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OT thriller provides better glimpse at what’s in store for the Preds


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Before I begin, I want to make a little editor’s note about what I’m planning for this season: I’ve always enjoyed, especially from my earlier days covering this team, just writing my thoughts in more of a stream of consciousness than anything else. It helps me be a little truer to form. That being said, I’m striving to write a couple of these hopefully every week. Doing my job with FOX Sports Tennessee provides me with fewer chances of going to the locker room postgame due to my social media duties, so if I can squeeze one or two of these articles out every week or so, then great. I’ll pull some of the best quotes I get from practices and whatnot and publish them as I post. Maybe not necessarily in the article, but more so for you to digest after you read.

Enjoy!

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So, before the game I tweeted this:

As most people know, I’m notorious for my hot takes. All the time. I like to fire from the hip, and while I’m 98 percent confident in what I’ve said is factually on-base, there’s roughly a two percent margin for error any given time I tweet. Well, that’s being generous.

Did the Predators win convincingly in a preseason game against a prospect-heavy Tampa Bay Lightning team. No, no they did not.

Am I a little worried? Not in the least, in fact I think I’m more impressed with the overall effort from the Predators tonight than I have been through the preseason so far.

Outside of a handful of full-time Preds — namely Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Craig Smith and Calle Jarnkrok — Nashville hosted more of a complete roster than anything they’ve iced yet. Including goals from rookies Eeli Tolvanen and a wonderful overtime game-winner from Rem Pitlick, it may be closer to what we could expect to see on opening-night than we first may have thought prior to the game.

Yes, there are going to be some clear exceptions regarding that. Yakov Trenin and Alexandre Carrier aren’t making this team. Neither is Lukas Craggs or Troy Grosenick. You can throw Anthony Richard, Josh Wilkins and even Matt Donovan into that same sentence as well. But for right now, if I were in your shoes, I’d pencil both Pitlick and Tolvanen in as opening night members of the 2019-20 Nashville Predators.

Even the coaching staff has me convinced that there are some serious conversations happening (see quotes from Kevin McCarthy at the bottom of this article) and possibly some very difficult decisions that could be made sooner rather than later. We were even told by the Predators PR staff after the game that head coach Peter Laviolette was going to be in plenty of meetings for the rest of the night, hence why we were given McCarthy instead.

If you’ve been following training camp closely, let me propose a question: based on what you’ve seen so far, are player like Freddy Gaudreau and Miikka Salomaki in danger of seeing their spots usurped by Pitlick and Tolvanen?

I’ve said it publicly on The Neutral Zone on 104.5 The Zone over the last couple of months that if you were to tell me that Gaudreau played 55 games last year for the Predators, I’d have called you a liar until you showed me his NHL.com stat page. And let’s not start on Salomaki. Ever since re-injuring himself during his rehab stint in Milwaukee two years ago, and probably a little before that, I’ve thought Salomaki has been playing on borrowed time. That time has come, unfortunately for him. They’re both wonderful humans off the ice, but Nashville needs more skilled, offensive forwards at their disposal and neither Pitlick nor Tolvanen have shown that they want to be on a flight back to Milwaukee for the start of the season.

I like what I’ve seen from the Predators lately. I’m also officially turning the page on the power play. If you catch me berating it any more, you stop me dead in my tracks and remind me of what I’ve written here. With the true power play units finally getting a chance for some decent ice time over the last two games against the Lightning, we’ve seen solid execution and a better overall representation of what we’ll likely see from the beginning of the regular season and onward. Dan Lambert has a clear and definitive system that he’s tried installing with the Predators and it appears, at least for the time being, that every single player on the ice during the man-advantage is buying in to what Lambert is selling them.

That’s much better than the rinse-and-repeat we saw for 88 games last year. Yikes.

Tomorrow’s word of the day after an extremely exciting overtime finish tonight against the Lightning should be nothing short of “optimism”. It won’t be like this every night, through the preseason or even the regular season, but it sure looks like there’s plenty more enthusiasm bubbling up from this Predators team then I previously thought. Give me a month or so, I may change my opinion.

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Quotes from the Predators locker room:

Nashville Predators forward Matt Duchene

  • On the effort from the Preds tonight: “Obviously the shots were pretty lopsided in our favor and with the lineup we have, it probably should be that way.”
  • On how he’s seeing the power play has executed: “We kept tying the game with it. You need your power play to score like that when you’re a little snake-bit five-on-five. I thought we did a lot of good things up a man, down a man, and at even-strength.”
  • On his goal with 3.4 seconds left: “It was actually kind of funny. I looked up at the clock right as Arvidsson got it. I didn’t really expect it to come through. I just wanted to see how much time was left. I looked back right as it was about 10 feet from me, so I kind of got lucky there.”

Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg

  • On if this is the kind of power play execution he’s hoping to see in the regular season: “Every year is different. Go back a couple of years and we were great on the power play. Obviously, last year we’re not happy with it. You can’t really do anything about it except try to get better. We definitely have been working on it and it’s a good start.”

Nashville Predators Associate Coach Kevin McCarthy

  • His impressions of forward Rem Pitlick: “With Rem, he’s shown he got the capabilities of playing in a top-six position. We were really happy with his camp. He came to camp in excellent shape. He made great strides in development camp to the training camp. He’s one of those kids who’s a focused individual. He takes care of himself, as far as his nutrition. He’s one of those guys that does everything the right way. He’s given himself every opportunity here to make our club.”
  • On if this is the kind of power play execution he’s hoping to see in the regular season: “I think Lambert has done an excellent job with our power play groups. I think the biggest thing is being able to do the execution that we’ve had. We’ve shown, over the last couple of games especially, that it’s starting to sink in. We’ve done a lot of practices on the power play this year at training camp, by design. I think the guys are really buying into it and when you have success your confidence grows. I think the biggest thing, and Lambert talks [about this] all the time, if you don’t score on the power play, but you can create the momentum? What it does is changes things and it allows you to keep the pace going when you go five-on-five after a power play. We had a good one, didn’t score, and the guys are still up-beat and positive about it.”
  • On the power play: “I think the execution has been a lot quicker. The guys are moving pucks a lot quicker. That’s one thing Lambert has talked about from day one is that they want to make sure we create lanes to shoot, but we got to do things quickly in order for that to happen. I think having those two left-handed shots is huge. With [Bonino] on the one unit and [Duchene] on the other unit.”
  • On Eeli Tolvanen and if he’s NHL-ready: “I think he’s closer, let me put it that way. He’s put himself into position where we have to talk about him. I think the biggest thing for him was from the development camp until this training camp and the strides that he made physically. He came to camp in a lot better shape than he did in previous years. He’s put himself into a position now that we have to talk about it.”

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