Last night the Nashville Predators lost 3-1 on home ice to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team they’ve spent the bulk of their existence dominating. Columbus’ big trades at the deadline brought players to the team, and the biggest one, Marian Gaborik, was instrumental in the win. Nashville’s big trade sent a player away. Losing without him dropped the team’s playoff chances to just under seven percent, according to sportsclubstats.com.
So how did they get to this point, where they only have a seven percent chance of making the playoffs with a fifth of the season left to play? It’s a simple recipe.
The Nashville Predators’ Seven-Percent Playoff Solution
Before the season began every analyst in hockey devoted at least a little bit of time to how the importance of injuries would be magnified thanks to the 48-game schedule. The Preds have been a case study in that magnification. They have lost 62 man-games between just Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill, Patric Hornqvist, and Colin Wilson. Being without one of the league’s best faceoff men, one its best penalty killers, the Preds’ leading goalscorer the last three seasons, and their leading scorer this season has been a tough call for a team without the same kind of experienced depth that some other franchises have. When you look at the spots where Nashville has struggled most, they correspond pretty closely with the team’s most oft-injured personnel.
Losing Games Too Many Games To Weak Opponents
Right now there are six teams other than the Nashville Predators who are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff chase. The Preds have played 17 games against the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames, and Colorado Avalanche with a combined record of 7-8-2. The worst part is that they were 4-2-1 against those teams before a stretch in which they faced them for eight consecutive games to close out the month of March. Two of their losses in regulation during that period were by one goal, as was their overtime shutout loss to Colorado on March 20th. A timely goal here and there could have made as much as six points’ difference in the standings at this point.
Failing In The Shootout
Coming into this season, Pekka Rinne was a very solid NHL shootout goalie. He stopped 70 percent of the attempts against last season and 79.4 percent the year before. But this year his save percentage is down to just 56.3 percent – 14 goals in 32 attempts. Some of them have been pretty terrible goals, too, where Pekka simply looked nervous and bit on the shooter’s fake far too early. The team’s 2-6 record in shootouts is just as much about the lack of individual scoring talent on the Preds roster, though. Shootouts might be stupid, but they’re part of today’s NHL game. Even a 4-4 record in them right now would have Nashville in a competitive 9th place in the West instead of a quickly sinking 12th.
If there’s any internal strife among the team right now, as some people have suggested after the fallout of the Martin Erat trade, it’s easy to understand why. Frustrations that might be washed away by winning can sometimes bubble up when a team can’t find a way to consistently compete.