Look at the numbers and you see a talented team up and down the roster. The Nashville Predators compete during every game. At least for most of it.
Just when you thought the season could not get more exciting, the Nashville Predators turn things up a few notches. The second-place team in the Central Division is playing with an energy not consistently witnessed during the earlier part of the season. Play up and down the roster is more aggressive and everyone is attempting to contribute.
At least, most of the time.
The last few games provided great entertainment. In two of those games, the Predators fell behind but came back to at least tie the game. They cashed in a victory in one game and fought hard for shoot-out loss in the seventh round in the other. It is what you want to see from the team heading toward the playoffs. Strong performances on the road the and the ability to compete to the end matters.
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But. There is a major concern on this team. And it has been obvious to me all season.
Look at the numbers. Since the All-Star break, the Nashville Predators are out shooting their opponents in 5v5 by 8.8 shots per game. And they average over 2 more high-danger chance per game as well. The penalty kill has played well, most of the time. All in all, the Predators have earned points in 12 of their last 13 games.
That ain’t bad. But it could be better.
However, the team has yet to play a full 60-minute match. The closest I witness may be shutout last week versus the Los Angeles Kings. Even then, there were a few times where the team was let off the hook by Pekka Rinne. In every game, you can count on a few mental lapses.
Last night, the Predators allowed a short-handed goal to Kasperi Kapanen. P. K. Subban failed to keep the puck in the offensive while on the power-play. Craig Smith battled Kapanen all the way to the net, yet the Toronto forward was able to find the net.
Subban also lost focus against the New York Islanders on Monday. After the puck bounced out of the Predators’ offensive zone, Subban was left with a one-on-one battle with Casey Cizikas. Instead of cutting down the angle, Subban looked back to see if there was any help. That one look allowed Cizikas to find the space he needed to blast the puck by Rinne.
The list goes on. Poor puck play by Alexei Emelin. Bad drop passes by Roman Josi and Viktor Arvidsson. Line changes while the puck is in the neutral zone. Opponents taking shots from the blue line and making them, playing on Rinne’s tendency to play handle the puck.
When the team plays a complete 60-minute match, they are legitimately one of the top four teams in the NHL. Maybe even the best. It will take that type of play to win the Stanley Cup.