Nashville Predators: Five-Goal Lead Proves Too Large to Squander

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Mattias Ekholm
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Mattias Ekholm /

The Nashville Predators achieved their eighth consecutive victory against the Colorado Avalanche last night. Discipline and laziness still raised eyebrows.

I am certainly no divine leader. However, twenty minutes into last night’s game at Bridgestone, I became convinced that some entity-on-high hates the Avalanche. Seriously, I lost count of how many wide open chances Colorado squandered. Pekka Rinne, once again, earned a steak dinner from the entire Nashville Predators roster.

Selfishly speaking, the game presents a challenge. Normally, I use even-strength statistics in all my articles. Special teams tend to inflate stats one way or the other. Considering the first period alone last night had 23 minutes’ worth of penalties called, the sample size from last night is pretty weak.

Dreams of discipline

The Nashville Predators are the most penalized team in the National Hockey League. That includes number of minor penalties called and total minutes served. Luckily, their penalty kill is ranked tenth in the league, with opponents failing to score 83.7% of the time.

Poor Kevin Fiala spent nine minutes in the penalty box last night, without committing a single infraction. He served both too-many-men penalties, as well as the major. I actually can’t criticize the team too much. I don’t know what the referee saw on the second bench minor.

You can’t defend Watson on the major. No, he wasn’t trying to hurt Dominic Toninato, but you have to control your frustration in a tied game. Even worse, the referees owed the Predators a make-up call for a missed trip on Kyle Turris. After a boarding major? You can forget about a make-up call. Luckily for Toninato and his parents, who made the trip to see their son’s first NHL game, he returned to the ice.

Bodies in front

The Predators succeeded in hosting a crash-the-net clinic throughout the game. Especially once the game becomes ridiculous (penalties can do that), fundamentals are extremely important. That is, get guys in the slot and send the puck towards the net. In reality, both teams did about equally well in this category. Luckily, Pekka Rinne channeled his inner wall more successfully than Semyon Varlamov.

Here’s the shooting heat map from last night (be sure to select “All”):

Aside from the Nashville Predators being the Illuminati (look at that beautiful triangle of “G”s), this says a ton about the game. The Predators only managed five high-danger chances during the game, but three of those resulted in a goal. Defensively, they showed some improvement, although it appears that the inside edge of the faceoff circle is a vulnerable area.

Nearly complete effort

In their previous five or six games, the Predators gave maximum effort for somewhere between 20 and 40 minutes each game. As you all know, hockey is a 60-minute game. They managed to take two points out of every game except in Minnesota, but the trend worried fans and players alike.

Last night, the effort was certainly closer to complete. In fact, I’d say the Nashville Predators performed well for roughly 52 minutes of the game. The last few ticks of the clock, though, brought back some worrying tendencies.

The Avalanche scored twice in the final five minutes of the game. Both goals were the result of hard work by Colorado, but also a laid-back attitude from Nashville. Here’s a look at the game flow, based on five-on-five Corsi (feel free to change it to “All” strengths):

You’ll notice that the Avalanche had the advantage in shot attempts throughout the game. However, with Rinne in his current form and the defense doing well to keep chances to the perimeter, it still seemed to be a dominant performance by Nashville.

Moral of the story

No disrespect to the Avalanche, but the Predators won’t beat many teams playing like that. Players simply must be smarter about penalties. Defensively, Nashville did well to minimize high-danger chances from the opposition. On the other hand, they had opportunities to create more of their own and fell short.

Next: Mattias Ekholm Continues To Shine

As always, a win is a win. The two points look nice in the standings, especially with the upcoming visit by second-place Winnipeg. The Nashville Predators will look to make it their seventh win in eight games.