Contrary to semi-popular belief, the sky is not falling in Smashville.
After one win in the first six games, Predators fans were looking for something – anything – to hang their hat on. They were left grasping at straws, with the offense struggling and stars Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber not on their A-game.
But could Thursday’s win provide a change of fortunes for the Predators? Could it be a breakthrough victory for this team?
Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win in Los Angeles wasn’t pretty. The Predators were once again out-shot, out-chanced and out-played. Despite all that, it was a classic Predators win where they hung tough through dicey situations and prevailed in the end.
Thursday was a character test for the Predators. Monday’s 4-0 loss in Phoenix was abysmal and they were facing the defending-champion Los Angeles Kings that (a) are very tough to play against and (b) have had their number in recent years. But you knew the Predators would respond to the task at hand. Win or lose, they were going to put forth a solid effort. And they did.
The Predators also shrugged off misfortune during Thursday’s game. Dustin Brown’s power play goal, aided by an odd carom off the glass, could have been a ‘here we go again’ moment. The Predators could have let the questionable officiating affect them. They could have hung their heads after missed opportunities late in the game, which led to the shootout where the Predators were 0-3 on the season.
All of that in-game adversity didn’t faze them.
Even with the gutsy win, however, there are enough things to be concerned about with this Predators team. They can’t generate much offense – and Patric Hornqvist’s absence for the next few weeks won’t help matters. They still have only scored three goals in the last four games and are averaging a league-worst 21.9 shots per game.
But there are some positive signs after Thursday’s win.
Following his worst performance of the season, Rinne responded with a 23-save effort. Weber, who has yet to register a point, was clutch defensively – no matter the situation, no matter who he was paired with. If the offense can find a spark, any spark, the Predators may be able to right the ship after a shaky start to this shortened season. The team also got off the shootout schnide by scoring four times against the stingy Jonathan Quick.
As much as Thursday’s win could prove to be an important win during the current road trip, the Predators can’t let the momentum go by the wayside in San Jose and St. Louis, which won’t be easy contests to say the least. That said, they can put the usual early-season rough patch behind them with quality efforts in both games, and perhaps a win mixed in.
I would venture to guess Thursday’s win won’t have the season-altering effect as the comeback in Columbus last December, but the important thing is that the Predators responded to a character test – something Barry Trotz-coached teams have had a special knack of doing over the years.