Nashville Predators: Defense? What’s Defense?

(Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Now that the stupor of losing to the worst team in the NHL has passed, the Nashville Predators will look to make adjustments on the fly.

Last night’s game wasn’t actually that bad, save for overtime. The Nashville Predators dominated each and every statistic, except the scoreboard. Coyotes netminder, Antti Raanta was lights out and kept the game even. Plain and simple, the Coyotes had no right taking that game to overtime, they just capitalized when their chances arose.

The offense finally arrived as it went missing in Vegas just nights before. The issue was that the defense seemingly never showed up to Arizona as the Coyotes picked apart the slot. In the end, the Nashville Predators should have scored more goals, but also could’ve given up quite a few more. Despite an arguably weak second goal, Juuse Saros stood on his head for most of the night. This will certainly be a point that Nashville will want back, but instead of just moving past the game, let’s take a deeper look.

Controlling the puck

The Nashville Predators dominated the puck, plain and simple. They owned a Corsi of 63.03% and a Fenwick of 62.20% at five on five. Nashville was on fire for the first 30 minutes or so of the game, despite not scoring a goal. Playing like that will result in victories over the best teams in hockey, let alone the Coyotes.

Unfortunately, Raanta was feeling it and was a brick wall except for about 30 seconds between the second and third period. His incredible play stopped 37 scoring chances as well as 12 high danger chances at even strength! On the other end, Juuse Saros bailed out his defense quite a bit as he faced 26 scoring chances and six high danger ones. Despite almost undisturbed access to the slot, neither team could really make the other pay.

Certain lines were great for the Predators. The Turris line was dominant and the Johansen line wasn’t far behind. The real story was poor play by Nick Bonino, Colton Sissons, and Scott Hartnell. Holy smokes, that may be the worst game I’ve ever seen by a line. All three finished with an average Corsi and Fenwick, but that wasn’t the damage. They were the only line with more high danger chances allowed than provided, including a goal against after Sissons momentarily forgot how to play hockey. That line should be broken up immediately or never see the light of the defensive zone. Sissons especially was horrible as he failed to clear the defensive zone multiple times.

The defense was as we expected, the first two pairs were on top of it but the third pair wasn’t great. I actually liked splitting Ekholm and Subban to help make the third pair better in its own zone. Emelin and Weber were especially bad in front of their own net and didn’t seem to be in sync with each other. Although that can happen as tonight was the first time they played major minutes as a pair.

Side note: I loved the Jarnkrok, Watson, Salomaki line. The “fourth line” completely shut down the Cousins and Duclair line when they were on the ice together. I hope they see the Kings and Anze Kopitar.

Missing the point

This is exactly what the Nashville Predators should strive for each and every night. A similar effort will normally result in three or four goals. But few teams will give up as many opportunities as the Coyotes. The biggest issue is missed shots. Seriously, I count 14 missed shots from everywhere, including the point and the high danger area. Call me an optimist but I feel like one of those would go in, most likely the Watson shot in front of the net.

If I had any other complaints, it would be the defense’s inability to move the puck to the middle of the point. But that’s not a huge issue as long as the offense is getting shots from the slot.

Seriously, where the defense?

So the first goal is on Sissons, but the third goal, scored by Fisher above, was on P.K. Subban. Subban didn’t tie up the trailing man who crashed the net, which resulted in an easy goal. Otherwise, the Nashville Predators had a tough time keeping shots out from the high danger area. Luckily two of the six shots missed, but otherwise, half of the shots on net scored. I still believe that Juuse Saros is not at fault though, as I don’t think any other goalie would’ve had a better outing.


Realistically, this game should’ve ended five to two in a Predators’ win. I think the solution to making sure this doesn’t happen anymore is breaking up the Bonino line as well as possibly splitting up the Ekholm-Subban pairing. Also, sit Sissons for a few games, he’s been extremely disappointing for the entire season. I’ve been advocating Frederick Gaudreau for a while now, and though he may not have the offensive talent, he’s a better defensive player.

Next: Five Thoughts For Friday, January 5th

Thursday night was disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. These issues on defense were bound to rear their ugly head eventually. It’s better that it’s now rather than the playoffs.