To the surprise of many, the Nashville Predators are considered one of the top teams in the NHL this season. In the past month or so, the Predators have had to face a number of top opponents, many of which they may see again in the postseason.
So, how have they stacked up against the NHL’s best teams?
The results have been quite mixed.
Since the calendar turned to 2015, the Predators have faced all nine other teams in the top 10 in the NHL, some more than once. In those games, Nashville is 4-3-3. While this isn’t bad, it’s not the type of result one would desire for a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Why can they beat some elite teams, but not others? Let’s look at the possession numbers in some of those games.
In losses vs. top teams, the Predators tend to outpossess and outshoot their opponents. Look at the Corsi for chart for the game vs. the Detroit Red Wings on January 17th, a 5-2 loss, via War-on-ice.com.
As you can see, despite being annihilated on the score sheet, the Predators put a lot of shots on net. Now, look at the same chart for the Predators’ 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on February 5th.
There are a number of other losses to top teams that look just like this. The Predators out shoot their opponents by a hefty margin, but still lose. Why? It could be any number of reasons. But, for whatever reason, the Predators cannot find the back of the net, despite a heavy shooting advantage.
This is also the reason why those losses are tough to swallow. The Predators have plenty of chances, but can’t finish. It’s why fans cringe as the Predators seemingly can’t catch a break.
There are occasional exceptions to this, like the loss to the New York Islanders on February 19th, in which the Islanders held the Corsi advantage 68 to 63. However, the majority of losses to top-1o teams follow this trend. Even in that game vs. the Islanders, the Predators held the shot advantage for much of the game.
In victories over top-1o teams, the Corsi story is slightly different. The Predators are out possessed and out shot, but still manage to win. Look at the Corsi chart for the Predators’ 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on February 7th.
The Predators held a shot advantage for most of the game, but the Rangers ended up out shooting the Predators in the end. Despite a barrage of Ranger shots in the third period, the Predators managed to snag the game winning goal in the third period. Now, look at the same chart for the 3-2 overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning three days later.
The Predators defenses held strong in the final period and overtime, as the Lightning took a massive shot advantage in later portions of the game.
So, does it behoove the Predators to allow a lot of shot attempts, and find the best opportunities when they can? The numbers say yes. The numbers also show a defensive/goaltending corps that is elevating the Predators to new levels. Despite facing barrages of shots, the defense blocks them, Pekka Rinne saves them, and it leads to better chances for the Predators.
Is this method of success sustainable? If the Predators continue to give top teams a lot of scoring chances, they won’t win many more games. Now, they won’t need to completely out shoot their opponents, but they will at least want to come close. Barrages of shots late in the game never end well, as we saw in games against Los Angeles and Colorado.
As the stretch run begins, the Predators will continue to take on top teams like the Red Wings, Rangers, Islanders, Ducks, and Canadiens. They will need to get quality chances, and hunker down defensively, in order to win. The Predators have been fine against the top teams, but if they want to seriously contend for the Stanley Cup, they need to step up against the best teams in the NHL.