The Predators got the 2018-19 season off to a good start with a season opening win over the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. It was far from perfect, but it was a quality win. As always, let’s look at the Good, Bad, and Ugly.

Good

-Right off the bat, I’ve gotta shout out the defending Vezina Trophy winner. Pekka Rinne was on his game on Thursday night. After not getting much action for the first 10 minutes of the game, he was able to keep his focus and make some brilliant saves the rest of the way. One more than one occasion, the Preds seemed to think periods were only 19 minutes long as they took the final minute off. Peks was forced to make some stops late in the period and came up big. Of his 31 saves on 33 shots, four of them came against Jimmy Vesey, which gave me much pleasure. Vesey and his line were buzzing because the Preds’ defense wasn’t as tight as it should have been, but it didn’t matter because Rinne was locked in.

-So, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson are still very good at the game of hockey. That line picked up where they left off last season and played keep away in the Rangers’ end when they were on the ice together. Forsberg was the only one that got on the scoresheet of the three, but they looked fantastic together, but that’s not news. Forsberg got the scoring started with a dart of shot that clanked off the inside of the far post before finding the twine. Just look at this thing. Lundqvist was more helpless than a person in a LifeAlert commercial.

Give me 50 this year, Fil!

-Another forward who stood out to me, and everyone else probably, while watching the game was Craig Smith. Smitty couldn’t quite find the back of the net, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He had six shots on goal, some of which were very dangerous chances (i.e. the shot below where Lundqvist robs him blind on the power play). He did pick up an assist on Forsberg’s goal. If he keeps playing like that, Smith will make sure that he carries over his tremendous success from last season.

Sidenote: I saw some bitching that Smith should’ve passed to Arvi there. Get the hell outta here. Those are probably the same people complaining when Joey gets too fancy. He had an open look and took it. It was just a great save.

-Offensively, the Predators defensemen were fantastic, and that includes Yannick Weber’s three shots on goal. All together, the Nashville blue line contributed 10 shots on goal, one goal, and three assists. Josi nearly had a goal too when he walked right down main street only to have the puck roll off his stick. The goal came off the stick of Subban, and it was a rocket. The only goals the Preds scored on Lunsqvist were on shots he had zero chance of stopping. Sissons won the draw back to Ekholm, Ekky kicked it to Subban, and he unloaded on that poor piece of rubber on a shot that blazed over Lundqvist’s shoulder.

Bad

-The defensive coverage was lacking, to put it kindly. That seems to be the case whenever the Predators play the Rangers. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s the style New York plays, but I just don’t know. Too many times Rangers were allowed to get a clean look at the net from the slot. Luckily, it only resulted in two goals. At 5-on-5 play, New York had 14 high-danger chances. As our friends south of the border would say, no bueno. The team has got to protect Rinne better than that. I know he seems to play better when he gets a decent amount of action, but let’s not go overboard. Just look at this Heat Map from Natural Stat Trick.

Natural Stat Trick

Yikes. That’s a lot of shots from the most dangerous area on the ice.

-No pairing was immune to breakdowns in this game, not even Ekholm and Subban. In fact, those two combined to allow the Rangers’ first goal. Ekholm got beat to the puck behind the net, and Subban got beat to the slot by Jesper Fast, who deposited a pass into the net behind Rinne.

-The second New York goal was simply a result of no one finding Pavel Buchnevich in front of the net. The Rangers had the net empty with less than a minute left to play, and Mika Zibanejad put a perfect slap pass on the stick of Buchnevich for a tip that got by Rinne. Dan Hamuis was the closest player to him, but I’m not 100% sure that was his blown coverage. In all likelihood, that breakdown was a team effort. Nashville will need to clean that up before playing an explosive Islanders offense led by 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Matt Barzal.

The Ugly

-The New York Rangers pulled a move that I’ve never seen before in my relatively short time watching hockey. With the goalie already pulled, they drew an interference penalty on Subban. Apparently, there was a miscommunication and another Ranger hopped on the ice anyway. That mean seven blue jerseys were on the ice at once. You can’t do that. That ended up negating what would have been a late power play and turned it into a 4-on-4 situation. Colton Sissons would hit the empty net shortly thereafter.

Hey Rangers, go back to school and learn how to count. Boom, roasted.

Final Score: Preds – 3, Rangers – 2

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