Nashville Predators: Old Demons Haunt the Original Golden Team

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

The Vegas Golden Knights visited Nashville for the first time in history on Friday. Penalties and poor chances resulted in just a point for the home team.

Are you tired of hearing about last night’s “storylines” yet? A little Subban vs. Subban? The return of the Real Deal? Vegas’ Nashville debut? Most importantly, Nashville Predators’ legend Brad Hunt coming back to town?

If so, I have good news. I’m here to talk about the actual hockey game.

My initial takeaway from the contest was that Nashville escaped with a point. The first two periods featured the worst Predators performance since their visit to Columbus in November. Due primarily to the efforts of Viktor Arvidsson, the home team clawed back a lead. Spoiler alert (stop me if you’ve heard this before): they gave up that lead late in the third period.

Be sure to check out this article for descriptions of each statistic used.

You can’t do that

Each team committed five minor penalties last night. As far as the Nashville Predators are concerned, three of them were more or less inexcusable. I’m giving P.K. Subban a pass (that wasn’t embellishment). Kevin Fiala‘s high stick was an iffy call; it’s hard to maintain control of your stick when another player is holding it.

Aside from that, the penalties were against Craig Smith (high sticking), Anthony Bitetto (cross checking), and Kevin Fiala (delay of game).

Vegas’ first goal came as a result of Smith’s penalty, after which the penalty kill unit held its own for, oh, about twenty seconds. I’m somewhat sympathetic to Bitetto, who tried to be physical but crossed a line, although his overall performance left much to be desired. Finally, Fiala panicked when he had acres of space, effectively ending Nashville’s dominance in the third period.

Take a look at the shot attempts throughout the game in the following graph:

Vegas scored just one goal on the power play, but each of their goals came shortly after a penalty call. In both the second and third periods, their goals were immediately preceded by a sharp change in momentum resulting from a Nashville penalty.

On the flip side, Nashville’s power play looked simply atrocious. Disorganized, sloppy neutral zone passing created unconvincing zone entries. The Predators enjoyed over seven minutes of power play time last night, including a decent chunk of time with a two-man advantage.

Vegas has the 25th-ranked penalty kill in the NHL this year, allowing a goal 22.5% of the time. During those minutes, Nashville managed just nine shot attempts, and only two from high-danger areas. You should expect a lot more from the league’s third-ranked power play team.

Michael’s epitaph

Pekka Rinne did too much, Malcolm Subban did too little. The Nashville Predators, once again, lost the battle in the slot.

The really frustrating thing about this game is how available the two points were. Take a look at the shooting heat maps from last night, and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

All three of Nashville’s goals came from the same area. Unsurprisingly, each falls within the “high-danger scoring area.” With four total chances, that comes to a shot-to-goal ratio of seventy-five percent. Even so, just eight percent of the Predators’ shot attempts came from this area.

Imagine you’re Peter Laviolette during the game. You notice that almost every shot your team takes from the slot becomes a goal. If I’m in that position, I turn to the bench and tell my players, “no more shots from anywhere else.”

Patience and execution would have given Nashville two points last night. Instead, their offense remained disorganized, failing to exploit obvious advantages.

Take a breath

Fortunately for the Nashville Predators, they get a miniature winter break after the shootout loss. In their five days of rest, it’s expected that Ryan Johansen and Scott Hartnell will return to the lineup. Additionally, we are inching ever closer to the season debut of Ryan Ellis.

Hopefully, with a healthier roster and a bit of time off, this team will address some of the more glaring concerns. Make no mistake, they are positioned excellently at this point in the season, and are very much a team to beat. However, with some tweaks and adjustments, they can emerge onto a new plane of domination.

Next: Five Thoughts For Friday, Dec 8th

The future is very bright, even after another unconvincing performance.