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NASHVILLE – There were apparently no extra fiery speeches from Predators coach Peter Laviolette or anything out of the norm in advance of Nashville’s Saturday 4-1 win over Philadelphia. Or at least that’s what his players said.
“I’m sure inside he wanted this one a little bit more but he’s pretty professional. I don’t think he was coming in making sure we did it for him,” forward Colin Wilson said. “I think he wanted the win no matter what. I’m sure it’s a little more special for him, but certainly not on the outside.”
On this evening of epic attempted trolling that included a bobblehead doll for Nashville captain Shea Weber (Yes ... against the very team that tried to sign him away from Nashville) and multiple Bridgestone Arena video montages explaining why all things Philadelphia were horrible, the former Flyers bench boss played it straight.
Said Laviolette, “We were focused on what we had to do. We knew it was a big game for us coming off the break and a chance to move up in the standings. That’s mostly what we talk about in our room, it’s never anything personal for anybody.”
Sure, and elephants fly.
If Laviolette looked calm on the outside in his first game against his former team, he had every reason to burn on the inside.
Being fired after three games of the previous season after an emotional four-plus season stint with Philly will do that. Having personal relationships with the players on the other side, a group that still has some pieces he took to a 2010 Stanley Cup Final adds to the emotional bond.
“We know it’s obviously a little more important for him,” Predators defenseman Seth Jones said. “He didn’t really show it before the game but obviously we have a sense.”
The game exemplified why Laviolette is in a better spot now than he was with Philadelphia. Beyond the fact that Nashville has 48 points to Philly’s 34, it was just so clear the Predators are a better team.
Nashville dominated the Flyers, out-shooting them 38-27 and out-Corsi-ing them 57-45. The Predators also beat the Flyers in many other advanced-stat categories.
Beyond these numbers, there’s the eyeball test, and the Predators scored higher.
Nashville had multiple pieces up and down its lineup it used to activate its attack and defend its net. From super rookie Filip Forsberg (one goal and one assist), the 25-year-old Wilson (two goals), Weber (one assist in 25:01 of action) and goaltender Pekka Rinne (26 saves on 27 shots on goal), the Predators had more weapons a team needs to win a hockey game.
Beyond Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, Philadelphia didn’t show much. Granted, goaltender Steve Mason is injured, but defensemen Mark Streit, Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald don’t exactly make a goaltender’s life easy, regardless of who is in net.
Plus, as owner Ed Snider so eloquently put it, where is the secondary scoring?
In a weird way, the Flyers are one Weber away from being a solid team. They sort of had him two summers ago with a 14-year $110 million offer sheet. Then Nashville matched it. Now the Predators have Weber locked up forever, Philadelphia’s former coach, and a shiny new system that continues to confound opponents and produce wins.
One loss in the first game out of the holiday break – which is always tough on a road team that has to travel that day – shouldn’t be a major barometer. But on this night, it was obvious that Nashville's present and future look brighter this season.
The Flyers were stuck in neutral, missing a few pieces to make them playoff-worthy. The Predators are probably one player away (cough, first line center, cough) from being a top-flight contender
And because of this, it was more than just a victory for Laviolette, which at very least should make him feel good. Even if he will never admit it.
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