As we hinted at in our post earlier today, it was a tall order to ask that Nashville end a four-game losing streak by winning a road game. The Predators have been mediocre at Bridgestone Arena this season (6-6-2), and as in seasons past, when they aren’t winning at home (lost four-straight) they aren’t likely to do any better on the road (7-8-1).
History repeated itself and the Predators dropped their fifth straight game and registered their second-consecutive 5-2 loss, this time at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
The Caps took it to Nashville early, tallying the first three goals of the contest and preventing the Preds from settling into the game at all. After Thursday’s loss to the Hurricanes, head coach Barry Trotz stressed the importance of scoring first, not only for his club, but for any NHL team. But for the fifth straight game, Nashville failed to light the lamp first.
The last five times the Predators have scored first in a game, they’ve won. But when was the last time that happened?
November 27th, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That’s 10 days, five games and 15 periods ago.
As evidenced in tonight’s game, the Predators lack of success is caused by their “circular” pattern of failing to shutdown their opponent on defense, which prevents them from counterattacking and ultimately impacts their play on both sides of the puck. The Preds can’t prevent goals, so they over-focus on defense and spend too much time in their own zone and that keeps them from scoring as well.
Shaky goaltending and an “overly-defensive” mindset cause Nashville to sit back in their own zone, trying not to make mistakes. This in turn causes them to spend too much time in their own zone and they’re not able to create enough quality scoring chances to produce goals. Finally, the Preds find themselves losing and as the game stretches on they’re forced to take chances (like over-pinching at the blue line) which result in giving up odd-man rushes to the opponent and goals scored against.
This issue is compounded by the fact that this team was not built to play anything but a defensive game. When general manager David Poile signed players like Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom this offseason, he was betting that the Preds could lockdown their opponent as a team and then create offense off a counterattack game. It’s worked in the past, but not this season.
When you can’t stop your opponent from scoring first or counterattack enough to get decent scoring chances, you lose. And a lot of times it’s by lopsided totals like five goals to two.