Nashville Predators Drop Battle of Backup Goaltenders

The Nashville Predators split back-to-back games against the Chicago Blackhawks to open the season.

The Nashville Predators fall to 1-1-0 after losing Saturday night’s matchup against the Blackhawks 5-3. The game marked the first win of the season for Chicago, moving the division rival to a 1-2-0 record.

The story of the game resided in the nets at either end of the ice, where Nashville Predators backup goaltender Marek Mazanec played opposite of Hawk’s backup Scott Darling. Mazanec held a .908 save percentage through 27 career appearances coming into the night, but managed to crack under fire immediately into the 2016-17 season, surrendering 3 goals on 5 shots within the first 11 minutes of action.

Defensive support didn’t do a tremendous amount to help out the backup goalie, but through two games it appears that Peter Laviolette‘s Nashville Predators are trending towards a high-risk, high-reward style of play that will require the netminder to bail his team out at a higher rate than previous seasons.

This is the kind of thing that can be expected when swapping a defenseman like Shea Weber for an offensively motivated guy like P.K. Subban– it will take some time to adjust. To lend evidence to this defense-for-offense swap- Subban registered an assist last night, bringing his point totals to two points through two games, though he currently sits at a -2 plus/minus rating.

The Nashville Predators registered 36 shots on goal to Chicago’s 27, outhit the Hawks 32-23, won 53% of the faceoffs, and halved their rival’s giveaways, 6-12. The game’s decision game down to one thing- Scott Darling made enough tough saves for his team, and Mazenec, though stabilizing his play throughout the night, didn’t.

Captain Mike Fisher‘s line was the best offense generator for Smashville, with Colin Wilson gaining a goal and James Neal an assist. The numbers could have been higher for the line if not for Darling’s outstanding performance on the night.

Nashville goal scorers included Viktor Arvidsson, who appears determined to remain a fan favorite while dominating much-larger Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell en route to scoring his first goal of the season. Craig Smith also hit his first net of the year on a laser wrister, giving the team their fourth power play marker of the season.

It was a tough ask to make the Chicago Blackhawks begin their season 0-3, particularly with a backup goaltender in net. An interesting decision by Laviolette to sit starter Pekka Rinne only two days into the campaign, giving early indications that he plans to give the veteran ample rest throughout the year- meaning Mazanec will be relied upon to be a critical part of the team’s success this season.

The Nashville Predators will return to action Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars. Both Central Division teams are 1-1-0 and will be looking to move on the positive side of .500.

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