Nashville Predators: Keys to Defeating the Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

If the Nashville Predators want to avoid being swept in the season series with Vegas, they need to improve in a few key areas.

After a week off, the Nashville Predators will return to action on Tuesday against the Golden Knights. Vegas is a team they have yet to defeat.

In their first meeting of the season on December 8th, the Nashville Predators lost in a six-round shootout in James Neal‘s return Nashville. After going down 2-0 in the second, the Predators would come back, scoring three unanswered goals to take the lead. Unfortunately, the lead would not last, however, as the Golden Knights would tie it late. Then, Malcolm Subban completely shut the door in the shootout, securing the win for Vegas.

Unlike their first meeting that was back and forth, their second iteration in early January was the exact opposite. Midway through the second frame, the Golden Knights scored two goals in just under two minutes. In the third, Vegas would add an empty netter en route to the victory. Vegas dominated from start to finish.

Ultimately, if the Predators want to avoid being swept in the season series and want to keep their winning streak that started before their mid-season break alive, they will need to improve in a few key areas.

Poor Special Teams Play

Looking back on the Predators first two meetings against the Golden Knights, it is clear that Peter Laviolette‘s club needs to improve their power play. This is the case as in six opportunities with the man advantage, the Predators failed to convert at least once. In fact, they only generated 3 high danger scoring changes. Ultimately, when playing a team like Vegas, who is ranked 3rd in goals per game, averaging 3.40 a night, it is paramount that you take advantage of your opportunities with the man advantage. If the Predators are going to capitalize on their chances, they going to need to focus on getting more pucks to the net. However, even if the Predators can find some powerplay success, they’ll still need to clean up their penalty kill. This is the case as in the two games, Nashville’s’ PK operated at only 60%.

Ultimately, the Predators’ power play has continued to struggle since the clubs last met on January 8th. With that being said, it will be interesting to see if they can turn it around on Tuesday.

Discipline, Discipline, Discipline.

If the Nashville Predators want to keep their streak going, they have to clean up their game. This is particularly true when looking at the first meeting as the Predators were awful. They were undisciplined, giving the puck away 15 times, leading to multiple chances. Although the Predators were much better at limiting their giveaways in their second contest, It won’t mean anything if they revert back to being careless in their final meeting. If they do, they’re going to get burned.

Furthermore, the Predators were nowhere near as good as they needed to be on the PK, but the types of penalties they took is what is most alarming. Out of the five penalties they took in the two contests, three were because of a lack of discipline. Not to mention, two of these terrible penalties influenced the game in favor of Vegas.

This is evident as  Kevin Fiala‘s delay of game penalty, in the last five minutes of their first contest, changed the momentum in favor of Vegas. Fiala’s minor lead to 10 straight shots for Vegas, before Erik Haula tied the game with 40 seconds left. Also, the Golden Knights game-winning power-play goal from the team’s game on January 8th was off of another mistake. This time, it was a too-many-men penalty.

Ultimately, Peter Laviolette has to be stressing to his players the need to eliminate undisciplined penalties and giveaways, before their matchup with Vegas on January 16th.

 3. Create and Capitalize on your chances

Finally, the Nashville Predators have to score more if they’re going to record the W. Period.

If they’re going to do this, however, they have to create more High Danger Chances. This is the case as in both losses, Nashville’s High Danger Chance Creation (HDCF%), while 5 on 5, was atrocious. In both contests, the Predators only managed to record the 36.36% and 33.33 %, respectively. With that being said, they won’t improve these numbers by simply putting more pucks on net. Instead, they will need to stop settling to taking shots from the perimeter.

This will be easier said than done, as it is evident that the Predators were content to stay to the outside, after examing the shot charts above.  Ultimately, in order for this change to occur, the Predators will need their top offensive players like Ryan Johansen to lead the way.

Final Thoughts 

Ultimately, if the Nashville Predators can improve in these key areas, they will have a chance to win. With that being said, the team will be just coming off their bye week, so it will be interesting to see if they come out strong.

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In any case, if the Predators do pull out the victory, the additional two points would be huge. This is because the points would put the Predators just one point behind the Central Division leading Winnipeg Jets. Not to mention, the Predators will still have three games in hand. The additional two points are also of great value for Vegas. This is true because If they win, their lead in the Pacific Division increases to 9 points.