The Nashville Predators lost in overtime to the Ottawa Senators tonight, but considering the way the game began, the result could have been much worse. The Preds came away with a point despite a terrible start and despite their starting goalie getting pulled.
However, even though it stings to lose in overtime, the Preds might be in a better position the rest of the road trip because of the way this game played out.
Goalie change up
To recap, the Preds were almost immediately in a big hole against the Senators. The Sens scored two goals on two shots in the first five minutes of the game. Then they scored a third goal with 11 seconds left in the period. The Preds looked slow and completely out of sorts and the Sens were rolling.
Then, Peter Laviolette pulled Pekka Rinne in favor of Juuse Saros to start the 2nd period. With Saros in net, the team rallied. Roman Josi scored, then Craig Smith scored, then Roman Josi tied it with 13 minutes left in the 3rd period. The Senators scored quickly in overtime to get the two points, but the fact remains: the Preds gained a point in the standings after looking lifeless in the 1st period.
But go back to that goalie change. It may have seemed reactionary, especially because only one of the goals allowed by Rinne was his fault. In reality it was a smart move by Laviolette.
Now Rinne will be free to start tomorrow night’s game against the Blackhawks in the United Center. A place where he’s played 26 times, including plenty of playoff games. He’s also won three of his last four starts there.
Juuse Saros has yet to play in Chicago. He’s also been pretty bad on the road this year, with an .881 save percentage and a 3.51 goals allowed average.
This change in schedule can’t be overstated. If Rinne stays in net and the result of tonight’s game doesn’t change, the team starts the road trip on a sour note, then has to go into a hostile environment against a rival and find a way to win. As bad as the Blackhawks are, that’s no easy task.
But with Laviolette’s decision to change goalies early on in tonight’s loss, the Preds may actually have a chance to get more points on the first half of this road trip than they would have otherwise. The difference in going “0-for-4” in a two game swing and going “2-for-4” or “3-for-4” means a lot in the standings. Especially in the Central Division.
Despite the loss, that’s a quality coaching move by Peter Laviolette. And it’s just another reason why the Nashville Predators have been so successful since he arrived.
— Featured image via Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports —