The hype coming into Saturday night’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Edmonton Oilers wasn’t just about the new “Golden Saturday” featuring gold helmets worn by the Predators. Connor McDavid, the 2015 first overall pick, was in the house and still looking for his first NHL goal. With other rookies like Jack Eichel, Max Domi, Noah Hanifin and Dylan Larkin notching their first goals already, McDavid was still looking for his. Again, he wasn’t able to find the back of the net. It wasn’t something the Predators developed a strategy for, but they were certainly aware of it.
“I think it’s just stop all of the players,” said Roman Josi on the strategy for the game. “They have a lot of good players that can put the puck in the net. Obviously, Connor is one of them. He has great speed and he’s such a great player to watch, so I’m glad he didn’t score his first against us.”
Compared to opening night on Thursday against Carolina, the team was much more pleased with the effort in Saturday night’s contest. Even though they were outshot 31-26, Nashville didn’t allow the Oilers to build a fluid attack at any time during the match up.
“It was good,” Josi said of the team effort. “We battled really hard. I thought we played a really good first period. They came out flying a little bit with a couple power plays, but we played really well after. They have a lot of skill and speed. I think we handled that pretty well.”
Throughout the first two games, the Predators have taken eight penalties. While they have been able to kill each one, taking five against any team, like they did against Edmonton, is like playing with fire.
“It’s not good to take penalties like that against good players like that,” said Josi. “Great job from the penalty kill, and obviously Pekka was unreal again.”
In the first two games of the season, Rinne has faced 57 shots and stopped 56 of them. Not a bad start at all.
“I don’t think he can impress us anymore,” chuckled Josi. “He does it every night. He was great in the first and he was unbelievable tonight too.”
On the other side of special teams, it seems like there are still some issues being worked out with the power play. Chances were being generated, but they still want to improve.
“I thought the first one was pretty good,” said Josi. “We had a lot of chances, but it just didn’t go in. I thought it was a good power play. The second one at the end there wasn’t very good, we couldn’t get in the zone, so we have to work on that. Overall, in the first two games, I think the power play worked out pretty well.”
With 80 games left to go in the regular season, there is still a lot of hockey to be played, but winning the first two at home is always good for the confidence of a team. Nashville will now go on the road for three straight away games to face the Devils, Islanders and Senators.
“Playing those first two games at home, you want to take care of those home games,” said Josi. “We did a great job last year in the first half taking care of those home games and it’s huge for us and our fans. It gives us the confidence to go on the road.”
Post game video with Pekka Rinne:
Post game video with head coach Peter Laviolette:
Photo Credit: Christina McCullough