The Nashville Predators found a way yet again to check another box in the win column despite not playing their best hockey in Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Bridgestone Arena.
Filip Forsberg scored the game-winning goal 18 seconds into the extra period. Of Nashville’s three overtime wins this season, Forsberg has scored the game-winner twice, both of which came in less than 20 seconds.
With every game you take the good with the bad, so here’s a look at what went right and what didn’t in the Predators’ win Tuesday night.
(+) Juuse Saros
You cannot discuss Tuesday’s victory without mentioning the 28-year-old Finnish goaltender. Saros has undoubtedly heard the murmurings about his play to start the season, but all of that was drowned out by the epic roars from the fans and the Predators’ bench when Saros made save after save against the Flyers.
During post-game, the players expressed exactly how much they believe in their man between the pipes. Gustav Nyquist admitted that “Juice kept us in it.” Michael McCarron called Saros “a stud.” And Kiefer Sherwood, despite having a great save himself, admitted that he was “sure Juice would have still saved it.”
Saros conceded two goals on 39 shots (a .949 save percentage), but even those two goals weren’t entirely his fault considering the plays that led up to them.
On the first goal, the Flyers had just killed a Predators penalty when Joel Farabee exited the box to spread the ice behind Ryan McDonagh (playing on the left) and Juuso Parssinen (playing on the right), resulting in an odd-man rush on an errant Parssinen pinch at the Predators’ offensive blue line.
The second goal arose from a controversial no-call on Travis Konecny when he took down Nyquist from behind to steal the puck and enter the offensive zone. The play resulted in another odd-man rush with the Flyers trialing defender burying the rebound.
While analytically the game is not considered a steal by Saros because the expected goals against was 1.95, according to Natural Stat Trick, and Saros conceded two, the eye test would disagree with this technicality. Saros most certainly stole the game last night. While the Predators had flashes of dominant hockey, look to the final 10 minutes of the game, there would have been no W to add to the victory column without No. 74.
(-) Power Play
The Predators power-play units went 0-for-3 in one of the more glaring issues that the team has been struggling with over the last few games in particular. While the team captured a goal on the power play in Montreal, the struggles to enter the zone have been abundantly apparent. Against the Flyers, Nashville managed three shots on the three attempts with all three coming in the first period.
The biggest struggle with the man-advantage has been the zone entry. Once the team is set up in the offensive zone, ittends to produce a large amount of pressure and scoring chances. The goal of the power play under head coach Andrew Brunette has revolved around the man teed up in the high slot once the puck is pushed to the side boards or down low.
This position has become occupied by Colton Sissons on the first unit with Cody Glass, seeking to find his way back, appearing on the second unit Tuesday. I do not see problems with the personnel, but there are some issues with creativity when it comes to entering the zone. I would watch this closely to see what Brunette tries to implement knowing that the in-zone play has not been horrible.
Here’s an example of the more successful zone entries and the subsequent time in the offensive zone below. As you’ll see, the zone entry was successful but not pretty by any means. Ordinarily on this soft drop-pass at the blue line, the puck is lost.
(+) Penalty Kill
The penalty kill units have been fantastic of late, executing at 100% (4-for-4) again on Tuesday. While Saros has had a big say in this success, the structure has been sound from the skaters as well. The forward units are ordinarily Yakov Trenin with Ryan O’Reilly and Cole Smith with Colton Sissons. In my opinion, any defensive pairing could tackle this task of intense shot blocking and exiting the zone quickly and frequently.
The most impressive aspect of the PK lately has been the succinctness and unity of the structure with the typical four-man box not being as rigid as some teams make it. The box is more fluid with the two defensemen staying low and stepping up for support, if needed, and then the two forwards pressuring the opposing defenseman while also being more staggered and, oftentimes, with one forward in front of the other who is then in front of the two defensemen.
While the PK unit may not be as strong statistically without the recent goaltending performances, I still find the structure to be encouraging with few very clear chances being provided. Nashville is due a quick break on the penalty kill for a sound offensive scoring chance each game as exhibited by Cole Smith last night.
(All video clips courtesy of the NHL YouTube channel)
Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10