The Losing Streak: Who Are The Real Nashville Predators?


Last week, we posed the question: Is the Predators’ recent losing streak real life, or fantasy?

After three more losses, it’s pretty clear: this is no fantasy. This is a terrifying reality.

The Predators have lost six games in a row, their longest winless drought since the lockout-shortened 2013 season. As the streak has progressed, many have put out countless theories for the streak: the natural ups and downs of a season, unsustainably low PDOs, Pekka Rinne changing his mask, even the Nickelback concert ad on the boards at Bridgestone Arena.

Well, after six straight painful losses, the time for theorizing is over. It’s time to take a hard look at this team and ask: Who are the real Nashville Predators? Are they the six-game win streak Predators of early February, or the six-game losing streak current Predators?

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Early on in the season, and really up until mid-February, the Predators were the hottest team in hockey, winning with scoring from all four lines. When the top line wasn’t scoring, the bottom line was picking up the slack. When the fourth line couldn’t get it going, the top unit stepped up. It was a tradeoff that led to unprecedented offensive success.

Recently, the tradeoff has broken down. During the six-game losing streak, the top line of Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro, and Craig Smith have combined for just three goals, all from Ribeiro and Smith. In addition, Colin Wilson and James Neal have been very quiet on the second line. The lone bright spot in the top-six for Nashville has been Mike Fisher, who has three goals in six games.

So, where’s the bottom-six scoring? Nowhere to be found. Matt Cullen has been the workhorse, notching a few good goals. Other than that, the bottom six has produced next-to-nothing. It also doesn’t help that Eric Nystrom will miss a few weeks due to injury. They cannot pick up the slack from the struggling top units, and as a result, there is no offensive production.

All four forward units look stymied. They can’t find the space that they used to find. The quality of shots has decreased drastically. That may not entirely be the Predators’ fault. Four of the six teams that the Predators lost to during this skid (Rangers, Devils, Jets, Red Wings) are in the top 15 in lowest Goals against per game.

It’s a simple equation: Offensive Futility + Good Defenses = Six-game losing streak.

Well, sort of.

Rinne has started to look very human during this stretch. In the five games he has started during the streak, his SV% has been below .900 three times. Also, aside from the game against the Rangers, he has faced less than 30 shots per game. Rinne hasn’t been the safety net for the Predators that he used to be. He has also had less control in net, giving up lots of juicy rebounds that have come back to bite the Predators.

Who are the real Nashville Predators? That is a question that will be answered in the coming week. Can the top-six find the scoring touch again? Will Neal, Forsberg, and Wilson live up to their numbers? Can Rinne return to his superhuman form?

If there is any silver lining to this, it’s that the players are recognizing that there is a serious problem afoot. Early in the streak, it seemed as if nobody in the locker room was all that concerned, and that things would “work themselves out.” Well, that won’t happen. Following last night’s loss to Winnipeg, players voiced their frustrations, and looked upset, according to those media members in the locker room. The first step to solving the problem is to admit that there’s a problem, and it seems like the Predators are finally opening their eyes to the truth.

So, much like the Real Slim Shady needs to stand up (unclear if he ever has; Eminem keeps asking nicely), the Real Nashville Predators will start to stand up in the next few weeks. Will the losing, or winning ways, shine through in the final month of the season? If it’s the former, the Predators would be looking at a first-round date with either Chicago or St. Louis that may not end well. If it’s the latter, then a first-round matchup against a Wild Card team awaits, and perhaps a deep playoff run is in the cards.