Following a historic six-week run, the Nashville Predators are now struggling at home, for the first time in almost a year.
For the first time since December 22, 2016, the Nashville Predators have lost three consecutive home games. Despite an 11-4-2 record at home this season, the Predators have struggled mightily in their last three games in Nashville.
Next, the Predators fell 6-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on the 19th, in a hard-fought game.
Most recently, Nashville was dominated 4-1 by the Carolina Hurricanes for the second time this season. That game was highlighted by Carolina’s 4 goals in the first 6:29 of the 1st period.
First Period Struggles
In their last 6 games, Nashville has been outshot 75 to 54 in the first period. Similarly, the Predators have taken 11 first period penalties in those 6 games.
Those two stats alone are enough to lose a game for most teams. Despite the Predators having the 5th best goals per game average, and 3rd best penalty kill in the NHL, a team cannot expect to win games, when they’re in a hole after almost every first period.
Nashville has been so good all season long on offense, yet lately, the first period is just not clicking with the Predators. They have come out looking slow, overpowered, and out of sync. It has taken at least 20 minutes for Nashville to find its rhythm.
However, over the last three games, that late rhythm hasn’t been enough to make up for a horrible first period.
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For the better part of this season, Pekka Rinne has been a brick wall for Nashville. The last three games though, he’s been off his game. Against Vegas, Pekka played well, however, gave up a weak goal early, that eventually decided the game.
Against Winnipeg, Rinne made 30 saves, which is solid most nights. However, he gave up 5 goals and just was not his best. He didn’t control his rebounds well and just didn’t seem to be comfortable all night. Pekka has a certain swagger in net at home, and when it’s not there, it’s visible.
Against Carolina, Pekka was just bad. He gave up two redirect goals on the first two shots he saw. One was on the power play. The next went shot off Roman Josi‘s skate, and past Rinne. The fourth goal was a bouncing flutter puck from the blue line that simply popped into the net.
The first three against Carolina are not too much on Rinne. Redirects are basically impossible for a goalie to defend. The last one though was just plain awful.
After that puck bounced in, it was clear that Carolina was all up inside Rinne’s head. Pucks like that don’t just bounce in, unless the goalie is just psyched out.
Oh, and did I mention that all four of those goals came within the first 6:29 of the game?
Thursday was not Rinne’s night. Plain and simple.
It also hasn’t been his home stretch though. He’s not playing awfully, however, he just isn’t helping the Predators enough. Usually, Rinne is a backbone for Nashville, keeping them in games. I guess we can’t be too mad at him, however, he does need to step it up on December 30th when the Predators come back home.
Moving forward, Nashville must get off to better starts. Simple as that. The Predators cannot expect to dominate opponents for 2 of 3 periods and win every time. They must play to their strengths, and realize that they are as good as any team in the NHL. Similarly, they must protect Rinne better, so that he can step up and make more plays.
Happy Holidays, Predator fans!