From an offensively charged battle royale to one that only saw two regulation goals, it was a completely different style of game for the Nashville Predators in their 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tuesday’s game against Ottawa that saw 12 total goals was very different from Thursday’s contest against Toronto that, for the most part, saw play get pushed outside and the puck bounce weirdly on the ice. For the first 40 minutes, neither team had tremendous offensive chances and shots were only 14-12 in favor of Toronto after the second period.
“I think it was definitely a feeling out period,” said Sissons on the early slowness of the game. “We don’t see each other all that often. Pucks were kind of bouncing everywhere, and there wasn’t much flow. It was tough to get anything going.”
During much of the game, it seemed like the ice was giving both teams a little bit of trouble as well.
“I’m not the guy to ask, I just got up here and I don’t know the patterns of the ice,” said Sissons on the ice conditions being a little choppy. “It sure kind of seemed like that. Pucks were bouncing a lot on us, especially through the neutral zone. It was just kind of chaotic.”
Overall, the game was very tight, and that’s something that Sissons said the team expected coming into it tonight.
“We actually knew coming in that it was going to be a tough game, tight checking,” said Sissons on Toronto. “They’ve been playing really good hockey, so getting one point against a team that’s playing that well is not a terrible thing. We’ve got to look positively here.”
At times, it again seemed like the fourth like of Sissons, Watson and Bourque were generating the most opportunities for the Predators. Their physical style of play on the forecheck, as was seen Tuesday evening, helped them keep the puck in the offensive zone. Even in limited minutes, only 10:06 for Sissons on Thursday, he and his line were still able to contribute.
“I think we all just stay focused in the game and we stay engaged,” said Sissons on how his line is able to generate chances in limited time on the ice. “It’s easy to sit on the bench and fall into a lull, but we haven’t been doing that. We’ve been ready to rock and roll when our name gets called, and we’ve been doing a good job.”
Through two games, the trust level that Sissons has gained from the coaching staff is tremendous. He’s noticeable on the ice.
“It’s been going great so far, feeling stronger about my game,” said Sissons about his two games in Nashville this season. “The whole fourth line has been solid and had some good chemistry. I like the way things are going, but it’s too bad we couldn’t get two points tonight.”
Part of that trust includes gaining time, again, on the penalty kill unit.
“It’s awesome,” said Sissons on getting penalty kill time. “I think that the penalty kill allowed me to get some more minutes on the ice. It allowed me to be more involved in the game. If they have the trust in me, that’s huge.”
One thing that has certainly helped in the adjustment to the NHL and the penalty kill is that Sissons, the captain of the Milwaukee Admirals, has gained plenty of special teams experience with his role there.
“He was good and he’s been using that role down there [in Milwaukee],” said head coach Peter Laviolette on Sissons. “It so happened that we have a couple of penalty killers out of the lineup and Fisher was sitting in the box twice tonight. That made an opening for a guy like him to get some ice time. I thought he did a really good job. He’s played well since he’s been here. He’s reliable at both ends of the ice. He can generate some offense and he’s good defensively.”
With two fourth liners in Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom missing time, it’s giving Sissons a great opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff. Even in the loss, he’s going to make it difficult for Nashville to send him down.
Of note, Thursday night was Shea Weber’s 700th NHL game. Weber notched the only goal for the Predators in it. Both Sissons and Weber played their junior hockey with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League and it’s been very special to Sissons to be able to play with Weber.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Sissons on Weber getting a goal in his 700th game. “I grew up idolizing him. He was a legend in Kelowna, so it’s awesome to be by him and those milestones. Playing alongside him on the ice is a cool experience for me.”
Post game video from Peter Laviolette:
Photo credit: Christina McCullough