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Nashville Predators

Predators vs. Canucks Plus/Minus: Saros Off His Game, Defense Exposed

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Predators goalie Juuse Saros
Photo of Juuse Saros by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Given their 13-3 run over the last 16 games, the Nashville Predators had to come back down to earth at some point.

That’s exactly what happened Tuesday night as the Predators suffered a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena.

Jeremy Lauzon and Cody Glass scored the lone goals for Nashville and goaltender Juuse Saros was relieved by Kevin Lankinen in the third period after allowing five goals on 24 shots.

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’ loss Tuesday night.

(-) Bottom-four defensive pairings

While Juuse Saros is just as much at fault for many of the goals the Canucks scored, the defensive play in front of him certainly didn’t help. At 5-on-5, the Jeremy Lauzon and Alex Carrier pairing allowed two goals, 12 shot attempts — 11 of which were unblocked and 10 were on goal — and they had the second-highest on-ice expected goals against (.812).

But as bad as Lauzon and Carrier were together, the Tyson Barrie and Luke Schenn pairing was far worse. The duo allowed two goals, 10 shot attempts against (9 unblocked and on goal) with the worst on-ice expected goals against on the team (.988). Most nights, Saros is good enough to mask spotty defensive play. When he’s not on his game like he was against Vancouver, he needs better effort from two of the three defensive pairings in front of him.

(Photo courtesy @hockeystatcards on Twitter)

(+) Philip Tomasino all over the ice

Tomasino was all over the ice against Vancouver, tying for the team lead in shots on goal (3) and shot attempts (6). His 15:31 of ice time was also the most he’s had in a game since Nov. 30 against the Minnesota Wild. Head coach Andrew Brunette has said as long as Tomasino keeps getting scoring chances, he’s confident the goals will come. Tuesday is an indication that Tomasino is doing all the right things.

Per Money Puck, Tomasino had the highest expected goals in all situations (0.36) of all Predators skaters and the second-best expected goals percentage (65). When paired with Cody Glass and Cole Smith after Michael McCarron was given a game misconduct, Tomasino’s line produced the highest on-ice expected goals for of any of the team’s other lines (0.367).

(-) Allowing multiple goals in rapid succession

For the second time in the last three games, the Predators have allowed multiple goals in rapid succession multiple times. After allowing the Hurricanes to score 19 seconds apart in the second period and 1:50 apart in the third period on Friday, the Predators did it again.

This time, Elias Pettersson and Nils Aman scored with 31 seconds of each other in the first period, followed by Nils Hoglander and Pius Suter scoring 46 seconds apart in the second period. Nashville has traditionally struggled with letting one or two quick goals against balloon into a bigger problem, and the team appears to be falling back into old habits again.

(+) Cody Glass scores his first of the year

Aside from one bad play where Quinn Hughes stole the puck from him and got off a shot on goal, Tuesday was the kind of game that Glass needed to start building his confidence. Sure, his goal came with 12 seconds left in a blowout, but it was his first of the year and just his second point in 15 games.

Glass had the second-best expected goals in all situations behind Tomasino (0.33) and third-best expected goals percentage (52.6). Brunette mentioned after Tuesday’s practice that he wants to see Glass play with the puck more and create a rhythm. He seemed to do both Tuesday night.

(-) Juuse Saros off his game

Saros has been the hottest goaltender in the NHL since Nov. 11, the last time he allowed five or more goals in a game. But against the Canucks, he put forth another uncharacteristically bad performance, surrendering five goals and logging his fourth game of the year with a save percentage below .800 (.792).

His finished with a goal saved above expected of -2.92 and he surrendered two high-danger goals on four high-danger shots. Heading into Tuesday’s game, Saros led the NHL in wins (10) and ranked fifth in both save percentage (.928) and goals-against average (2.20) over his previous 12 starts.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_