The Nashville Predators suffered their second loss of the season last night in Pittsburgh. It’s early in the season, but there are issues that must be fixed.
Often, simply watching a game will tell you if a team played poorly. However, deeper investigation can reveal specific underlying issues, and point to solutions. In Thursday’s loss to Boston, for example, a handful of Nashville Predators players recorded simply awful games, while others carried the burden.
Last night’s loss in Pittsburgh, unfortunately, does not reveal such obvious answers. Several players were poor, but the solutions do not lie in individual performances. Rather, the team’s insistence on starting certain players and arranging questionable lines contributed to an overall uninspired 60 minutes from the Predators.
The crown jewel of the Nashville Predators is their elite group of defensemen. Last night, though, they looked lost and sluggish on the ice. With Ryan Ellis out, the Preds are forced to recombine players to form new pairings, which take time to develop chemistry. In their loss to Pittsburgh, here’s how the defensive pairings looked:
|Ekholm – Subban
|Josi – Irwin
|Weber – Bitetto
*time on ice at even strength
These numbers are simply a tale of who they were defending. Ekholm and Subban spent most of their time defending Crosby‘s line, so they deserve some slack. However, shot production was nearly even across the board here, and you’d expect more from such a high-caliber group of defensemen.
Better players available
First things first, I can point to a couple of obvious fixes. First of all (I’m sick of saying it), Cody McLeod should play in maybe 10 games this year. I recognize that the sample size here is minuscule, but his performance has simply not been good enough. Last night, McLeod was on the ice for a total of six minutes 43 seconds, but recorded 17 penalty minutes. Why on Earth wouldn’t you start a forward, like Gaudreau or Kamenev, who can contribute offensively while staying out of the penalty box?
Need for accountability
Losing to the defending Stanley Cup champions in their barn is not exactly something to be ashamed of. Although they had a rocky start to their season, the Penguins proved last night that they are still elite opposition. Frankly, it would bother me if any significant roster decisions were based on that game alone.
That said, it is frustrating to watch a team with such potential as the Nashville Predators struggle to produce. Opposing teams have outplayed the Predators now for six consecutive periods – even more if you venture back to preseason. As a fan, I am calling on the Predators’ new leadership group to take responsibility.
This might not be an analytical thing to say but players need to step up and get the team going. Roman Josi needs to start leading by example like he did all of last season. A strong home opener from the captain might be exactly what this team needs to wake up and smell the catfish.
The coaching staff has to make some daring moves. Why send Frederick Gaudreau down to the minors to keep Samuel Girard up, if you’re not going to actually play Girard? All that’s doing is keeping a NHL-ready player in the minors, starting a underqualified goon, and benching a prospect who’d be better served playing in the juniors. Let’s hope that Peter Laviolette has been saving Girard for the home-opener so he can shelter him appropriately.
Two bad games in a row to start the season isn’t enough to hit the panic button. But it’s definitely very sobering after an off-season of high expectations. One thing is for sure, The Nashville Predators need to make a strong statement in their home-opener.