Another day, another loss. The All-Star break clearly didn't mean much development-wise for the Predators- they lost 5-2 at home to the Maple Leafs tonight in the wake of NBA legend Kobe Bryant's death yesterday morning.
The hope that this Preds team makes a magical leap upwards in the standings in the last half of the season seems astronomically unrealistic after witnessing their performance tonight. Hey guys? Maybe stop pulling the goalie. It clearly doesn't mean much to the Preds to have a man-advantage in any context, and when you're consistently giving up empty netters seconds after pulling the goalie, you've completely missed the point of the strategy.
Thus continues the pattern of Mikael Granlund scoring a goal only in games the Preds lose. Granlund's tying goal was a quick response to William Nylander's, but there was an uneasy feeling that went along with it. Rightfully so, given that the Preds went down 4-1 after the Granlund goal.
Thus also continues the pattern of the Preds allowing a certain special opposing player to score their first goal of the season against them. Tonight, our lucky contestant was Rasmus Sandin (all thanks to Mattias Ekholm's utter, maddening, and blatant interference on his own goalie). Not only was it Sandin's first of the season, it was his first in the NHL. Just a wonderful pill to swallow.
Offense continues to under-produce, but the Preds' goaltending continues to degenerate into a literal block of Swiss cheese. Without Zach Hyman's soft goal (and arguably Jason Spezza's goal), Pekka Rinne could have kept his team within a goal or two of a comeback. Tonight, Rinne made just 26 saves on 30 shots for a .867 save percentage. But 2020 Rinne is not to be relied on to make steady saves, unlike Rinnes of years past. And Juuse Saros hasn't been much better. A suggested solution? Pull a Jordan Binnington and call up Milwaukee's AHL All-Star goalie Connor Ingram. Ingram has played in 24 games with the Admirals this season, and has a 2.04 goals-against average with a .929 save percentage.
The Preds continue to struggle with taking high-danger shots- explaining why just two of their 36 total shots made it past Freddie Andersen tonight. The Preds produced just eight high-danger chances for, while allowing Toronto to take 15 high-danger chances against them. The Leafs finished the night with a whopping 65.22 percent HDCF advantage over the home team. Granlund created the lion's share of HDCF for the Preds tonight, accounting for three of the team's eight total chances. The problem is that just four other Preds skaters succeeded in creating HDCF. Meanwhile, Toronto's HDCF came from a broader range; 11 of their skaters made up their 15 HDCF total.
Hey, at least Viktor Arvidsson is back on the board.
That's about as much recapping as I wish to do for this game. Oh yeah, the Preds are officially in last place in the Central.
The Preds will be hitting national television to face the league's first-place Capitals on Wednesday. It would be a massive understatement to say that this is a very important game for the Preds. If they pull off a win, the Preds will have proven they can still hang with the big boys this season. If they lose, well, we'll get to see the destruction happen on national TV.
One thing to keep in mind before getting the alcohol ready: the Preds have not lost to the Caps since Mar. 18, 2016. That's seven straight games the Preds have taken down the perennial Cup contenders. In that time, the Preds have outscored Washington 36-19, averaging over five goals per game.