Nashville Predators: Three terrible games cause concern for Predators

(Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Three games. All of them losses. And in those losses, the Nashville Predators showed us why we should be concerned about the playoffs.

You can’t win them all, we all know that to be true. But, the way the Nashville Predators were performing lately the thought of them not being competitive was an afterthought. Things changed rather quickly. After earning points in 15 straight games, with a record of 14-0-1 in that span, the Predators turned in some of their worst performances of the season.

To make it more upsetting, the losses came against playoff contenders.

Now, I will not be all doom-and-gloom. The sky is, in fact, no falling. However, there is absolutely cause for concern. Maybe the Predators are hitting the proverbial wall. After a historic end to the 2016-17 season, Nashville played their way to truly being one of the top teams in the NHL. The run to the Stanley Cup was no fluke. Keeping it up for a full 82-game season is challenging no matter who you are.

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It could be – though I very much doubt this is the case – the Predators are just coasting a bit. They already have a playoff berth wrapped up and will likely be the top team in the Western Conference, barring major catastrophe. The changing of the lines in order to give players days off was a good idea, but it also broke up some strong chemistry. Now, the Predators need to get back on track.

What happened

When looking back over the three losses, one thing stands out to me. The third and fourth lines just played poorly. During the game versus Toronto, the line of Mike Fisher, Scott Hartnell, and Austin Watson was flat outplayed. Two of Toronto’s three goals at even strength came against this line. Granted, the trio started in the offensive zone 14% of the game, but you expect better play from physical veterans. They were outshot, allowed three high danger chances, and achieved nothing on offense themselves.

Similar stats are witnessed against the Minnesota Wild. This time, the third line was the culprit. The combination of Nick Bonino, Ryan Hartman, and Hartnell has been a quality line for the Nashville Predators. Just, not against the Wild. Playing eight and a half minutes together at 5v5, the line allowed the multiple high danger chances leading to a goal. Offensively, their shot-shares were 20% lower than the Wild.

The scoreboard suggests the Predators were in the game versus the Winnipeg Jets, but the numbers tell another story. The CorsiFor stats were even during 5v5 after the first period. And, the Predators held a 2-0 advantage after 20 minutes. However, they allowed 10 scoring chances and five high-danger chances while only accruing four and two chances, respectively. When the game was over, the Jets held advantages of 38-16 in scoring chances at 5v5, and 14-8 in high danger chances. Sissons was on the ice for three of the Jets goals.

Of course, Nashville accumulated seven penalties in the final two periods against the Jets, leading to two power-play goals.

Not just the forwards

The defensemen are also to blame for the losses. During the game against the Jets, the numbers show they defensive pairings played well. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis were on ice during the only 5v5 goal the Jets obtained. Yet, they allowed the Jets to play at the net all night long leaving Juuse Saros out to drive.

P.K. Subban has not been his best lately, either. In each of the last two games, Subban has allowed opponents to attack the slots and score. It led to two goals for the Jets and two more for the Wild. All at the net. All in all, the Predators put the games on the shoulders of the goalies.

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When all is said an done, the Nashville Predators are just not playing their best on the defensive side of the rink. The team is still getting chances to score. Facing other great goalies have made things more difficult. However, if the Predators do not tighten up things on the defensive end, we would be looking at a second-round exit yet again.