The Nashville Predators allowed Minnesota to win last night’s contest with an epic collapse. Though disappointing, it’s a worryingly common trend.
Fans of the Nashville Predators are accustomed to the “20 minutes on, 40 minutes off” approach of the team. It’s incredibly frustrating, and has nearly cost the team a number of wins. The Tennessean’s Adam Vingan sums it up nicely here:
In four of those five examples, the Predators still escaped with two points. It was only a matter of time before the collapse resulted in deserved defeat.
To be fair, the Predators played well for roughly 30 minutes last night (a 50% increase from the norm). After Mattias Ekholm scored a beauty of a shorthanded goal, I thought we had seen the last of the Wild. In retrospect, I am disappointed by my own naiveté. Take a look at the game flow last night, which measures the relative Corsi of each team as time progressed. Select “Corsi All” if you want to see how dramatically the tides turned.
Even with the early goal in the 3rd period, the Predators were a non-factor in the latter half of the game. Keep in mind that Minnesota had another goal in the second period that was (rightfully, but still fortunately) disallowed.
The good-ish news
The first half of the game did provide some positive talking points. Unquestionably, Ryan Johansen had his best individual night so far this season. Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm continued their year of domination. Here’s a look at some of the better even-strength performances from last night:
*time on ice at even strength
“Hang on a moment,” you might be thinking, “the rightmost column looks terrible.”
Well, you’re absolutely right. While Fenwick (FF%) is a great measure of possession (includes all unblocked shot attempts), the ratio of high-danger chances (HDCF%) is usually more telling. Put this on my tombstone: The game is won in the slot.
Look at this heatmap (be sure to select “All”):
Even without the “G”s (indicating goals), you can tell who won this game. The Nashville Predators offense, while fast and aggressive, seems incredibly disorganized. It shouldn’t surprise you that Minnesota claimed 78% of the high-danger scoring chances last night.
The bad news
Yes, I realize that I had already made the transition to bad news. Giving up a 3-0 and then 4-2 lead in the same night will do that. Several Nashville players gave their worst performance in recent memory. Included in this group is the entire third forward line, which is disappointing. The past few games have brought out the best in this group of players. Bad games happen, but we had certainly been spoiled. Here’s the “bad news” group:
*time on ice at even strength
P.K. Subban is an elite defenseman. I truly mean that – he’s top five in the entire NHL. His strength is also his weakness, however. He is excellent at creating offensive chances for his team. Usually, a player like that (see: Roman Josi) needs to be handcuffed to a defenseman who excels at, well, defense.
Alexei Emelin is not that player. Emelin is slow and heavy. His play-the-man first attitude results in big hits, but also scoring chances for the opposition. The Subban – Emelin pairing is nearly always matched against opponents’ top lines. Apparently, it will continue to be a soft spot until Ellis returns.
Third line woes
Like I mentioned earlier, the Nashville Predators’ third line has been a gem this year. Miikka Salomaki, after missing nearly all of last season, has re-emerged as an excellent depth scorer. Calle Jarnkrok provides everything you can ask for in a defensive forward. With Colton Sissons at center, this line is as complete as the first and second, if you ask me.
Last night, the tendency of the Predators to leave these three on the ice against top-line competition proved costly. Usually, the trio does surprisingly well in suppressing talented forwards coming the other way. Against Minnesota, players like Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter took advantage of the mismatch.
While the Predators’ third line was dominated on the ice, they actually weathered the storm quite well. Neither Jarnkrok nor Sissons were on the ice for a single Minnesota goal at even strength.
Learn a lesson
The Nashville Predators have barely scraped by in many of their recent games. They still earned many of the points, so the team swept these issues under the rug. They simply cannot afford to ignore a result like last night’s, though. Losing games is perfectly acceptable, but not like that.
In his postgame interview, Roman Josi revealed his frustration. I hope he takes that frustration and gives his team a serious verbal berating. This group is too skilled and too experienced to allow these results to happen. We can all hope that they realize it sooner rather than later.