Things are going well for the Nashville Predators, but there’s one major problem that needs to be addressed.
Sometimes I think we’re just looking for reasons to be mad at the Nashville Predators. There isn’t a whole lot to be negative about so far this season. Before Friday night’s action, the Predators sat alone atop the Central Division, Western Conference and the National Hockey League.
If the season ended today, we could raise three more banners!
The play from Nashville’s top line has been as good as advertised. Forwards up and down the lineup are contributing. Juuse Saros leads NHL goalies in wins. Mattias Ekholm looks poised for a breakout season. So many things are going right for the Predators that it seems silly to complain about anything.
That being said…we need to talk about the Nashville Predators’ power play.
The Predators are currently 28th in the NHL with an 11.4 power play percentage. This doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody who’s seen any of the games so far. Nashville going on the man advantage has become my least favorite part of their games. It’s the same thing every time. They pass the puck back & forth for two minutes and don’t accomplish much. Sometimes their opponents take it away and have a better scoring chance than anything the Predators can muster.
It’s infuriating to watch. It cost them a game this week, as the San Jose Sharks shut down four Nashville power plays, scored two power-play goals & even got a short-handed goal due to Nashville’s ineptitude on the power play. Completely unacceptable.
Remember the game against the Winnipeg Jets? Nashville got nine power plays from sixty Winnipeg penalty minutes & did absolutely nothing with them. The Predators still won 3-0 because the Jets couldn’t get anything going on offense, but you know that Winnipeg learned something from that game. They can play dirty against Nashville and not have to worry about it costing them on the scoreboard. These teams will most likely meet in the playoffs due to the format, so if the Nashville Predators can’t figure something out on the power play there’s a really good chance they’ll be going home again after a series with Winnipeg.
None of us want that. Well, maybe you do if you’re a Jets fan that stumbled upon this (I am big in Winnipeg), but us Nashville fans realize that the Predators need to clean things up on special teams. I would typically refrain from offering Peter Laviolette ideas because he’s forgotten more about hockey than I’ll ever know, but this whole power play thing has been a problem since he arrived in Nashville. Clearly, it confuses him too.
We have offensive defensemen, so why not use them?
The Predators have always invited their defensemen to be active on the offense, which makes sense because their defensemen have included the likes of Shea Weber, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi & Ryan Ellis. They have pretty good shots. Heck, I remember a time when the Predators power play consisted of Weber taking slap shots. It was a lot better than what we see now. Maybe putting a big body like Ekholm closer to the net helps. Maybe putting a shifty guy like Subban down there makes things more interesting.
Wouldn’t it at least be intriguing to see Nashville’s top four defensemen out there with a Ryan Johansen or Viktor Arvidsson? Maybe you don’t go that far, because we need people up the ice in case things break down, but I feel like moving one of those guys down towards the net would help.
Maybe more physical guys in general?
I kind of wonder if the power play problem is the fact that we tend to use the least physical guys on the power play. Well, except for Filip Forsberg, the master of the Forsbutt. I wonder if mixing in a guy like Ryan Hartman would help. There are plenty of Predators players towards the bottom of the roster that never get a chance on the PP. Ekholm barely ever gets a chance.
I feel like a natural reaction to the lack of production from the PP so far would be to mix those guys in. Doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity, right?
What are the top teams doing?
Every professional sports league is a league of copycats. Heck, most of the college leagues are too. Once coaches figure out that something another team is doing is working, they do all they can to replicate the success on their own team.
Your top power play teams so far this season are the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguin & Winnipeg Jets. The Capitals are at the top with 37.5%, and have been pretty great at it for years, so I’d take a look at what they’re doing. What do they do? From what I’m reading, Alex Ovechkin one-times shots off of one wing & Evegeny Kuznetson does the same on the other. So the secret is to get some great shooters and not give the other team any warning.
You would think we could replicate that. Filip Forsberg & Viktor Arvidsson both have seven goals on the season. Let them do some one-timers?
The Nashville Predators should be in contention for the Stanley Cup. They have a balanced roster with stars on offense & defense. They have two goalies that can get the job done. They have the experience factor on their side. They need to figure out what the heck they’re doing on a power play. If they do, the sky’s the limit.