The Nashville Predators have completed two-thirds of their 2013 season, which means it’s time for another look at how the team has fared so far. In many ways, this season has continued to be a trying one. With 32 of the season’s 48 games complete and contention for a playoff spot in danger of slipping away, the Preds seem to be stuck squarely in the middle of the pack.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS 2013 SEASON:
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It was nice to see Shea Weber break out of his early season slump and resume a role as one of our leading scorers, but it’s not enough. Having chalked up only 19 points so far this season, he’s still under-producing compared to his last four seasons. While shifting roles on the team and the loss of Ryan Suter as his long-time defensive partner are just a few of the factors that could be contributing to his having such a lackluster offensive season, Weber currently boasts a +5 rating and his performance defensively leaves little to be desired.
Without a doubt, Pekka Rinne is one of the best net-minders currently playing in the NHL. He continues to prove that this season. He’s faced a few rough patches this season. His GAA has risen from 1.58 to 2.32, but he still leads the NHL in shutouts with five and is currently tied for 14th in the league with Cory Schneider (VAN). Having played 30 of the games so far and maintaining a very respectable .911 save percentage (down from .938), it’s clear that despite his tendency to make questionable plays behind the net, Pekka is a major reason the team is doing as well as it is.
Let’s face it, the offensive category is where this year’s Predators have been losing games. Improving their goals per game from 2.06 in the first part of the season to 2.44 and their shots per game from 23.7 to 26.5, the Predators’ goal scorers have woken up a little bit. But ranked 25th overall in the league for goals, they just now seem to be wiping the sleep from their eyes. The team’s numbers are still down from previous seasons and it’s doubtful if they’ll make up that ground in the last 16 games.
That, however, is no reason to despair completely. There are plenty of positives to build on as the season continues. Shea Weber and Colin Wilson lead the team with 19 points each, and Roman Josi is proving himself to be a valuable asset too. He’s produced 15 points so far. Not shabby by any means for his first season in the big show. Even Rich Clune has surprised people with how much he’s contributed.
Defensively, we still have one of the stronger teams in the league. The Predators have allowed 2.53 goals against per game, tying them with San Jose for 11th place in the NHL. Though still rebuilding, these numbers are good enough on paper to make the Preds a formidable team to face and further testament to the team’s offensive deficiency. And outside of Scott Hannan, the Preds’ individual defensemen have all put in fine performances for most of the season. That the team has continued to play solid defense in the absence of its departed #2 man makes one wonder whether Nashville would be in a much better position if they could just score more goals.
The Special Teams
It’s on the Predators’ special teams that we’ve seen the most change in the second part of this season. In fact, the team’s penalty kill and power play abilities have flip-flopped when compared to the first part of the season. Nashville’s PK has dropped from 84.5 to 76.9 percent (dropping from 6th to 29th in the NHL) while they have begun to capitalize slightly more on the man advantage, 15.1 to 20.0 percent (moving up from a tie for 22nd to 11th in the NHL). It’s good to see the much-needed boost in power play goals, but the team is now getting massacred on the PK. The recent return of Hal Gill should help to ease the PK trouble, though; he missed most of the middle third of the season due to injury.
OVERALL GRADE: C
It was clear coming into this season that it was going to be a tough one for the Predators and it has proved to be so. Judging by goaltending and defense, Nashville should be doing much better than they are. Given their performance in other categories, however, the team ranks exactly where you’d expect them to, somewhere in the middle of the current NHL standings. Dealing with roster changes and a struggling offense, the team seems as though it’s treading water. With their chances for earning a playoff spot dwindling and the trade deadline approaching, don’t be surprised if the Predators make some moves for a push at the end of the season or in preparation for the next.
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