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Nashville Predators

Predators v. Devils Plus/Minus: Saros Shines, Defense Falters (Again)



Photo of Juuse Saros by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Former Nashville Predators captains Tom Fitzgerald (now president of hockey operations and general manager of the New Jersey Devils), Kimmo Timonen, Shea Weber, and Mike Fisher were in the building Tuesday for captains’ night with Jason Arnott and the late Greg Johnson being honored as well.

Unfortunately for the Predators, the festivities wouldn’t last for long as the Devils left Bridgestone Arena with a 4-2 win.

With every game you take the good with the bad, so here’s a breakdown of what went right and what didn’t during the Predators loss to New Jersey:

(+) Juuse Saros

As trade rumors heat up, Saros put on his best face for one of his more likely suitors. He saved 43 of 46 shots (the 47th shot was an empty netter) and had a 2.05 saves above expected on 5.053 expected goals against, according to Money Puck. If the Predators were able to pull off a victory, this would have been a stolen game of epic proportions.

Tommy Novak stated in postgame that Saros’ impressive performance is what kept the team in the game late.

“Yeah, he was great,” Novak said. “So many big saves, especially in the first to come out there with zero goals was amazing, obviously. He played great.”

For those advocating a Saros trade, last night most certainly caught general managers’ attention across the league, especially Fitzgerald. Saros may be having a down year by his standards, but when he’s on, it’s difficult to not appreciate his elite status. The Finnish net minder was in vintage form and was one of the few positives to take away from the loss.  

(-) Defensive-zone coverage

There’s no particular moment to analyze from this game as the defensive-zone coverage was abysmal all night. The Devils were faster and won every battle, especially in the corners and on the boards. The Devils’ speed became evident in the fast breaks and their dominance along the edges, especially in the offensive zone.

At times, the eye test and the analytics can diverge, but last night they were in sync. The Devils had 42 scoring chances and 23 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. While Nashville scored first and showed signs of life from time to time, it was never truly in the game when it came down to the chances for versus the chances against. 

Roman Josi didn’t mince words during postgame.

“We got what we deserved,” he said. “They were a faster team I thought out there. They won more battles. It’s frustrating, really frustrating.”

Head coach Andrew Brunette echoed his captain’s sentiments, calling the performance”sloppy and slow.” During Monday’s practice, Brunette was visibly upset with the performance and effort the team was putting forth, and he mentioned this fact last night.

“It kind of started yesterday at practice and carried over into tonight,” Brunette said. “It was leaky all night. The only reason it was where it was is [because Saros] played unbelievable. [The Devils] were way more desperate than we were for some reason. You know, they played the night before and had more energy than we had. So there’s a lot of things that were extremely disappointing.” 

There’s not much further analysis needed than that. 

(+) Power Play

Both power plays showed signs of hope that could, perhaps, provide some type of positivity out of this game. Nashville’s movement of the puck was fantastic on the shift leading up to the power play goal.

Offensively, there were moments of creative life. I thought Tyson Barrie was strong again, showing what many in the NHL know he can do. Watch him move with and without the puck on this shift that led to the first goal. 



The games don’t get any easier down the stretch. The Predators host the Dallas Stars to Bridgestone Arena on Thursday night.

If Tuesday night’s performance becomes a trend, the Predators are in for a tough February no matter how great Saros may play. General manager Barry Trotz has some decisions to make. The question is, will the team make them easy or difficult? 

Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10

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