Nashville Predators need to live in the danger zone to win

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 12: Craig Smith
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 12: Craig Smith /

After three games, the Nashville Predators are not gaining quality scoring chances. That has to change if they want to win the series. Or the Cup.

The basic rules of hockey are rather simple. Shoot a piece of vulcanized rubber into a net and keep the other team from doing the same. Of course, we all know it is not necessarily that easy. There are goalies, opponents skating on razorblades and clutching sticks, and chasing after you. This sounds terrifying, but not as much as watching the first periods from any of three playoff games the Nashville Predators have performed.

….I just had a cold shiver thinking about that…….

While players can shoot from anywhere, the closer you are to the net, the better the chances. There are scoring chances and dangerous scoring chances. And then, there are high-danger chances. Here is a picture depicting dangerous and high-danger areas. If the Predators want to win, they must live in the danger zone.

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The Danger Zone. This is what I call a target-rich environment. It is the space from the top of the circles to the net, and as wide as the dots in the circles. This is where the goalie is most vulnerable. Shooters have better angles and there tends to be traffic to block vision. It takes quality passing and speed to gain these areas. You have to do incredibly brave things to get there. And, so far, the Predators have not been brave.

For our purpose today, we will only use 5v5 stats.

Of all 16 playoff teams, the Nashville Predators have the second-fewest high-danger changes (HDCF), with the New Jersey Devils being the worst. And, during their 13 HDCF, they have scored two goals. Not great. Now, for the season, the Predators were 11th lowest in the NHL in HDCF with 669. For reference, the Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, and Vegas Golden Knights all achieved fewer HDCF during the season.

In these playoffs, Vegas leads the way with 41 HDCF.

Defensively, the Predators have allowed Colorado 22 HDCF, leading to five goals. The team who allowed the second-fewest goals during high-danger situations is second-worst in the playoffs.

As for total scoring chances, the Predators have 45 which is the lowest among the playoff teams. The defense has only allowed 56 scoring chances, but also six goals. For references, the Avalanche have seven goals during 5v5 play, five of which were during high-danger situations.

What does this mean

Honestly, it speaks to three things. First of all, the Nashville Predators’ offense is relying on shots from outside the danger areas. On Monday night, for example, 20 total shots were taken from outside the danger zones. Predators forwards were not gaining position around the net to score on a rebound, nor were they in the slots for a great shot. They need to buzz the tower. Colorado’s defense is not helping. At times, they are playing three defenders by the net, making these chances difficult. They are also blocking shots, causing pucks to ski-ramp up into the crowd.

Second, the issue speaks to time of possession in the offensive zone.  I know, this is not a real stat and not tracked by any site, but it matters. Any possession the Predators gain in their zone is typically short-lived. The Avalanche skate aggressively after every pass, often eliminating room for skaters and passing lanes. This creates chaos and ends possession in the zone.

Finally, Predators’ defenders must account for every player in the ice. Too many times, opponents skate into the danger zone and are left open. It is how the Avalanche scored several of their goals.

Next: Jarnkrok in, Fisher out?

Can things change? Yes. In order to win this series (or even the Cup), the Predators must feel the need for speed and find their wingman. If not, fans are going to need something to put their flames out.