The Nashville Predators played their first pre-season game in the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena and picked up their first win in a 2-0 victory over the New York Islanders.
Some thoughts and observations after watching the team last night:
Seth Jones plays a very smart game. He jumped into the rush in the offensive zone on occasion, but was defensively responsible throughout the game. Paired with Roman Josi, the duo quickly showed good chemistry and sound defensive play. For Jones, Nashville could not have been a better fit. The tutelage of Shea Weber and a young player like Josi that is not far removed from breaking into the NHL will be invaluable. Not to mention the benefits of being coached by a Hall of Fame defenseman in Phil Housley.
Speaking of Josi, he looked to be a bit stronger and more physical. He continues to impress with his skating and puck handling, and the part of his game that needed to improve was his strength. he appears to have made some positive strides in that area in the off season.
The line of David Legwand, Gabriel Bourque, and Filip Forsberg showed some real chemistry and explosiveness. This line could be a significant offensive contributor in the upcoming season. Bourque is solid and physical, Forsberg is sneaky quick and deft with the puck, and Legwand can distribute to his line mates. I hope to see this line continue to develop throughout the season.
Craig Smith arguably has some of the best skills on the team with his speed and puck handling ability creating matchup problems for opponents. There is no doubt that the Predators will be a much better team if Smith can start scoring with some regularity. Here's hoping that last year was just a miserable sophomore slump for the Honey Badger.
I think this is a make or break year for Ryan Ellis. He skates well, has a good shot, and can handle the puck. My concerns are the size mismatches that he almost always encounters on the ice. There are times where he is physically overwhelmed. I think this year with Housley is his best chance to stick on the Predators roster. If he is sent back to Milwaukee, I believe he could be packaged up in a trade.
Pekka Rinne worked two periods last night and looked very good. Peks tracked the puck well, was positionally sound, and survived some contact early. He also managed to stave off some good scoring chances from close in by the Islanders.
Rinne's back up, Carter Hutton, very much impressed me in the third period. He is athletic and moves well, and is aggressive in net. I believe he will be able to give the Predators some quality starts an ease the work load on Rinne.
The Predators play their last pre-season home game tomorrow night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The puck drops at 7:00