovered from a slow start in which they surrendered a goal six minutes in and allowed two quick goals just 31 seconds apart in the final six minutes of the first period. Things couldn’t have gone any worse for the home team in John Hynes’ Nashville return.

With every game you take the good with the bad. Unfortunately for Nashville, the bad far outweighed the good.  Here’s a look at what went right and what didn’t for the Predators in Thursday’s loss to Minnesota. 

(-) Defensive structure (or lack thereof) 

Around the halfway point of the game last night, I wrote: “The defensive play by the Predators has been rough, to put it mildly.”

Nashville’s defensive effort against Minnesota was similar to how the team performed at the beginning of the season when it was trying to adapt a new system and didn’t quite know where to be or when to do what. Roman Josi, Ryan O’Reilly and head coach Andrew Brunette didn’t pull any punches in discussing how the game was a failure to execute on all levels.

The Predators experienced similar struggles at the start of the year — getting spread out too much defensively, allowing numerous odd-man rushes, D-pairings playing too wide and getting split. Thursday was an example of all-around ugly execution. There were no positives to take away from the defensive side of the game. We’ve seen Nashville execute, so the ability to do so is present, but the defensive woes have shown their ugly face and can cause serious issues, as we saw Thursday.

(+) Philip Tomasino and Juuso Parssinen

Tomasino had multiple scoring chances against the Wild. His back-door shot right into goaltender Filip Gustavsson’s glove a few minutes into the game (video below) had the potential to really set the tone had he scored. 

He had another beautiful opportunity midway through the second period (video below), splitting the Wild defense on a breakaway after O’Reilly found him skating through the neutral zone and dished him the puck. Tomasino had the ability to potentially spark a comeback with Nashville trailing 4-0, but his shot hit Gustavsson’s pad and bounced into the corner.

 

We are well aware of Parssinen’s physicality on the boards with the puck on his stick. But he could stand to improve his ability to drive to the net after making a strong move. His strength and stick-handling are top-notch, but if he can learn to make that final push, he’ll hold onto the puck more often as he arrives at the net. Finding that final stride would put him in the conversation with Filip Forsberg as a top-tier finisher. The silver lining is he’s almost there. Parssinen scored a goal on Thursday — his fourth of the season on a deflection. That’s not his M.O., but it’s a good sign that he’s making progress.

(-) Luke Schenn

I’m not sure if you can have both a positive and minus here, but I’m doing it anyways because there were some positives to Schenn’s game last night. He’s a physical force, and his presence is most certainly noticed when he gets a body on a player, but the reason the Predators have been dressing 7 defensemen is abundantly clear: Schenn is simply not yet ready from a conditioning and positioning standpoint.

Missing significant time in the NHL shows, and the injury to Alex Carrier likely forced Schenn into playing in more situations than Brunette and the coaching staff would have liked. The bread and butter of Schenn’s skillset is his physicality and leadership, not his speed. The worst of Schenn’s game was revealed in Minnesota’s fifth goal (video below).

And here’s another angle. 

(+) Luke Schenn

Though Minnesota certainly exposed Schenn’s flaws, the 34-year-old blue-liner did do some thing right. The best decision he made was when he dropped the gloves with Marcus Foligno knowing that the Predators were quickly falling out of the game and they needed something to inject some life into the building.

Schenn wasn’t signed to be a top point producer, he was signed to be a physical force and make his presence known while leading and protecting his teammates. In a difficult playoff series or late in the season and fighting for a playoff spot, Schenn could be good to have in the lineup. I’ll be the first to tell you when it’s time to go in a different direction, but a veteran player coming back after an 18-game injury absence is bound to make mistakes when thrown into a position that neither he nor the team anticipated him being in. Thursday was just Schenn’s fourth game of the season. It may be a little premature to start giving his spot away just yet.

(-) Alex Carrier’s Injury

Approximately 7:30 into the first period, defenseman Alex Carrier left the game with an injury after suffering a hit to the head from Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov. Carrier did not return and Brunette said he found the hit to be “predatory.” If Carrier goes to IR, Nashville has some decisions to make with two available spots on its 23-man active roster needing to be filled.

Carrier finally appeared to find his game this season, and being out any amount of time will be a tough loss for the Predators lineup that recently got Ryan McDonagh and Luke Schenn back. Though the players had some strong feelings on Kaprizov’s hit after the game, I would’ve liked to have seen them take issue with Kaprizov in the moment.

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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