In another example of politics invading sports, the Senators rudely came into Nashville on President’s Day looking to make a statement. SMH. Can’t we leave politics to the politicians?

The Good

-While the Predators still played far from a perfect game, they had a much better effort on Monday than we’ve seen in recent weeks. Nashville took the lead first and didn’t let up. They had some defensive breakdowns here and there, but they were able to keep their foot on the gas and play at least close to a 60-minute game. With a two-goal lead heading into the third period, they didn’t turtle. They continued to impose their will on the Senators and Craig Anderson made sure the score didn’t get any worse than 5-2.

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-Nashville had the lead for the rest of the game after the 9:28 mark of the first period. There is no score effect involved in this one. At 5-on-5, the Predators out-attempted and out-chanced the Senators. Ottawa still had more high-danger chances, but let’s consider this progress from the past five or six games.

-Part of the reason for this team’s excellent offensive output last night was due to a dramatic improvement in their shot locations. Over the past couple of games, they were shooting the puck from the point like they were a roster full of Al MacInnis clones. Against Ottawa, the Predators did a much better job of getting into the dangerous areas — whether that was off the rush or via solid forechecking and board play.

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-As you can see, they were still letting it rip from the point, but at a much more reasonable rate and in addition to the plethora of shots they were taking from between the circles. Like I said, they created these chances in a variety of ways. They scored off the rush and forced turnovers down low to generate slots from the shot. Hopefully this little offensive revival keeps up.

-Folks, I am proud to say that the power play is no longer in The Ugly. They had a break through last night as they converted on two of their five man advantages. It’s not all the way back to where I’d like to see it. The passing that led to the goals wasn’t all that creative, but they created open shooting lanes and Colton Sissons’ rump blocked the view of Anderson. That’s how Nashville got things started. Ryan Ellis set up Roman Josi with a quick pass and Josi hammered a screamer into the twine.

-Nashville’s second goal was a result of gorgeous passing from the JOFA line. Forsberg carried the puck into the offensive end. He threw on the breaks and turned to backhand a pass to Joey Mullets, who sent a no-look pass to Arvidsson on the back door. Arvi finished the play to score a goal that would’ve been worth at least three if style points were included.

-After watching Josi hammer home a power play goal in the first, Ellis decided that looked pretty fun too. It was his turn in the second period. This time, it was Josi doing the setting up and Ellis doing the scoring. But it was still Sissons in front of the net taking away Anderson’s vision. Ellis’ shot wasn’t the laser that Josi’s was, but it did have some knuckling action that would make Russ Tyler proud.

-After Ottawa pulled back within one, Forsberg forced a turnover from the great Erik Karlsson with some deft sick work. Fil then immediately sent a no-look pass to the slot for Arvi to put into the back of the net. This was JOFA’s best game in recent memory. They combined for five points and dominated possession all night. Whenever the Sens were pinned in their own zone, it was normally those three that were doing the pinning.

-In the third, Karlsson committed another egregious turnover. This time, it was Kevin Fiala putting on the pressure. Fiala stole the biscuit and found Craig Smith motoring into the zone with a perfect pass. Smith put it top shelf where momma keeps the Thin Mints as Anderson desperately sprawled to make a save.

-Predictably, Josi and Ellis were superb together. They each tallied a goal and an assist and were pretty solid defensively as well. They were on the ice for six of Nashville’s 11 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5. They have been spectacular together ever since Ellis returned from injury.

-Pekka Rinne came up huge for Nashville once again. There was one Ottawa goal I thought he should have had, but he made up for that with a few showstoppers throughout the game. He faced 38 shots and stopped 36 of them. Among those, he robbed Cody Ceci of a sure goal in the first period, he slammed the door with his right pad on a partial breakaway by Thomas Chabot, and he stoned Erik Karlsson as he tried to go five hole on a break in the third. Now, Rinne sits at 299 career wins and his amazing season at the age of 35. He’s now 30-9-4 with a 2.35 GAA and a .926 save percentage. I’d be surprised if he was’t a Vezina finalist at this rate.

-Viktor Arvidsson’s two goals were his 19th and 20th of the season. Any fool worried that last year may just have been a fluke has been proven incorrect. He’ll get close to 30 goals again this season and continues to be a work horse for this Predator team. As he was sitting on two goals last night, the Predators got a late power play. He stayed on for the entire two minutes. It was a concerted effort by the whole team to get him a hat trick, and it was awesome. As chants of “ARVI” rained down from the Smashville faithful, he nearly scored his third goal on a number of occasions. If he had potted his third, that place would’ve erupted.

The Bad

-Things are still a liiittttle to loosey goosey in the defensive end. The Sens had 16 high-danger chances. That’s still too many. When they are playing their style, the Predators are vulnerable to giving up a few odd-man rushes. They just need to clean up their defense in the defensive zone a little. They are allowing the opposition too much time and space at times. Let’s first look at Ottawa’s heatmap from last night.

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-That’s a pretty eventful night for Rinne. I know he likes to get steady work throughout the game, but Laviolette and the defense may prefer he stay a little more bored. Last night was a big improvement offensively. The next step to getting fully back on track will be protecting the area in front of the net a little more vigorously.

-The Predators were down a man, but a wide open Senator in front of the net was how Ottawa got their first goal. Mark Stone let a shot go from the top of the circle and Pageau was all by his lonesome to scoop up the rebound and knock it home. No one was in the same zip code as him.

-Right after Elllis gave the Preds a 3-1 lead, Max McCormick came in off the rush and fired a long wrist shot that beat Rinne on his blocker side. That’s one area Rinne still struggles with despite his success this season. He seems to get beaten by quick shots on his blocker side off the rush. I’m not going to make a big stink about it because he’s been nothing but exceptional this year. I’ll just say that’s one he should have.

-After one game of having Matt Irwin and Anthony Bitetto as the third defensive pairing, it was back to Alexei Emelin and Yannick Weber. It did not go smoothly for them. Emelin was on the ice for eight of Ottawa’s 16 high-danger chances at 5-on-5 and Weber was on the ice for seven of them. People have talked all about another scoring winger for this team and how they’ve not fully replaced James Neal on this roster. That said, they are averaging .15 more goals per game than they were last season. Sure, that would be a nice addition but I believe that last defensive pairing may be their biggest weakness. If Poile can add a depth defenseman for a cheap price, I wouldn’t hate it.

The Ugly

-Joey, I love the excitement. I really do. But keep try not to concuss Arvi with your powerful bear hugs. Save this stuff for the 16th win of the playoffs.

To Sum It Up

This was a nice bounce back effort after dropping to winnable game at home on Thursday and Saturday. The offense appeared to find its groove a bit and the power play unit scored for the first time since Obama’s first term in office. Things will need to be cleaned up a little more defensively so I’ll see how they go about that tonight in Detroit.

Speaking of which, they’ll have a chance to avenge Saturday night’s loss to the Wings. This time they won’t even have to have Petr Mrzaek in net this time. He was traded to the Flyers last night, so the Predators hopefully won’t have as much trouble tickling the twine tonight.

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