If the Nashville Predators are going to avoid going down three games to one, their bottom six forwards and defense need to elevate their game.
Heading into game four of the Western Conference semifinals, the Nashville Predators trail the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1. Although each and every game has been competitive, if Nashville is going to get back into this series, they’re going to need a more balanced attack. In order for this to happen, the Predators bottom sixth forwards and defense need to contribute offensively.
Quite frankly, there is no secret that the Winnipeg Jets roster features more pure goal scorers than their counterparts in this series. After all, their roster features the likes of the Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and of course, Patrick Laine.
More from Predators News
- Joakim Kemell Flashes his Offense in Nashville Predators Loss to Tampa
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Luke Schenn
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Roster Officially Announced
- Nashville Predators Rookie Camp will Showcase Loaded Prospect Pool
- How Crazy Would Signing Phil Kessel be for the Nashville Predators?
Considering that the Predators have been able to keep three of the four aforementioned goal scorers in check, one would assume the Predators would be in the driver seat.
So why isn’t this the case?
The biggest factor is that the Predators “role” players are being outperformed. Through three games, the Predators bottom six has contributed just two goals, both of which came Tuesday night. On the flip side, the Winnipeg Jets have benefited from a balanced attack so far this series, having players throughout their entire lineup contribute. In fact, Brandon Tanev, the Jets third line left winger, has outscored the Predators entire bottom six.
Now some may disagree with the notion that the Predators need more depth scoring as, if it wasn’t for a terrible second period in game three, they would probably be leading the series. Although this may be true, however, when looking back on the Predators 2016-2017 postseason run, it is apparent that depth is vital.
This is evident when looking at their Stanley Cup Finals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Similarly to last year, the Nashville Predators are currently receiving sub-par goaltending from Pekka Rinne and aren’t getting offensive outside of the usual suspects. Ultimately, if it did not work then, it will not work now.
If the Predators bottom six is going to get going offensively, it needs to start with a veteran like Nick Bonino. He clearly has the ability to be a playoff performer, having played in 84 games recording 45 points. I believe that if he can find some offense and more chemistry with Austin Watson, the only bottom-six forward who has contributed so far this postseason, the Predators will find more success.
Even if the third and fourth line doesn’t score, just being a consistent threat on the ice will be beneficial. This is especially true when playing on the road, where Paul Maurice has last change. This is evident, as Maurice will likely put his top pairing on against Ryan Johansen’s trio, thus affording Bonino and his linemates a more favorable matchup. A matchup that they could take advantage of.
Not only has the Nashville Predators bottom six struggled mightily, but so too has their defense.
As everyone knows, the Predators blue line has been one of the highest scoring D-Cores in recent years and ultimately plays a big role in the Predators offense. Roman Josi and P.K. Subban were two of the team’s top five point producers this past season and were key to the Predators success on the Power Play.
So far in this series, outside of P.K Subban, the Predators D-Core has been pretty silent. Especially Roman Josi, who has yet to record a point.
When comparing the Predators blue line to the Jets, there is no comparison at the moment. The Preds D-Core has managed to score just twice, both coming from Subban, whereas the Jets backend has found twine double that amount.
Considering how valuable the Predators blue line is to the Predators attack, they need to pick up their play tonight.
Tonight’s matchup is a must-win for the Nashville Predators. If they can’t get more offensive production from their bottom six and D, they will likely struggle to win. Thankfully, the Predators bottom six seemed to wake up and play better last game. Let’s hope they continue to contribute tonight.