Nashville Predators: Best Defense Of The Season Ends In Shutout Loss

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 02: Craig Smith
LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 02: Craig Smith /

The Nashville Predators tend to play a bit fast and loose on defense. They’ve been incredibly lucky so far but it was different against the Golden Knights.

I’ve given a lot of grief to the Nashville Predators for their sloppy play in their own zone. They’ve been downright porous in front of the net and it rarely, if ever, caught up with them. I wrote recently about how their luck would run out eventually if they continued their lackadaisical play. The good news is they kept a speedy Vegas team out of the high danger areas, the bad news is that they were shutout in return.

Let’s take a bit of a dive into where exactly the Nashville Predators’ kept the Golden Knights out of.

All stats are at five on five unless explicitly said otherwise.


Take a moment to cycle through all the different scenarios, but come back to five on five. It’s the most important situation as it’s where the most minutes are played.

Well now take a look up and you’ll see that the area that is around the net is actually mostly white. Take a look below at the chart to see how the Predators have fared in that area so far this season. The results are quite the opposite of each other eh?

The Nashville Predators have been habitually terrible in front of their net for the entirety of their season. In the Vegas game, the Golden Knights couldn’t even get close to Pekka Rinne for rebounds or second chances. If Rinne hadn’t given up two questionable (possibly weak) goals, this game would’ve gone to overtime. For once, I’m not throwing the defense under the bus, mostly because they did a great job of making Rinne’s night a bit easier.

Not to say there wasn’t hardship and that everyone was perfect, but this performance reminded me a lot of the first and second rounds of the playoffs. The ability to act like a barrier around the net will confuse opponents to no end, now it’s just up to the goalies to make the first save. I haven’t thought that for even a second this season, but finally, it applies.

High danger chances

Last night was a barn burner that saw the puck traverse into each zone with ease. Despite the offensive flair, both teams never really got a high quality scoring chance. The Nashville Predators only recorded two high danger chances but gave up a paltry four. While the normal scoring chances were through the roof, 22 for Vegas, 21 for Nashville, both teams couldn’t crack the slot.

While it’s obviously a little worrying that the Nashville Predators’ could only manage two high danger chances, the defense is more than a little satisfying. Even looking back against a team like Minnesota, who aren’t offensive juggernauts, the Predators couldn’t hold them back. In a game that saw Nashville triumph 3-0, they were still beaten in high danger scoring chances. They actually gave up 11! So, holding a much more gifted team like Vegas to only four chances is a feat in its own right.

What changed?

The easiest answer is Ryan Ellis returning, which is half of the solution. Ellis returned to Roman Josi‘s side and it looked reminiscent of early 2017. They were heavily sheltered in zone starts and in competition. It’s a formula that works perfectly if you have the depth to back it up, which is where the true change occurred.

Mattias Ekholm didn’t return to P.K. Subban‘s side, instead, playing alongside Anthony Bitetto. This added a touch of shutdown defense to a pair that’s been downright porous this season. In turn, Peter Laviolette trusted the third line more as he started them in the defensive zone 66.66% of the time. Subban and Emelin did their duty and started most of their shifts under similar conditions.

The worst pair on defense was actually the Josi-Ellis pair, who ended the night with two high danger chances against. That’ll change though as Ellis gets re-accustomed to his role. If the Nashville Predators can keep this defense up, great things are on the horizon.

Next: Getting Lucky Where It Matters Most