A decisive win over a division rival couldn’t have come at a better time for the reeling Nashville Predators as they took down the St. Louis Blues 6-2 on Thursday night from Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators were in danger of getting into all-time worst franchise territory if their five-game losing streak stretched much longer. One more loss would’ve met their longest losing skid since 2013 when they dropped eight in a row.
For the Predators, the formula is quite simple and was on display against the Blues; relentlessly attack the net and have your top veterans of the team finally get out of their offensive slumps. Don’t take that foot off the gas pedal, whatever you do.
Both happened as the Predators took advantage of juicy rebound chances from Blues backup goaltender Thomas Greiss, and of course the top line getting in on the offensive production.
However, it wasn’t the leaders of the team like Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Matt Duchene who really stole the show. Sure, they all got in on the scoresheet, but it was the depth players who scored the two critical goals when the Blues were out in front.
The Depth Shows Up in a Big Way
Michael McCarron, a widely considered rotational fourth liner at best, got the equalizer by getting in the dirty areas in close to Greiss, and pouncing when the rebound was burped up:
This was a huge moment in the game as the Predators were heading back into familiar territory of playing a good game but losing on the scoreboard. It was McCarron’s first goal of the season, and his eighth with the Predators.
These types of goals are the bread and butter of what makes the Predators tick. It’s what Hynes preaches in practices. Be the hardest working team on the ice, every night.
Another fourth line depth player scored the highlight reel goal of the game as Zach Sanford connected on a wraparound goal that you’re used to seeing from the likes of a Connor McDavid. This put the Predators ahead for good, and again came from an unlikely source.
It’s Sanford’s first goal as a member of the Predators, and another fourth line role player Cole Smith contributed with two assists on the night as well.
On a night when Forsberg tallies three assists, as does Duchene, the theme was still critical goals from unexpected players.
It was also a game when Head Coach John Hynes really shook up his line combinations by moving Cody Glass up to the top-six and leaving Eeli Tolvanen out of the lineup altogether. He also shifted up the defensive pairs by moving Dante Fabbro to the top with Josi, and moving Ryan McDonagh down to the bottom pair with Jeremy Lauzon.
Hynes’ bold lineup decisions paid off, at least for one game. Each defensive pair played their roles well, including Lauzon who managed three hits and two blocks.
Let’s also not forget about Juuse Saros putting up his best outing of the season with 33 saves on 35 shots faced and a Goals Saved Above Expected of 1.24, per MoneyPuck.com.
This win for the Predators sends the Blues to a three-game skid of their own. They were on a back-to-back in this game, and the Predators took advantage being on four days of rest and ticked off for greatness.
The focus shifts quickly to the Washington Capitals on Saturday for another challenging matchup defensively. The Capitals were just shutout by the Dallas Stars, but they’re still a dangerous team that can put up a lot of offense.
The Predators have to move on from this much-needed win quickly. They need to string together multiple wins to avoid falling behind too much as the Stars and Avalanche are both threatening to pull away early on in the Central Division race.