Predators Welcome Confident Oilers to Bridgestone Arena for Matinee Battle
by Jackson Walsh
The Nashville Predators (8-2-0, 16 pts) look to build on their impressive start to the 2018-19 campaign as they welcome in a determined Edmonton Oilers team (4-3-1, 9 pts), a team who split their last two games since being shutout by our boys 3-0 on home ice a week ago, but have scored a combined nine goals and look to continue heating up.
The Oilers come into this afternoon contest after making the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals look silly in a 4-1 beatdown at Rogers Place Thursday night. It was a dominant defeat in which the top line headed by the two-headed attack of Connor McDavid (6g, 8a, 14pts)and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (3g, 8a, 11pts) still added 2 goals and 1 assist to their whopping point totals.
The Preds did a good job holding Connor Mac and company scoreless last time out, and it was the young Juuse Saros who turned away all 31 shot attempts. Now being the head netminder in place of the injured king Pekka Rinne, Saros has had a strong 3-1-0 record since holding off the Flames in the final period of last Friday’s contest, putting up a strong .925 save percentage, the only blemish letting in five goals against San Jose.
The Predators offense, 4th in the league in goals scored, are just clicking in recent games. The JoFA line still predictably excelling at a combined 31 points, particularly from Filip Forsberg having 4 goals and 2 assists in the last five contests. Those numbers have been backed up strong with some explosive performances from second liner Kyle Turris, who scored the game winning goal in overtime Thursday night, right winger Craig Smith who’s had a solid start to the year with only 5 points but a staggering 32 shots on goal, and even the defensive pairings being able to make some big plays happen. Ellis in particular has yet to score, but has racked up six assists.
When you have a core team of not just scorers, but also playmakers, it’s fairly easy to know you’ll be able to improve on ugly wins like Thursday. With the news that Pekka’s injury doesn’t seem too serious and the fact that he could be back soon, as soon as this contest, the question is, are we missing him right now? Saros is doing a pretty good job in goal and is benefiting from consistent starts. That said, we don’t want to see Saros getting too much of a workload too soon, rather the development plan the coaching staff put in place is right on the money.
The big concern is stopping goals right now. The Predators let a probable home win slip away Tuesday against San Jose and still had a very hard time stopping shots on goal in New Jersey Thursday as the Devils poured on 36 SOG. The Preds conceded 8 of our 23 goals allowed in the last two contests, they still look good defensively. Nashville is 4th in the NHL in goals against as well, just hoping these barn burners don’t become a habit. You can’t sit on any good fortune, any leads in hockey. Gotta continue to sharpen the skates and loosen up the legs and grind it out.
All in all, if you’re attending the early game today, expect a good hockey game between two teams that can score. This matinee contest interests me far more than any college football game down South today and that’s saying something. Here’s hoping the Predators can keep the fire burning and take two more points from the Oilers today.