The Nashville Predators enter Toronto after a polarizing weekend in Detroit and Montreal. After taking a bad loss against the Red Wings, the Predators responded with a 4-1 win against the Canadiens. That’s how good teams come back after playing poorly. Nashville can make it another solid night at the office against the Maple Leafs.
Despite the win over the Canadiens, the Predators have won just three of their previous ten games. They haven’t looked like themselves, but a bad game like that against the Red Wings might be enough to snap out of it. Nashville enter with a record of 25-15-2, so they aren’t in the hole or anything. Every team hit walls over the course of a season, even the good ones, and the Predators are hoping that the last couple of weeks is just an outlier.
A win over the Maple Leafs tonight would be another solid sign that it was just a minor bump in the road. The Leafs got a huge lift with the performance of Michael Hutchinson. Hutchison wasn’t so sharp in his debut with the Leafs, but responded to put up a shutout against the Vancouver Canucks.
I’ve heard people saying that Garret Sparks should be thrown out to pasture and let Hutchinson take over as the fulltime starter in net. Let’s be real for a minute. That’s the best game Hutchison has had in over two years. One game doesn’t amount to much, especially when games start to get more important in the second-half. Hutchinson played well, but it’s best to be realistic before giving up on Sparks. This really wouldn’t be a debate if they kept Curtis McElhinney, but that’s a different story for another day. Head below for our free Predators vs. Maple Leafs pick.
Nashville Predators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Pick
In Hutchinson’s debut with the Leafs, he took a 4-3 loss against the Minnesota Wild. He flipped that bad start around and looked sharp against the Canucks. The Canucks are not the Predators, though, so this is going to be a different test for him. Despite the shutout, his GAA is high at 3.40 and a 0.879 save percentage this season.
He was average with the Jets in his last season getting meaningful minutes in net. In 28 starts, Hutchinson posted a 2.92 GAA and 0.903 save percentage. Offenses have changed since then, though, and scoring has gone up. In any event, if he can replicate that kind of production, he could be a solid backup for Andersen.
His history against the Predators has been horrendous, though. In three outings, the Predators have tattooed Hutchinson with a 5.20 GAA and 0.837 save percentage. That’s 7 goals allowed on 43 shots in net, 2 of which were shorthanded goals by the Preds.
Nashville typically haven’t had issues scoring on the road, with 3.1 goals per game. P.K. Subban and Viktor Arvidsson are back in the lineup, and while Subban plays on the blue line, he’s an offensive defenceman who helps out considerably in the offensive zone. I remember watching him in Belleville and the guy would skate circles around everyone else on the ice.
They’re likely going to need some strong play in that department, because the Leafs have been scoring pretty easily this season. Toronto are 2nd in the league with 3.71 goals per game. They’ve totalled 3.9 goals per game in their last ten showings. The last meeting between the Predators and Leafs was a 5-2 win for Toronto last March. This is probably a closer game, though 7 or 8 goals looks promising. I am still not sold on Hutchinson and the Preds have had his number in the past.