What they got was pretty much the exact opposite.
The New York Islanders continuously hemmed the Predators in their own zone and seemed to slip the puck through every available window of Saros’ net en route to a 6-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena.
It wasn’t pretty from the beginning for Saros, as he let a Jordan Eberle wrist shot squeak through the five-hole to open the scoring. In the second period, he let a Ryan Pulock blast by him on the power play and saw another Eberle shot find its way in the net. Eberle’s second goal was fairly similar to his first, as the puck trickled through Saros’ pads and just over the goal line.
Despite the goals Saros would probably want to have back, his teammates took full responsibility for being sloppy in front of him.
“It’s all our fault,” said Filip Forsberg, who had the Predators’ first goal of the game. “He can’t do anything about it. Just frustrating that we did that to him. He’s one of the best goalies in the world and his future is so bright. We’re so lucky to have him. We just can’t accept that we gave him up like that.”
This was Saros’ third start of the season and just his 23rd of his career. Meanwhile, Pekka Rinne has started the season on a tear, sitting in the top five in the NHL in goals allowed average and save percentage, and in the top 10 in wins.
When asked if he would benefit from more playing time in the NHL or even with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, Saros was noncommittal.
In Milwaukee, Anders Lindback has been playing some solid hockey, posting a save percentage of .909 and a 5-1 record.
Head coach Peter Laviolette was similarly noncommittal about Saros’ status.
“Right now, the direction that we’re going in, I think you get through the month of October and you assess everything and see where you’re at,” he said. “We’re actually going to sit down and have some meetings. Like I said, it’s hard to stick it on him. I don’t think we were very good in front of him tonight.”
“I think all goaltenders probably benefit more from playing than not playing. It’s a difficult role sometimes, especially when somebody’s on a roll like Pekka. There’s a lot of confidence in the room in Juuse. We’ve got to do a better job playing in front of him.”
Whether it’s #39 or #74 in net for the Predators in relief of Rinne when the Predators return home after the CMA Road Trip, it won’t be because of locker room support. The Predators know how special Saros will be, and they have his back.
“It’s tough,” Anthony Bitetto said. “I mean, he’s a kid who’s going to be a hell of a goalie in this league, I can tell you that. Coming in from a back-to-back after a big win in Chicago last night, it’s tough. I think he’s a competitor and battler, and I think he’ll help us.”
The Predators will hit the road to the west coast while the CMA Awards take over Bridgestone Arena.