Juuse Saros Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — It’s still early in the 2021-22 NHL season, but the Nashville Predators are showing signs that they will be better than many observers expected. Their 1-0 victory Sunday night over the New York Rangers was their fifth straight, and it completed an impressive 3-0 sweep of the New York teams. This time it was rookie forward Philip Tomasino who scored early in the second period for the game’s only goal. Juuse Saros made 32 saves for his second shutout of the season.

This win followed the Predators defeating the Islanders 4-3 Thursday night and the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Friday night. Saros was the defensive star Sunday, with three strong periods that included 16 saves in the third period as the Rangers battled to even the score. He now has 16 career shutouts, and he had 32 for this game. The Predators’ streak is the longest in the NHL this season, and they definitely achieved more than they hoped with the road trip.

They played in Detroit, Long Island, Newark and Manhattan, getting the maximum eight points over four games. They managed to win Sunday despite being shorthanded. Neither Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen were available. Yet Nashville still pulled out the win. 

“[Trying to] make it [not just] a good road trip, which could have been 3-1, but to make it a great road trip, which would be 4-0, and against a Top Five team in the League, I just really liked the mental focus of the guys and just the fortitude to be ready to go,” Predators Head Coach John Hynes said on the team’s website. “We were ready to start the game, and I liked the energy in the room. It was a hard-fought battle. We found a way to do it, and it’s another step forward, for sure. The grittiness, the identity, the mental and physical toughness that we continue to talk about with our group – it was a good test, and the guys rose to the challenge today.”

“They’re a Top Five team in the League, so it was a great test for us,” Tomasino added. “We were missing Dutchy and Joey, who are arguably two of our best forwards, so it was definitely a challenge tonight, but I think everyone came in with the mentality that there’s no excuses and we’re going to execute our game, and I think we did that. It was an unbelievable road trip for us. I think tonight was probably the hardest game of the road trip, but we came up with a win. It was an awesome trip for our team, and hopefully we continue it with the homestand coming up in the next couple days.”

The Predators are now 17-10-1 and are the Central Division’s second place team. They faced Calgary Tuesday night and will play Colorado Thursday, both at Bridgestone Arena before traveling to Chicago for a Friday night contest and then at Carolina Sunay.