Nashville Predators Three Losses Aren’t Cause For Worry

Mar 29, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) skates off the ice with an apparent ear injury during the first period against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Ellis scores a short handed goal in the first. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) skates off the ice with an apparent ear injury during the first period against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Ellis scores a short handed goal in the first. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators have lost their past three games but Preds fans don’t need to panic.

Despite a hat trick of losses recently March has been a great month for the Nashville Predators overall. Filip Forsberg and James Neal both eclipsed the 30 goal mark, Roman Josi set new franchise highs for scoring by a defenseman, and the Preds were one of the most dominant teams in the league over that span with a respectable 8-5-2 record. However, as it so often does, when it rains it pours and it’s no different in Nashville.

The last week of March should have been one of excitement for the Smashville faithful.  The Predators only needed two points to punch their tickets to the 2016 NHL playoffs and with three games on the schedule it seemed like more of an inevitability than wishful thinking that the Predators would lock up a playoff berth.  Then coveted Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey opted for free agency, our seemingly annual signing snub after his senior season at Harvard had ended and the rest of the week was all downhill from there.

The same night that the Vesey story broke the Nashville Predators were defeated by a desperate Colorado Avalanche team who are on the brink of missing the playoffs for the second season in a row, in a very close 4-3 loss capping off a very disappointing day in Nashville.  To make matters worse the Predators had a back to back road date with the formidable Dallas Stars who denied the Predators a win in a hard-fought and messy 5-2 victory.  A loss that was made all the worse when Ryan Ellis was injured and forced from the game after being hit in the side of his head while blocking a shot.

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The Predators finally had a day of rest to lick their wounds and try again in Pittsburgh but Phil Kessel and the rest of the Penguins came out swinging and rebuked every attempt the Predators made at a come from behind win as they once again were defeated 5-2 .

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In a manner of just four days, the Predators were handed more regulation losses than they had been in their last 24 games. A league-leading stretch of success that reaches all the way back to the beginning of February and the turnaround point in the Predators season.  Somehow this brief losing streak has managed to convince many Predators fans that this isn’t a team that’s ready for the playoffs.

Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Predators have fought back from the brink just to be in the playoffs and have gelled at the right time as a team. This time last year the Predators had no momentum going into the post-season despite a stellar regular season and were dispatched after a valiant first round battle with the Chicago Blackhawks. If anything this is a more complete team than last year and it shows in the success of players like Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, and James Neal.

Goaltending During 3 Game Skid

If the Predators recent woes are to due to anything, in particular, it would have to be the absolutely brutal schedule that has seen the team play five games in only eight days including a home and away back to back against some of the leagues best.  That being said these recent losses do raise a few concerns that should be watched closely as the postseason looms.

  The Thinning of the Blue Line While we still don’t know the severity of Ryan Ellis’ injury losing him for any length of time is a significant blow to the Predators defense. They had already been hurting with Anthony Bitetto out since mid-March with a lower body injury. Hopefully, Ellis is ready to return before the playoffs begin to round out our second pairing and to support Mattias Ekholm who seems noticeably affected for the worse by not having Ellis on his line.

Predators Special Teams During 3 Game Skid:

  • Powerplay 11% – 1/9
  • Penalty Kill 77% – 7/9

  Inconsistent Goalkeeping Pekka needs a break now that a playoff spot is clinched. We’re not playing for a division title or home ice advantage this time around and unless there’s a possibility of the Predators getting pushed to the second wild card spot, which some may prefer, he could use a game off to reset himself.

Earlier in the season, this seemed to work wonders for him as he struggled with being uncharacteristically inconsistent during the first half of the season and Hutton has done plenty to earn another start after playing well in relief for Rinne.  Defense and goaltending often go hand in hand with each other so I’m not inclined to be harsh on Pekka while the defense also languishes I just happen to think a full night off will do wonders for him before the playoffs begin.

  Get the Powerplay Going! The Predators powerplay is almost a night and day difference from last season but tends to disappear at  the worst times. A little more puck luck on special teams will go a long way with getting the Preds back on track. Since the beginning of February Nashville has only had three games where they didn’t score at least two goals or better but when it comes to teams like Dallas or Pittsburgh that can really stack up a lead, the Predators need to be able to rise to the occasion and quickly tie the game before they dig a hole too deep to get out of for a win.

Fortunately, the Predators should be able to right the ship as the team heads home for a three-game stand and a comparatively easy four-game schedule to end the season.   So breathe a sigh of relief and relax since the Preds are officially in the playoffs now and hopefully we’ve hit the last of the speed bumps on the road to the post-season.