The New York Rangers are officially without All World goalie Henrik Lundqvist for at least a month, after taking a puck to the throat last weekend against Carolina. Technically their first game without Hank was Wednesday against the Bruins, but today against the Nashville Predators marks the first game since the announcement. Cam Talbot will start against the Preds, who are among the cream of the crop in the Western Conference.
The Preds are considered to be a surprise this year, but they really aren’t. They got Pekka Rinne back, who is in the running for a Vezina this year. They have contributions from young talent like Filip Forsberg, they made shrewd free agency pick ups in Mike Ribiero, and they made a very ballsy trade, landing James Neal from Pittsburgh. When you add all that offensive talent to their already stellar defense, you have a monster in the waiting.
What have the done lately?
The Preds have actually cooled a bit, going 5-3-2 in their last ten games. Most of that was without Rinne though, as backup Carter Hutton took the reigns while Rinne was fighting a knee injury. With Rinne back, expect the Preds to get back to form.
One of the most dangerous things about the Preds is that they aren’t just riding a high SH%, they are one of the better possession teams in the league, and have been trending up in that ten game span:
With a FF% like that, you expect a team to pull out more than a .500 record in ten games. Then you look at the fact Rinne was out, so you expect a sharp drop in PDO, largely due to SV% from Rinne to Hutton. And as expected, that’s what we get:
So when you put it all together, you have a team that may have struggled, but it’s due to goaltending and nothing else. That is a ridiculous drop in PDO, all due to SV%. With Rinne back, you’ll expect it to rise back up again.
In short: The Preds were 5-3-2 in their last ten games, and it means diddly. This is one of the best teams in the league, make no mistake.
I honestly haven’t watched that much Preds hockey this year, but Peter Laviolette is known for being a coach that likes his aggressive style of play. When he was coaching the Flyers, Laviolette liked to have his team throw two different forechecking looks at the opposition. The first look is the 2-1-2 forecheck, and once the they get a lead, they tend to switch to a more conservative 2-3 left wing lock. Both systems send two forecheckers into the zone, but the 2-3 leaves one forward high in the zone, while the 2-1-2 sends an additional forechecker in deep. The 2-12 also allows defensemen to join the forecheck.
In the defensive zone, the Laviolette play a low zone collapse. This creates a logjam in the high-priced real estate, but gives some leeway at the point for puck movement. On special teams, the Preds play an umbrella powerplay and a hybrid penalty kill.
Filip Forsberg-Mike Ribiero-Craig Smith
Colin Wilson-Mike Fisher-James Neal
Matt Cullen-Calle Jarnkrok-Gabriel Bourque
Eric Nystrom-Paul Gaustaud-Taylor Beck
Roman Josi-Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm-Anton Volchenkov
Victor Bartley-Seth Jones
PK: Fisher, Gaustaud, Nystrom, Jarnkrok, Cullen, Bourque, Josi, Weber, Jones, Ekholm
Pekka Rinne gets the start.
PK: Stepan, Nash, Girardi, Staal, Moore, Fast, Hunwick, Boyle, Hagelin, Klein, McDonagh, MSL
Cam Talbot is in net.
Be sure to check out our ticket link if you’re looking for tickets to the game. Game time is 3pm on MSG."Game 50: Life without Hank starts in Nashville",