This has been a rough season for Nashville Predators fans, who have watched their team lose more than half its games, often via two of the worst ways to lose (shutout and shootout). The team is still in the hunt for the playoffs nearly halfway through the schedule, but with just a two-point spread between third and 10th places in the Western Conference there’s reason enough to be concerned about how the Preds will make out this season.
There are still 27 games left before the playoffs begin, though, so it’s not time to panic. There are some aspects of the Preds’ game that are positive – they just don’t jump at you out the way five shutout losses do. So what are the silver linings in this season so far?
NASHVILLE PREDATORS MID-SEASON SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
Through 21 games, the Nashville Predators have lost 12 and only won nine. But five of those losses have come in overtime or a shootout, giving the Preds a point in the standings each time. As a result they’re currently in fourth place in the Western Conference, ahead of six teams who have won the same number of games or more. Now that’s a silver lining!
Shutouts for Pekka
Pekka Rinne has three shutouts this season, tying him with Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes for the league lead. He looked downright superhuman in two of those shutouts. If the defense can tighten up in front of him again, this team can find a way to win more hockey games.
More often than not, the Nashville Predators score the first goal in their games. They’re tied for fifth in the league with eight wins after scoring first. The Preds have also picked up a point in every game where they’ve scored first: all five of their losses in that situation have been in overtime or a shootout. They are one of just four NHL teams – the others being Chicago, Boston, and Carolina – who have not lost in regulation when scoring first.
4-on-4 goal differential
This year’s Nashville Predators have scored four goals playing 4-on-4 hockey, including overtime game-winners from Shea Weber and Roman Josi. That’s tied with Chicago, Philadelphia, and Winnipeg for the league lead. And like Chicago and Winnipeg, they have yet to give up a 4-on-4 goal, tying them for the league’s best 4-on-4 goal differential.
Nashville is one of six teams in the league not to have given up an empty-netter, and they’ve played more games than all those other teams except Dallas.
No shots for you!
The Predators rank fifth in the league in defending against shots on goal. Their opponents only average 27.0 shots per game. The Preds just need to find a way to keep those shots from making their way to the net.
There’s always Columbus
At the end of the day, the ultimate silver lining for the Nashville Predators is that they play in the Central Division. Sure, that means competing with the Blackhawks, Blues, and Red Wings – but it also means always having a little brother in Columbus. They might leave if the NHL realignment plan goes through, but for now they’re still the Central’s cellar dwellers.
Not only do the Blue Jackets lose more often, but they rank below Nashville in most statistical categories (12.2 percent power-play conversion, 3.0 goals against per game, 16.7 percent winning percentage when scoring first, etc.). There’s nothing like knowing exactly where the floor is when you’re trying not to fall down. Columbus might have beaten Nashville in their only game so far this season, but they’re still lagging far behind the rest of the division with only 13 points in 20 games.