The Nashville Predators picked up their second consecutive victory last night. Regardless, there is still a lot for Nashville to improve upon.
The Nashville Predators played host to their first central division opponent last night, the Dallas Stars. Dallas came to town hoping to win their second in a row, after defeating Detroit on Tuesday. Likewise, Nashville was looking to do the same thing after beating the Flyers in a thriller two nights prior. The result would ultimately end in a Predators’ victory, but the stats tell another story.
The Predators got the upper hand on their division rival, but after analyzing the game, it appears that there is a lot that needs improvement. Even without analyzing it, and just watching the game, you could tell Nashville did not play their best hockey. Still, the Predators somehow managed a 4-1 victory. To me, this begs the question, what will happen when Nashville starts to play to their full potential?
Special Teams Struggles
I am not going to go off on a tangent about how I feel about the Nashville Predators’ special teams’ units just yet. What I am going to say is that they need to drastically improve. Statistically, Nashville has the best power play percentage in the NHL currently. However, with such a small sample size, that statistic is inflated quite a bit thanks to the amount of 5 on 3 power plays Nashville has been given. Also when looking at the statistics, Nashville has one of the worst penalty kill units, and that stat is not inflated.
Just when looking at last night’s game, I would asses it as a below average special teams’ performance. The penalty kill was only given one opportunity and subsequently failed on that chance. Still, as bad as the Predators’ penalty kill has been so far, credit has to be given to the team for only giving the Stars one shot on the man-advantage. On the other side, the power play ultimately accounted for the game winning goal. This is fine and all, but what really irritated me was the five-minute major.
Midway through the first, Yannick Weber went down after an illegal check from Martin Hanzel. Dallas was assessed a five-minute major penalty, and Nashville had a prime opportunity to tie the game. Unfortunately, they were only able to muster two shots, leaving many of us disappointed. Thankfully, Filip Forsberg was able to capitalize on their third power play chance of the night, and it just so happened to be the game-winning goal. Nevertheless, if Nashville wants to find sustained success, their special teams’ units will need to vastly improve.
Controlling the Game
One of the biggest keys to any game in any sport is controlling the action. Often times, the team the executes their game plan wins the game. And to execute their game plan, that team must control the game. In hockey, advanced statistics do a great job of giving us an idea of who is controlling the game. Sadly, last night the Nashville Predators did not a good job at all in this category. There were plenty of people to choose from, as the majority of the team had negative numbers, but these five were the ones who stood out to me just from watching the game.
Most surprising to me was Alexei Emelin. I knew he had a bad game, but I did not comprehend just how bad it was until seeing these scores. I mean a CF% of 23.81 is really, really bad. Losing Weber early on did not help, but this team showed they need Roman Josi back sooner than later. It was not all bad though. The JOFA line continued their dominance, as they all had positive possession numbers. The only other three on the team to produce a positive CF% was Mattias Ekholm, Samuel Girard, and astonishingly Matt Irwin. Irwin definitely played one of his best games since becoming a member of Nashville, but it is very unlikely it stays that way.
Overall, the Nashville Predators did a subpar job of controlling the game. It seemed as if Nashville was playing back on their heels whenever the JOFA line were not on the ice, and the numbers back it up. Nashville is finding ways to win, and I absolutely applaud them for doing so. However, moving forward it is going to be extremely difficult to win games consistently if this area of their game does not improve.
It is important to keep in mind that we are only four games into the season. We, as fans, are expecting a lot from this team after what they accomplished last season. Still, we have to remember that this is a different group, and it will take some time for them to gel. There is plenty of room for improvement, we know it, the team knows it, and certainly Peter Laviolette knows it. They will continue to get better, and eventually work out their kinks. In the meantime, as long as the Predators are winning I really cannot complain too much.
We will continue to learn more Saturday when the Nashville Predators travels to Chicago to play the Blackhawks. Honestly, I do not care what the advanced statistics read Saturday night. Just as long as we don’t have to listen to that awful song, Chelsea Dagger.