The Nashville Predators’ Achilles Heel: Special Teams


It’s the final week of the NHL regular season, and we are no closer to figuring out the first round match ups than we were coming out of the All-Star Break. However, one thing is clear: there is no “easy” potential matchup for the Nashville Predators. Whether it’s the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, or St. Louis Blues, the Predators won’t have a smooth ride to the Promise Land. In any of these evenly-matched series’, the difference-maker will be special teams.

Power play and penalty kill have both been major issues for the Predators this season, especially the power play. Aside from a few streaks, the power play has been atrocious for the Predators. The penalty kill has been relatively good, but nothing special. With any potential first-round opponent being a tough one, Nashville will have to find a way to squeak in a few power-play goals to win the series.

Let’s break down the numbers to see what the Predators can improve on in the special teams areas. First, the power play. The Predators are one of the least efficient power play teams in the NHL, sitting at 25th in the league in PP% at 16.5%. By comparison, the Blackhawks are 20th, the Blues are 4th, the Jets are 15th, and the Wild are 28th. Luckily for Nashville, the most likely first-round opponents are not much better, or worse, on the power play. This means that whichever team can get their power play going can most likely steal the series.

What exactly has been the Predators problem on the power play? On a practical level, it looks very stagnant. There is puck movement, but the dynamic movement and aggressive speed that makes the Predators so fun to watch at even strength just disappears. That shows in their shooting and possession metrics. According to, the Predators are eighth in the NHL in Corsi for% on the power play at 89.5%, but are also ninth-worst in the league in Shooting% on the power play at 11.2%. So, they are shooting a lot, but the quality of their shots is sub-par, as they cannot seem to score at an efficient pace. The Predators need to find a way to not only get more pucks to the net, but also get better shots to the net, and take advantage of long power play shifts to wear down defenses and get one by the goaltender.

The situation looks even worse for the Predators when you look at how well their potential opponents kill penalties. Their two most likely opponents, Minnesota and Chicago, have two of the best PK units in the NHL. Minnesota sits at the top with a PK% of 86.5%, and Chicago is seventh at 84.3%. A weak power play against a strong penalty kill unit can only end badly.

For the Predators, their penalty kill is not so awful, sitting at 16th in the NHL at 81.3% PK. Even though the Predators don’t have an atrocious penalty kill, they are letting in a lot of goals for the amount of shots they allow. According to, the Predators have given up the eighth-fewest shot attempts per 60 minutes on the penalty kill at 91.1. At the same time, they are 13th in the NHL in goals allowed per 60 minutes on the penalty kill at 6.54. This means that the Predators are giving up a lot of goals relative to shots allowed. In many ways, this is the worst possible scenario: opponents aren’t shooting that much, but they are still scoring.

In addition to the numbers, the Predators have given up key power play goals in big-time situations. For example, a power-play goal likely cost them a victory over the Dallas Stars on April 4th, when Tyler Seguin took the lead for Dallas on an early third period power play. Other games, like the one in Montreal on January 20th, featured similar situations. In that game, the Canadiens scored on an overtime power play to win the game.

As the Predators limp into the postseason, they need to figure out a way to make the special teams work for them, not against them. If they can’t, it may mean an early exit from the playoffs. If they can get it together, along with many other aspects of the team, it could lead to a deep run into May and June.

All statistics courtesy of,, and