The Boston Bruins are in Nashville tonight to take on the Predators in both clubs’ final game before a three-day Christmas break.
The Bruins sit as the top team in the Eastern Conference, while the Preds are on another downward turn in their season-long roller coaster ride.
Lose three in a row. Win three in a row. Lose five-straight contests. Claim victory for two-straight games.
That’s how it’s gone over the past month for the team from Music City. Seemingly regardless of the caliber of the opponent (until recently) Nashville has taken out some of the best clubs in the league (e.g. San Jose) and subsequently been shutout out by clubs at the very bottom of the barrel (e.g. Edmonton).
So why are the Predators stuck on this horrible carnival ride they can’t get off?
Poor Goaltending, Rinne Injury:
Nashville’s net has seen three rookie goaltenders take up residence since All-Star netminder Pekka Rinne went down with a hip infection nearly two months ago. And yet, inexperienced goalies haven’t been the clear issue for the Predators. Marek Mazanec tallied two shutouts and four wins in a five-game span in November and Carter Hutton only allowed four goals in three games (all of them wins) just two weeks ago.
While stability and consistently high-quality play haven’t abounded from any of the players manning the net, the performances have rarely been so poor that this portion of the Predators game can be called the predominate problem.
The foundation of the Predators for nearly 15 years, Nashville not only possesses one of the league’s top blueliners in Shea Weber, they also have a bright future with Roman Josi and Seth Jones still in the beginning stages of their careers. The Preds have allowed their opponents to score 103 times; six clubs in the West have allowed more. While maybe not as stout as it has been in seasons past, the Preds defense–usually–puts the team in a decent enough position to beat just about any club (e.g. claiming wins over San Jose and Montreal, while holding them to two and one goals respectively).
So no dice on this one either (well, it’s not the No. 1 issue)
Oops. Nashville has lit the lamp 83 times this season. That’s dead last in the Western Conference (Minnesota is the only other team that has scored in the 80s). On the other hand, the top-two squads in the West have scored the most by a pretty decent margin. Chicago has scored 140 times, Anaheim 125 and St. Louis 125 (the Hawks hold a four-point lead in the Central, Blues are second and the Ducks are three up in the Pacific). It may seem rather obvious that scoring the most goals gets the most wins, but when was the last time you heard Nashville talk about offense first? It’s always, “defense-this, goaltending-that”. And clearly, it’s not a recipe that’s working too well right now.
On the bright side, the Predators power play has been on fire the last six games and was the main reason they claimed a point in their last game against Montreal. Hopefully the top-ten power play can serve as the spark that lights a fire throughout Nashville’s forwards and helps the club to finally find the exit for this abysmal roller coaster ride.
The Bruins and Preds faceoff tonight at 7 pm. Carter Hutton starts in goal for Nashville.