The Nashville Predators had no business being in much of Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. Despite a terrible start and an ugly middle, the Predators salvaged a point, though, falling 5-4 to Anaheim via a shootout.
To reiterate: this was a pretty putrid Predators performance. That said, squeezing charity points (or more?) out of clunkers like these might make the difference between Nashville making or missing the playoffs.
Plenty to chew on for Predators fans who want Laviolette gone
Peter Laviolette’s critics may circle this game, even if the result could have been worse for Nashville.
The Ducks generated a lopsided 21-4 shots on goal advantage during the first period, yet Juuse Saros bailed Laviolette & Co. out. Remarkably, the game entered the first intermission tied 1-1.
It seemed like some of those bounces balanced out during the middle frame. After Craig Smith gave the Predators a head-shaking 2-1 lead, the Ducks scored three goals in a row to go up 4-2 to end the second period. Nashville’s opening 40 minutes felt like a referendum on what’s been wrong with this team, aside from the notion that their goalie (largely) saved the day.
(For most of 2019-20, Saros and Pekka Rinne have been a big part of the problem, however critics felt about Laviolette.)
The Predators hung in there, though, even if it was rarely pretty.
A few heroes steal that point for Predators
Laviolette should thank a handful of guys for helping him save face.
- Again, Saros made the biggest difference. Maybe this performance will help the Predators’ smaller Finnish goalie to turn things around, as 2019-20 has not been kind to him?
- Laviolette should also thank the Predators’ penalty kill. With the score tied 4-4 late in the third, the Predators were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty. Imagine how ugly the discussion would be around Lavi if that was the way Nashville lost?
- Smith scored two goals. The winger ranks as one of the team’s most underrated players once you start digging into advanced stats.
- Rocco Grimaldi scored the game-tying goal and also generated an assist. The undersized winger loomed large in overtime, generating a golden overtime breakaway opportunity and crashing into the Ducks’ net on another chance.
Grimaldi couldn’t score, however, thanks to a spectacular save by John Gibson:
OH. MY. GIBSON! 👀 pic.twitter.com/QlAKniwzGn
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 6, 2020
Getzlaf makes the difference
Ryan Getzlaf entered Sunday’s game suffering through a brutal slump.
Failing to score in eight consecutive games was bad enough. Getzlaf also absorbed a -10 rating during that span. Plus/minus stinks as a broader stat, but it can tell a different story sometimes: that things just hadn’t been going well for Getzlaf and his team.
The big center dominated the Predators, though. Getzlaf generated three assists, and he also scored the shootout-deciding goal. Gibson and Getzlaf ended up making the ultimate difference, and Nashville is lucky it went as far as a shootout.