The Morning After: Preseason’s Over
By Miranda Martin
While everyone is waking up to their Sunday post-game hangover, alcohol-induced or not, the Nashville predators shootout loss against the Columbus blue jackets Saturday night was not what many were expecting.
Before everyone calls the sky falling for the Predators, there were both good and bad points from the first game of the season. The good news is that the first game is in the books, and the team can start finding solutions to apparent issues. The bad news is that the game was sloppy, and it was obvious that the last game was over eight months ago.
Beyond the Predators, most performances around the league were a little off. For every team in the NHL playing Saturday, it seemed more like preseason than the regular season. This is the first time that an NHL season has started with absolutely no preseason since the Predators have come to existence. Even with the shortened season in 1994-1995, there were exhibitions before games counted in the standings. Teams are still trying to figure out which offensive lines and defensive pairings work best. Even teams that did not see many changes over the offseason faltered in their first game.
For the Predators, it definitely shed light on things that needed to be worked on and quickly. Firstly, the question on many people’s minds is what will happen with the defensive pairings after… well, a loss to Columbus. Some individual efforts on defense were commendable. For his first game with the Predators, defenseman Scott Hannan was definitely showing his experience while adapting to a brand new team. Ryan Ellis seemed a little more polished than last year, and he was also somewhat productive offensively. Needless to say, the several minutes without captain Shea Weber in the middle of the second period was grueling for the Predators and opportunistic for the Blue Jackets. As a whole, the defense seemed to lack the communication, which is partly expected with such an altered defensive core. There were significant odd-man rushes, including a nearly 4-on-1 early in the first period. The defense will definitely need to start talking, tighten up, and stop relying so much on goaltender Pekka Rinne.
As for offense, it’s definitely apparent why Martin Erat earned the permanent “A” on his sweater. Even though he did not score in the shootout, his beautiful top shelf goal that put the Predators on board just 39 seconds into the game showed just what he is capable of this season. He also had a beautiful defensive play (let that sink in for a second) while Rinne was out of the net, knocking the puck out of the crease and keeping the game from ending in regulation.
Dozens of excuses can be made for this game, but with such a short season, every game counts, and the Predators have to move on from this loss very quickly. They face the St. Louis Blues Monday night. The team that won the Central Division last year have already started off on the right foot, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 6-0 for their first game. Though the Predators have previously had success versus the blues, going 4-1-1 against them last season, it is absolutely crucial for the team to find their first official win of the season.
The world doesn’t end with a loss to Columbus, and a point was still salvaged. Columbus still hasn’t beaten the Predators in regulation since 2006. It could be worse, Preds fans. There could be no hockey at all. Or the team could be Detroit. Let’s just not be Detroit come Monday night, okay?