Florida opens and closes a one-game road trip tonight in Nashville. In today's Three Questions, I had the privilege to trade off a few queries with Dirk Hoag of the always excellent On the Forecheck.
Kevin (LBC): Despite a 2-3-0 record, a 3.13 GAA, and an .889 save percentage, Pekka Rinne is Nashville's unquestioned number one this season. Does he still have it - or may we soon be getting to know Carter Hutton?
Dirk (OTF): Despite the numbers not looking great, Pekka Rinne has been pretty good overall. The opening game at St. Louis was a disaster, in which Peks was hung out to dry on many occasions, and he got pulled after giving up three goals on six shots. Since then he's put up a completely respectable .917 save percentage, and has had a few highlight-reel stops at critical junctures for the Preds. With Nashville's first back-to-back set of games coming up this weekend we may see Hutton get his first start, but so far Rinne looks like a dominant #1 starter.
Kevin: Most Florida Panther fans thought for sure that GM Dale Tallon and Co. would pull the trigger and draft Seth Jones when their turn came up. Instead, they selected Aleksander Barkov, and Jones fell to the Predators. What can you tell me about the 19-year old after five NHL games?
Dirk: Jones looks remarkably calm when he has the puck on his stick, he doesn't rush his decision-making and has the sense to use his 6'4" frame to protect the puck and look for the best option. He sets up in good shooting position on the power play, and actually has more shots on goal to this point (14) than Shea Weber (8). About the only downside is that he is understandably vulnerable to whiffing in the defensive zone, and that he's not physically aggressive at all. That's just quibbling, though, considering his age and the deep water he's been thrown into right away. Jones is playing on the top pair alongside Shea Weber, so he's battling the best opponents while playing more than 23 minutes a night. That's astounding, especially for a Predators organization which usually brings prospects along very slowly.
Kevin: In 2011-12, we were treated to a Predators team that finished with 104 points and the fourth seed in the West. After a decided fall from grace last season, what's the atmosphere like around the front office and coaching staff? Are there any whispers of a change at the top?
Dirk: There's nothing at this point which leads me to believe that either Barry Trotz or David Poile are under extra pressure, and it would probably take a disaster this season for that to change. Expectations among the larger part of the fanbase are for the team to be competitive, not necessarily a major Cup contender, and the sense I get from most fans is that just returning to the playoffs would represent a successful season.
Thanks again to Dirk for his take on the opposition. Read what I had to say to his own questions at On the Forecheck, and don't forget to tune in right here for your game preview around 3PM, and as always, your LBC GameThread goes live half an hour before faceoff, at 7:30 tonight.