I had the absolute pleasure of seeing this game live and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint. These are arguably the two best teams in the NHL and they played like it. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I wanted to take a second to acknowledge some great performances according to my eye test. The entire first line was awesome, even if Forsberg’s goal probably wouldn’t have beaten a regular NHL starter. Roman Josi was a monster at keeping the puck out of his end, and Kevin Fiala made the most of the minutes that he was given.

These two clubs are so fun to watch, I truly hope we get a seven-game series between them in the Cup Final.

Forsberg-Johansen-Smith

Ryan Johansen is, once again, almost a point per game player. His tip on Smith’s shot was insane, and he got a nice secondary assist on Forsberg’s goal. Otherwise, this line was relatively quiet. They looked more concerned with stopping the Lightning, especially as the third period began.

But George, how could a line that produced two goals only get a “C+” grade? Well, it’s mostly because they were pretty bad outside of those two goals. They received quite a bit of offensive zone shelter and mostly saw the Lightning’s second line and defensive unit, but got caved in, in terms of high danger chances. They only produced one while they gave up three.

ships n tripsJohansen was the best non-goalie Predator last night. His play in the offensive zone seemed decent, but his defensive play was exceptional. He did a good job of minimizing passes to the middle, even if his defense and wingers did little to support. All in all, this line let two or three plays define their entire game, and sometimes, that’s enough.

Oh, also, before I forget, Johansen’s non-catch between his legs is so reminiscent of Mario Lemeuix’s sweet through the legs pass in the Olympics. I guess Johansen is all about recreating Hall of Famers legendary passes, like he did with Joe Thornton’s a few weeks ago.

Jarnkrok-Turris-Hartman

Hey, Kyle Turris scored a power-play goal. It was a good shot, even if it was something Domingue should’ve had. Turris producing on the power play isn’t surprising at this point, this is where the majority of his production has come from over his many seasons in the NHL.

The whole line was actually pretty solid, which was a sight for sore eyes.

capitol-ins-2The line’s minutes started to fade near the end of the game, which didn’t make much sense to me. Turris isn’t that great in his own zone, but Calle Jarnkrok is possibly the best defensive forward the Predators have, meanwhile Hartman keeps proving that he’s good at exiting the defensive zone with possession.

Nevertheless, the second line won the possession battle but broke even in terms of high danger chances. They only produced one, but also only surrendered one. Hartman had the line’s only high danger chance, but he could’ve had a few more. His breakaway attempt in the first period was excellent, but his use of speed and physicality was a nice presence on the second line. I wouldn’t be surprised if his performance keeps getting better as his ice time grows.

Sissons-Bonino-Watson

The third line didn’t have an easy assignment, they were tasked to shut the opposition down and they did a good job through two periods. The third period is where things started to go wrong, but that can be said for the rest of the team so I won’t give the trio too much guff.

All in all, it was a good night for the third line. While they didn’t produce anything on the scoreboard, their score sheet stats were quite nice. Watson produced two high danger chances and both missed the net by less than a foot, but they did give up two as well.

I don’t think there’s anything to complain about with this line, besides the fact that Bonino is brutal to watch in the offensive zone. I think Sisson’s “hot start” with eight points in 20 games is overhyped and unsustainable, but I’m more than happy to let it ride while it’s hot. I’m curious to see if this line continues to match high danger chance numbers, or if they fall back into their defense-first style of game.

I think the Predators would love it if they can continue Monday’s performance through the rest of the season.

Salomaki-Gaudreau-Fiala

Oh, there’s a young winger who’s underperforming despite putting up decent analytics? Well I have the perfect solution. Let’s put him on a line where he has to do literally everything if he wants to succeed. My old coaches used to have an expression, “a good pass to a bad player, is a bad pass”. I think the same, unfortunately, applies to Fiala’s linemates. That said, Miikka Salomaki did have two high danger chances, but Fiala put the work in so that Salomaki couldn’t miss these chances.

I gave the trio a “C”, mostly because I didn’t like or dislike their game. They won the possession battle, but lost the high danger war. They didn’t give up any goals though, so that’s cool. I thought Kevin Fiala did a pretty good job for what he had, but I think I’d rather he play 20 minutes a night in Milwaukee than five minutes a night in Nashville. Either that, or package him for a shiny new William Nylander.

The fourth line is a Frankenstein-esk monster, and I’m really curious to see what it does next.

Josi-Ellis

Oh boy. I left the rink thinking that Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis played pretty well, but upon further review, it was rough. Josi was a monster at exiting the zone with possession, but he got pretty frisky in the offensive zone. I usually love it when defenders jump into the rush, but there were two instances where he abandoned his post without alerting any forwards. The Lightning took advantage by springing a breakout, though it didn’t lead to any goals. That kind of play is extremely dangerous against a transition powerhouse, like the Lightning.

I probably would’ve given this duo a worse grade, but their work on the breakout plus the fact they went up against Brayden Point kept them in the “C” range. Seriously, Brayden Point is a god and watching him bring the puck up the ice left me with a sense of wonderment and fear.

Ekholm-Hamhuis

Take a bow, Mattias Ekholm. What a monster game from the defenseman who recorded his 100th assist and saved the game with about 10 seconds to go.

Did they win the possession battle? Yep. Did they win the high danger battle? Yep. Did they do it while going up against Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos? Yup. Did they surrender a single high danger chance in 16 minutes? Nope.

This duo was killing it last night, and it’s been a little fun to watch Ekholm jump into the play with Subban’s absence. Granted, Subban is an objectively better defenseman, but Ekholm is making a name for himself outside of Nashville. The Predators needed this pair to be great, and they more than delivered.

Bitetto-Weber

So, the third line was statistically good, but my eye test was terrified by them. Let’s just look at the numbers for now.

Winning the possession and high danger chance battle is objectively awesome, but I’m a little surprised they didn’t give up a high danger chance. The Cirelli line was all over them as the duo barely managed to overcome their lack of speed.

I think their saving grace was their sheltering, which is what keeps them from being a “B” or “B+”.

Pekka Rinne

This was probably Pekka Rinne’s worst game of the season so far. Whenever he gives up an early goal, all I can think is, “is this it? Is it regression time?” Alas, not Monday. Pekka Rinne didn’t look super comfortable all night as he fought pucks with his glove and struggled to contain a few shots that he usually swallows with ease. His side to side movement looked good, but he overcommitted at times and was lucky that Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, or Hamhuis was there to save his bacon.

The first goal from Victor Hedman is unacceptable from Rinne. It was a hard shot, but it was not well placed, and Rinne didn’t seem screened by his own man. The second goal, from Kucherov and Point, was absolutely not his fault. Rinne’s defense left him out to dry as they did little to tie up Kucherov and little to put a body on Point as he whistled through the neutral zone.

All in all, Rinne stopped five of six high danger shots and was incredible during the third period, so I can’t be too upset. I’m going to give him an “A-” just because of Hedman’s early goal that caught him sleeping.

FordIce2014