Here we are Nashville Predators fans. The season we waited all summer for has started. The Predators dropped the puck Thursday evening facing their division rival St Louis Blues. The Preds then flew out of St. Louis and headed to the Mile-High City. Friday night, the Preds faced another division rival in the Colorado Avalanche.
The Nashville Predators lost both of these games and of course, there are lots of opinions about the team already. Well, I’m going to give you my opinion about why I’m not worried.
Let’s start with Thursday’s bout with the Blues. The Predators started off decent, but a couple of misplayed opportunities and they quickly went down. All told, Pekka let in 3 goals on 6 shots. Sorry fantasy owners. Pekka was pulled and all of Preds Nation took a collective deep breathe as Carter Hutton entered the game. Hutton had played less than stellar during the preseason and only had one NHL game under his belt. Someone forgot to tell Carter Hutton these points. Hutton entered the game, and the entire tempo changed. Here’s reason number one I’m not worried: Hutton did an excellent job reading the puck. Hutton came in early replacing a star goaltender; a situation that could easily play tricks in the mind. Hutton seized the chance and played a solid game. Hutton stopped 21 of 22 shots faced.
Another reason this game wasn’t as bad as it seemed, was the way the team stayed in it. “Resilience” is a term thrown around often regarding the Predators, and down 3-0 they never gave up. The Predators managed to score 2 goals on Jaroslav Halak. As a matter of fact, the Preds actually outscored the Blues 2-1 once Hutton entered the game. This was actually a fairly solid start to the season, barring the first 10 minutes of the game. Seth Jones and Mattias Ekholm were paired together and finished a +2, for you stat folks. Not bad from such a young pair.
Moving on to Friday night where we witnessed another hard-fought game. I would say across the board this team looked better. Pekka did a much better job following the puck and the team created some great chances, but here’s where the character shines. About 10 minutes into the 2nd period Steve Downie lays a hit on Roman Josi. Josi goes down against the boards. Immediately, Gabriel Bourque and Shea Weber rush to Josi’s aid. Bourque actually arrives first and hits Downie with the body, and Weber joins in. Now, Shea ends up with a four minute penalty here, and Downie only two. But, when you have a team that will fight and stick up for each other, you have chemistry going. The Preds also could have completely lost all discipline at this point, and didn’t. This shows the growth and maturity of the team.
Downie was a thorn in the side of the team, all night. The team never lost composure. During the third period, Downie and Nystrom tangled, and the officials broke it up. Personally, I felt, they should have gone ahead and let it go to break some of the tension on ice. Based off Twitter, I think Nystrom would agree. Unfortunately, the NHL did not think Downie deserved any further action. To wrap it all up, here’s a recap and few more quick hits about the positives I see in the Preds:
- Never say die attitude
- Carter Hutton shows he can perform at the NHL level
- Team discipline
- Mike Fisher is playing incredible, easily our best player so far.
- Paul Gaustad is still master of the faceoff.
- Seth Jones is playing great. Not too many “rookie mistakes”
- Pekka doesn’t seem to be having any major lingering issues with his hip
- Eric Nystrom has fit right into the “Predators hockey” style
- Fisher/Nystrom/Spaling have some great chemistry and playing top line minutes very well, lots of chances.
Finally, we are two games in, with 80 left to play. There are lots of new faces, and new rules. It will take some adjustments, but I think we look at this team at the 10-15 game mark and really see where we stand. The Preds will be back in the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday. I will have an amazing belly ready so I hope all the fans are ready to get loud and proud for the team.