It was the perfect night to take a team by storm.
Through the first quarter of the season, NHL teams continued to doubt the Detroit Red Wings. They’d ice their backup goaltenders and give half the effort needed for a win, only to find themselves humbled by Lucas Raymond & company. A team like the Nashville Predators, who seemingly can’t make up their mind about their team’s trajectory, seemed like the perfect victims. After all, they played the Red Wings eight times last season, compiling a 5-2-1 record against them. Surely this meant the team would take the night off, right?
#Preds Head Coach John Hynes says the coaching staff addressed their group to make sure they understand they're facing a new-look Detroit team - young, fast and different than what they saw 8 times last season. Preds know they need to get to their identity right from the start.— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) December 7, 2021
Tonight’s game was nationally covered, meaning, sadly, Ken and Mick’s voices were nowhere to be heard. The Predators went with a late goaltending change, putting in David Rittich, who has a baffling .888 save percentage. The national coverage, of course, starts off strong, referring to Michael Rasmussen as “Raz-muh-sin”, following it up by calling Adam Erne Filip Hronek. A slash from Matt Duchene offers the Red Wings a very snooze-worthy power play which was killed off before it began.
The first 10 minutes of the game featured very little in terms of action. Lots of back-and-forth followed by a few sparse woos from the crowd. Tanner Jeannot had a near-goal chance for Nashville on his knees, fighting past a series of Red wings for a chance. The slow, low-event hockey was boring enough to make a New York Islanders fan shed a tear of respect.
Leddy and Rasmussen both managed to put grade-A scoring chances into the Predators’ hands, doing just enough to make Alex Nedeljkovic stay awake. Vladislav Namestnikov headed to the box after a puzzling puck chip, forcing the Red Wings on the penalty kill. The Predators, for the record, have the second-best road power play in the NHL. Sure enough, Nashville scored as Danny DeKeyser gets this game off to a whelming start.
To make matters worse, Roman Josi scores one of the prettiest goals of the season. Roman Josi. The defenseman.
That goal was made possible by the efforts of Hronek, Zadina, and Leddy. The first period left a lot to be desired, but the lead was ALMOST cut in half when Larkin hit the post.
An immediate turnover from Michael Rasmussen gets the period off to a less-than ideal start. The Predators, through the first period, outshot the Red Wings 12-3. To make matters worse, one of Nashville’s players laid out Larkin, who continued to play the rest of his shift injured. If you were wondering if his teammates stood up for him or did anything, don’t worry — they quickly iced the puck to keep him on the ice. A smart dive from Vladislav Namestnikov stops Nashville from advancing on another big scoring chance.
The game finally took its first exciting turn at the 12-minute mark. Givani Smith squared up against Ben Harpur and demolished the guy in a very quick scrap. The 6’6” Harpur was no match for Smith, who made mincemeat of his opponent.
More scrappiness ensued, with Dan Renouf getting physical near the Predators’ bench. A penalty gave the Red Wings enough breathing room to result in a goal from Robby Fabbri! 2-1!
At the halfway point, the Red Wings doubled their shot count to a whopping six, thanks in no short part to the Predators’ incredible ability to block pucks. Dan Renouf headed off for cross-checking following another attempt to energize the team. While the game was going on, the Predators’ social media person tried to take a jab at Detroit. Very classy thing for a professional hockey team’s social media account to do.
A shorthanded opportunity came too late as Pius Suter’s shot connected with Roman Josi, who limped off the ice shortly after. A few VERY scary scoring chances near the end are, fortunately, saved by Nedeljkovic.
12 shots have been blocked by the Predators so far, suffocating Detroit’s shot total to just eight. A bad bounce from Gagner sends the puck right into Nick Cousins’ stick, knocking the puck in to make it 3-1.
The physical, intense style of Nashville left the Red Wings nervous with the puck, frequently making costly passing mistakes. The Preadtors kept their foot on the gas pedal through the third period, peppering Nedeljkovic with even more shots through the third. Seider, always one to wait for the right moment, laid out a Nashville player, creating a great opening for Pius Suter and the offense...which turned into nothing.
While this game was going on, Calder rival Trevor Zegras set up one of the most Datsyukian assists I’ve seen since...well, Pavel Datsyuk. You’ve probably seen the video already, but here it is if you haven’t. Dante Fabbro took a hit from Robby Fabbri, responding quickly with a deflection shot on goal.
Pain is briefly lifted as a big pass to Michael Rasmussen results in a HUGE goal! Adam Erne’s perfect pass places the puck right on Rasmussen’s stick. A two-on-two threat from the Predators sees Moritz Seider dive and block a MASSIVE opportunity to Nashville, yet again showing his elite vision on the ice.
Apparently, the Red Wings couldn’t enjoy anything tonight, as Seider left halfway through the third period, his head hitting the glass awkwardly on a hit. Great. Tanner Jeannot was the deliverer of the hit; he was also responsible for hits to Larkin and Fabbri as well. One key differentiator that the Predators have had over the Red Wings this season is that they never let up the pressure. Whether they have a three-goal lead or are just up one, they keep their foot on the gas pedal throughout it all.
Renouf, who did his best to stand up for Seider, was quickly dispatched by Jeannot in a fight. Blashill, with over three minutes left, opted to leave the net empty, which, honestly, is making the best of a bad situation. Some good pressure leads to great scoring chances, but they just weren’t enough. A Fabbro empty net is almost stopped by Zadina.
All in all, this game was a complete discombobulation on every level. An impotent offense, incompetent defense, and a slew of bad luck sunk Detroit tonight.