Nashville Predators: Shootout Loss Exposes Personnel Concerns

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 24: Micheal Ferland
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 24: Micheal Ferland /

The Nashville Predators conceded two third period goals in their eventual shootout loss last night. Once again, accountability was severely lacking.

Okay, bad news first. The Nashville Predators gave up a late 2-0 lead last night and missed out on an easy point at home. The home team had the chance to bury the Flames with a heap of missed opportunities in the first forty minutes, but fell short. The good news is this: the statistics allow for a good ol’ “good, bad, and ugly” type of write-up. Maybe that’s only good news for me, but I’ll certainly take it.

In my analysis, I’m focusing heavily on Fenwick as a possession metric. Fenwick is simply a sum of the unblocked shots taken for and against a player’s team while he is on the ice. In general, the higher the Fenwick percentage, the better the player’s performance.

Without further ado, the good, the bad, and the ugly:

The good

There were five Predators skaters who make it into this group for me. On a positive note, two of the players, Colton Sissons and Ryan Johansen, are centers. A position the Predators have seriously struggled with this year. Filip Forsberg and Pontus Aberg round out the forwards. Mattias Ekholm is the sole representative for the defensemen. The sixth inclusion has to be Pekka Rinne, who had another top-tier performance.

Using Fenwick for (FF), Fenwick against (FA), and Fenwick % (FF%), here’s how this group of skaters performed:

C. Sissons13:1610855.56
F. Forsberg16:03151255.56
R. Johansen17:25141253.85
P. Aberg14:168753.33
M. Ekholm20:13151648.39

*time on ice at even strength

Pekka Rinne faced 32 shots and saved 30, for an excellent save percentage of 0.938 on the night.

Business as usual

As far as the possession numbers go, the “good” group is fairly consistent with the season so far. Offensive production has come mostly from the Predators’ first and third lines, which are well represented here. The group looks even better when high danger scoring chances are considered. Sissons, Johansen, Aberg, and Ekholm each had an HDCF% of greater than 50%. In other words, the Predators created the majority of shots from the low slot while these players were on the ice.

Mattias Ekholm continues to make his case as”most valuable defenseman” for the Nashville Predators. His is the only Fenwick score below 50% in this group, but it’s hard to criticize when you see who he was up against. Most of the night, he squared up against the Flames’ top line, including over 10 minutes defending Johnny Gaudreau.

Ekholm was on the ice for both regulation goals for the Flames. With a two-goal lead in the third period, you’d really like to see defensemen keep it tighter. That said, if the Predators had taken advantage of even half of their scoring chances in the second period, the game would have been well over by the third.

The bad

Approximately 70% of players for the Nashville Predators posted an even-strength Fenwick of less than 50% last night. In the interest of brevity, I will narrow down my “bad” group to those with a Fenwick between 40% and 45%. Once again, that lends itself to six players. Forwards include Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith, and Scott Hartnell. For defensemen, it’s Matt Irwin, Alexei Emelin, and Roman Josi.

Once again, we’ll use Fenwick for (FF), Fenwick against (FA), and Fenwick % (FF%). Here’s how “the bad” looked:

M. Irwin11:097943.75
C. Jarnkrok15:167943.75
C. Smith12:376842.86
S. Hartnell11:245741.67
A. Emelin18:2791340.91
R. Josi18:13121840.00

Gray areas galore

Luckily for Predators fans, including myself, there are a lot of caveats here. Irwin’s numbers aren’t actually too bad for a third-pairing defenseman. Given that the Flames were goalless during his 11:09 on the ice, he gets a bit of a pass from me. Jarnkrok played about half of his minutes against the Flames’ top line. Currently, he’s being used as a 2C. While I agree that he is currently the Predators’ second-best center, he is handed some very challenging minutes and has played decently well so far. The Flames failed to score with Jarnkrok on the ice.

Unfortunately for Craig Smith, there aren’t a ton of redeeming factors to his game last night. He spent very little time against top-level opposition and still failed to post a positive Fenwick score. While he was on the ice, the Predators generated only six even-strength shots. Considering how well Sissons is playing alongside Smith, you’d expect more from the 28-year old winger. Hartnell, who is occupying the Predators’ invisible second line, also performed below his usual standard.

Emelin’s game has been very subpar lately. Unlike on Saturday, he didn’t give up any high-profile scoring chances last night. However, the one-dimensional nature of his game was well exposed. In one instance, he turned the puck over to Sam Bennett at the edge of the defensive zone, before backchecking and delivering a massive hit to regain possession. It’s good that he was able to recover, but it’s simply an unnecessary situation. Fans should expect more from a top-4 defenseman.

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Roman Josi gets a pretty solid pass from me. Not only did he score the Predators’ second goal, he played an insane 27 minutes total. For me, this is a team management issue. You cannot expect your defensemen to play well when they are on the ice for almost half of the game.

The ugly

This group of four players all posted even-strength Fenwick scores of under 40% in last night’s game. Simply put, it’s P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators’ entire fourth line. Before I get into it, let’s take a look at their numbers:

P.K. Subban21:4961135.29
A. Watson13:0751229.41
F. Gaudreau11:271156.25
C. McLeod5:21080.00

*time on ice at even strength

In reality, I’m only cutting one player on this list some slack, and it’s P.K. Subban. He played twenty-eight-and-a-half minutes last night. Peter Laviolette, if you’re reading this, that is frankly unacceptable. In the short term, that will seriously detract from his game each night. In the long term, it can lead to injuries down the road. The defenses’ ice time simply has to be spread more evenly.

Lackluster lineup

Austin Watson played an okay game, but he is capable of more than a 29.41% Fenwick score. His physicality and strength on the puck make him a dangerous addition to any fourth line, but he missed the mark last night. Gaudreau will not maintain his NHL spot with performances like that. It doesn’t matter which line you’re on, generating a single shot in your 11 minutes of ice time will not cut it. It’s a shame, as I was really hoping to start up some sort of “Freddy is better than Johnny” chant during the game.

To those of you who have read my articles, the following will not surprise you. I have finally found the hill I will die on. It’s named “Cody McLeod does not Belong on a National Hockey League Roster Hill.” I’ve looked at every available metric for weeks. There is simply no explanation for why he makes the lineup every night.

Here is the worst part: his average total time on ice is six minutes and seven seconds. Read that sentence. Read it again. Imagine a player regularly contributing for 10% of any sporting event. Austin Watson played three times the minutes last night, delivered three times the hits, and blocked a shot. Replace McLeod with anyone at this point. I’m sick of talking about it.

Unsuprising result

Before the game, I expected a fascinating defensive battle between these two teams. For most of the game, that was indeed the case. However, during the second period, there were at least three clear chances for the Predators to increase their lead. When your early lead is only two goals, you simply cannot afford to let off the gas. The Nashville Predators eased up the pressure for the last forty minutes, and ended up with a point fewer than what they easily could have earned.

Accountability, once again, is the name of the game. Team management needs to take an objective look at this lineup and figure who belongs every night. Players, especially those in leadership roles, need to keep this team on the attack for the entire game.

Next: Cool The Jets On Trading For a Forward

If these steps are not taken, this season will continue down its current path of mediocrity.