After starting off the road trip 1-0-0 on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets, the Predators moved onward to “Oil Country”, hoping to extend that victory streak. Though two wins in a row doesn’t sound like a big deal, Nashville hasn’t notched a back-to-back win since December 19th against the Wild and December 21st against the Canadiens. That’s over a month. Not fun. But the Predators were in the right frame of mind last night, tackling the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Considering the last road trip ended 0-3-1, which was two weeks ago, last night’s win against the Oilers may be the boost Nashville needs to power out of their rut. Let’s hope so.
Goaltending has been a concern as of late for Nashville as they struggle to find the source behind this immeasurable rut and Pekka Rinne’s performance – or lack thereof – has been a bit of a head-scratcher. Of course, goalies are subject to losing their “groove” just like any other player would, but goalies tend to fall under the microscope the most, given that they are the last line of defense for your respective team. If your goaltender is struggling, the rest of the team has to step up by a ten fold. Unfortunately for Nashville, the Predators are notorious for counting on Rinne to erase their mistakes (i.e. the nickname “The Eraser”), so when he’s down, so too, can the team. While Carter Hutton is a decent backup, if the Predators continue to rely so heavily on his (Rinne) performance, it might be time to start the process of prepping a solidified backup. Juuse Saros and Marek Mazanec are both lying in wait, but one of them – preferably Mazanec – will need to be conditioned before making the transition from the AHL to the NHL for good.
But, to everyone’s relief, Pekka Rinne found his groove last night and stopped 23 of 24 shots-on-goal, giving Nashville the 4-1 victory. Again, if we are feeling relieved when Rinne does well, does that ultimately mean the organization knows there might be a goaltending issue?
But, let’s not jump too far down that rabbit hole just yet. Perhaps we are just slapping a band-aid over a gaping wound, but for now, it suffices. However, this issue will have to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Moving onward, Mattias Ekholm led the charge last night, scoring two of the four goals – one that tied the game and one that gave Nashville the lead. With those two goals, Ekholm reached a career high in points (7g, 13a), something this Swede undeniably deserves.
Speaking of Swedes, Filip Forsberg also hit a milestone by notching his 100th career point (he gained 17th assist on Ekholm’s power play goal and notched the empty-netter). Rounding out the goals, Mike Fisher collected his sixth of the season on the 4×4.
As I mentioned previously, this road trip is turning out to be much better than the last (even if they lost the last two games, it’d still be a better outcome) with this 2-0-0 count. The Predators now move onward to British Columbia to take on the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night at 9PM (lots o’ coffee for Wednesday).