Tuesday night presented a particularly painful game for Nashville fans that saw former Predators account for three of Minnesota’s five goals. Still, the Predators were able to survive and pull out a much-needed win.

Good

-For the first time in a while, the Predators actually got off to a great start in this game. For the first five minutes or so, they were buzzing around the Minnesota net. They were rewarded for that effort when Craig Smith potted his 17th goal of the season and his first since returning from the IR. Matt Donovan fires a shot on goal, and Smitty beats everyone to the rebound to punch it home pat Devan Dubnyk.

-To the surprise of no one in the building, Viktor Arvidsson had a big night with a goal and an assist. Arvi assisted on the power play goal (yes, more on that later), and he also gave the Predators the lead in the third period. Arvidsson picked the pocket of a Wild defender in the neutral zone and was off to the races. My Swedish king snuck a shot under the arm of Dubnyk that trickled across the line to give the Preds a late lead.

-Now onto the rarest of miracles in Smashville this season — a power play goal. Now, the goal didn’t come in a way that you can rely on long-term, but at this point being picky about goals with the man advantage is a waste of energy. Instead, we’ll highlight the two things the Preds did right and try to build from there.

  1. Subban just got the puck on net. It wasn’t a clap bomb from a zillion feet away. It was just a shot at medium height that got through to the net. The Predators need more of this. Watch someone like Brent Burns on the power play. He ain’t bombing away. He gets the puck on net with any kind of shot necessary to make that happen, and he’s one of the best players in the league at it.
  2. Brian Boyle parked his redwood ass in front of Dubnyk and was looking for a tip. This is part of the reason that David Poile went out and got Boyle, and it paid off on Tuesday night.

-Early in the third period, the Wild took a 3-2 lead. It was starting to look like another frustrating and disappointing loss for the Predators, but the most handsome captain in the history of the NHL came to the rescue. Just over 30 seconds after Fehr’s goal, Josi decided that he was going to do this his own damn self. Josi made his former teammate, Pontus Aberg, look foolish as he blew by him and finished the play with a shot that went off the pipe and in.

-Ryan Johansen made Wild goalies look very foolish and get very angry in these two games. On Sunday, he waited out Alex Stalock and beat him in the shootout. I understand that Stalock may have not seen it coming and Joey’s shot on Sunday was close to not being legal. However, Dubnyk should’ve known exactly what was coming on Tuesday. Joey did the same exact move where he waits roughly two weeks to make a move, except he went to his forehand on Dubnyk. His patience stresses me the hell out.

Bad

-This wasn’t a terrific game for the Predators, which I’ve said all too often after the first 20 games of the season. Over the course of these two games against Minnesota, the Preds were outplayed for extended stretches of time. In this game, shot attempts at 5-on-5 were fairly even with Nashville getting 49.51 percent and Minnesota getting 50.49 percent. The big difference in the game was the quality of those shots. The Wild owned 65.96 percent of the scoring chances and 66.77 percent of the high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5.

-Here is where the Preds were shooting from:

Credit: Natural Stat Trick

-That is way too many shots from the point and not anywhere close to enough shots from between the circles and in front of the crease. The Predators were just able to capitalize on the chances that they did get.

-Here is where the Wild were shooting from on Tuesday night:

Credit: Natural Stat Trick

-Minnesota *only* took shots from right in front of Pekka Rinne. Oddly enough, the Wild didn’t score on too many of those shots. Instead, they scored from a little further out. That’s something we’ll touch on later. Regardless, the Predators did an awful just of defending the net front on Tuesday.

-When people see a Heatmap like that, it’s easy to point to the big four defensemen and blame them. They were a part of this pie, but they sure weren’t the whole thing. Defending is a five-man job, and the Nashville forwards struggle in that department sometimes. In particular, the second line struggles with that. Kyle Turris was the poster boy for this on Tuesday against the Wild. Eric Fehr was left ALL ALONE in the slot and hammered home a shot on a pass from behind the net.

-Here’s a freeze frame of what happened right before that goal:

Credit: FSTN

-I’m not privy to the exact details of the Nashville’s defensive system, but I’m going to assume that it doesn’t involve having three players with a skate in the crease while leaving a player wide open in the slot. The two Matts, Donovan and Irwin, shouldn’t get off scot free here, but that is Turris’ man nine the slot there. Granlund was trying to get back and help but he just couldn’t get there. Apparently, Peter Laviolette wasn’t too pleased with this defense from Turris either. According to Adam Vingan of The Athletic, Turris went over seven minutes between shifts after this goal.

-This brings me to a larger point on Turris. He was far and away the worst forward for Nashville in terms of shot share on Tuesday night. With Turris on the ice at 5-on-5, the Preds owned just 23.81 percent of the shot attempts. It gets worse from there. The Predators had one 5-on-5 scoring chance with Turris on the ice. The Wild had 10. Turri had struggled big time since the playoffs last year. Between that and his injuries this season, it’s been a rough calendar year for him. I like Turris and think he can help this team. Hell, look what he did after the Preds acquired him last season. He had 42 points in 65 games. He just has to get going, or Nashville may not be going too far in the playoffs this year.

-While that current Predator struggled, former Predators thrived in Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night. In his revenge game, Kevin Fiala shined. FiFi got the scoring started for Minnesota when he took a turnover off of Craig Smith, created some space on P.K. Subban, and fired a shot past Rinne on the short side.

-Note: I can’t believe I have to say this, but Subban isn’t the player who shoulders the most blame on this goal. Smith let the puck go right between his legs in the neutral zone to give Fiala the puck, and Rinne inexplicably gave up a goal to the low short side on a shot from the face-off dot. That’s a shot I’ll live with nearly every time.

-Then it was Pontus Aberg going to work against the Predators. He just let a wrist shot fly from above the circles that beat Rinne, you guessed it, to the low blocker side. This one was just on Rinne.

-Then Fiala broke my heart yet again. With Dubnyk pulled, Minnesota won the draw and Fiala ripped home a perfect shot to tie the game.

-As a Fiala stan for the entire season, this hurt me deep down inside to see him lighting up the Predators.

via GIPHY

-Now to the part of this article that I have been dreading. It is with a heavy heart that I say Pekka Rinne has been very not good of late, and that continued on Tuesday. On two separate occasions, he was beaten to the low blocker side. If you’ll recall, he was beaten there by Blake Wheeler on the Jets’ third goal against Winnipeg on Friday night. It’s like he’s not tracking that shot well, and this isn’t the first time in his career that he’s had extended trouble with those shots. James (statsrespecter on Twitter) had a fantastic thread about how much better Saros has been than Rinne since Jan. 1. I may do an article solely on that tomorrow, but what it boils down to is that Saros has very clearly been the better goaltender of late, especially when it comes to stopping high-danger chances. No matter what happens the rest of the way, I do think Rinne will and should be the starter in Game 1 of the first round. Lavy may just want to use this time to get Rinne some rest and get his game back while Saros is hot.

Ugly

-Our old friend Kevin has very mad off line on Tuesday and understandably so. He was playing the team that just shipped him off to a snowy wasteland. After a whistle, he and Forsberg mixed it up pretty good. I hate seeing friends fight, but at least Fil still seemed to enjoy getting under FiFi’s skin.

-Also mad off line was Devan Dubnyk. Here’s a postgame quote from him after Joey fooled his lanky stick figure ass in the shootout.

-Dubnyk has been in the league for a while — certainly long enough to know that he just described a perfectly legal goal.

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