The Predators celebrate a goal against a deflated Henrik Lundqvist. He’s now allowed 18 goals on 134 shots in his last 4 road appearances. AP Photo by Mark Humphrey/Getty Images
In a game I caught the tail end of, the Rangers were defeated by the Predators 5-3 in Music City. It was another game I didn’t need to see. I was busy putting in some extra time at work earning extra incentive. I wish I could say the same for this sinking ship.
The Christmas break apparently didn’t help. Neither did the returns of Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein. Right now, this team can’t win on the road. Since posting a 5-4 overtime win over the Panthers back on Nov. 21, they have dropped their last eight (0-6-2). Even worse, in the last five road losses, they’ve allowed at least five goals in each giving up 27 total.
Most alarming, Henrik Lundqvist has started four of those five games allowing 18 goals on 134 shots. Including tonight where he gave up all five Nashville goals on 35 shots before giving way to backup Antti Raanta who relieved him following James Neal’s second that made it 5-1, Lundqvist has now been pulled three times in his last four road starts. He’s posted a un-King like .866 save percentage. Breaking it down further in a tweet I just posted:
Honestly, there’s really not much more to say. If Lundqvist can’t perform better than that, then it could be a while before the Blueshirts’ road issues go away. That being said, they have two more quality opponents coming up. On Wednesday, they visit the Lightning. Then on Saturday January 2, 2016, they’re at the Panthers.
It’s not just on Henrik. The performance by the D or lack there of has been alarming. Having finally caught highlights, he didn’t have much chance on three. The Ryan Ellis power play bomb that followed a Craig Smith tally was stoppable. It snowballed with Neal ending Lundqvist’s night for the Preds’ third goal in 3:41. Making his first appearance since sustaining a concussion at the Wild on Dec. 17, Raanta didn’t face a shot in 5:19 of action before going to the bench for an extra attacker.
Consecutive goals off the sticks of Rick Nash and J.T. Miller made things interesting with still 3:58 left. Despite some close calls, they were unable to cut the deficit to one. Pekka Rinne made at least one big save. He finished with 26 total to pick up the win.
Jesper Fast scored the other goal for the Blueshirts on a nice tip of a Girardi shot from Chris Kreider which actually evened the score at 6:59 of the second stanza. But shoddy defense allowed Mike Ribeiro to feed a wide open Neal for a laser from the slot putting the Preds in front for good at 13:48. Ribeiro had a big night setting up three goals including Smith’s redirect from in front that irked Lundqvist and Ellis’ power play goal from long distance.
Regrettably, Emerson Etem and Dylan McIlrath were the healthy scratches. Viktor Stalberg was back in which is inexcusable. What exactly does he bring that Etem can’t? God forbid Alain Vigneault let the kid play and see if he can become a key contributor. Unbelievable.
As for McIlrath, everyone knew he’d come out with Girardi and Klein back. And with Dan Boyle suddenly reemerging, McIlrath now finds himself the odd man out. One trend on Twitter that amused me was a #FreeMcIlrath one. The writing is on the wall.
Fans are starting to turn on Vigneault and his staff. While a rookie coach makes abrupt lineup changes for an overachieving team across the Hudson, a veteran coach who’s had great success here is unwilling to do what must be needed to get his team’s attention. You can’t make it up.