This is a question that’s going to be asked about the Nashville Predators all season. Are the expectations realistic for them to win a Stanley Cup?
Things can break right for any team once you make the playoffs, but the great teams make their own luck and overcome obstacles throughout a season. Do the Nashville Predators have the makeup to be one of those teams?
There’s no denying the talent on the Predators. From top to bottom they’re one of the most complete teams in the NHL. The problem I currently have with them is they don’t play up to expectations against teams they should easily handle.
My biggest concern for the Predators is they fall asleep at the wheel far too often during games. They have flashes of greatness only to be quickly followed up by a disappearing act. That’s exactly what they did after going up 3-2 last week against Colorado, only to get embarrassed out of the building by a team that was missing their top two stars and a starting goaltender.
Glass half full or half empty?
I’m not in full panic mode yet because there’s so much time left and the Predators are still in a good spot in the standings. It’s not about where they stand right now, which a lot of teams would be pleased with. It’s about the trends they’re showing that won’t translate well to the playoffs.
As I previously mentioned, having major lapses in the middle of games and late in games that’s leading to losses. The two most prime examples of this are losses to Los Angeles, Calgary and Colorado. All three of those games the Predators were in solid control of the game only to completely collapse and take a demoralizing loss.
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What’s leading to these crushing losses? You can’t really pin it on one player. The goaltending can be partially blamed, but it’s not completely on them. That’s why it’s a disturbing trend. Losses like these have a been a team effort, or lack thereof.
I really wanted to see how the Predators responded to that 9-4 loss to Colorado last Thursday. Would they let that leak into another bad game, or would they respond in a big way with a short memory and take care of business against a struggling San Jose team? They took the shootout loss, but they only gave up one goal in regulation and did play a lot better defensively. So there’s that.
I’m clinging onto hope that by the time March and April get here the Predators will find their rhythm will all of these great pieces they have. If they can stay within that top-three of a clogged up Central Division race, I’ll feel really good about where they stand. For that to happen, more consistency is going to be needed. Here’s my season grade for the entire team at this point:
Where’s the breaking point?
My breaking point for this team when I look back on this season next summer will be if they’re eliminated in the first two rounds of the playoffs. They’ve already wasted the last two seasons by falling up short of postseason expectations. A third-straight season of doing that and I’ll be out of free passes for Peter Laviolette as head coach.
There will be no excuses left after having players like Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Roman Josi, Pekka Rinne and others on your roster. That’s a great collection of veteran talent that’s backed up by formidable depth in the bottom six. You can’t blame GM David Poile for not constructing a strong roster.
Laviolette has done some great things for this franchise that will never be overlooked or forgotten. Getting them to their first ever Stanley Cup Final, and getting them so close to forcing a Game 7 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is a monumental accomplishment. But where has this franchise gone since then? It’s a fair question.
The truth is the franchise has been going in reverse. Despite that, the roster still has the pieces to get back there this season. They’re not far away at all.
With that said, things aren’t clicking from game to game. They’ll put a great game out there that makes you think they’re about to go on a run, only to show up with no energy the next game. They actually do this within single games as well.
To pull them out of this funk and string together a solid win streak, they need the top veterans to step up to the plate. Particularly on the defensive side of things they have to start playing more disciplined. It’s a lot of fun to watch the run and gun offensive style of the Predators, but it’s getting them burned far too often.
The San Jose game, although a loss, is a building block game. It may be more boring, but I want to start seeing more 3-1 style wins from the Predators. That means Josi has to keep earning his way into the Norris Trophy conversation not just by his offensive prowess, but also by playing up to standard on defense.
Let’s be honest about how bad the penalty kill has been. They’re outside of the top-20 in penalty killing even after stopping all four San Jose power plays in the last game. They’ve also taken two overtime losses after having the lead going into the third period. Better defensive efforts are desperately needed right now, and perhaps a big trade before the deadline will happen to help in this area.
After Tuesday night’s road game with the Canucks, the Predators will play five of their next six at home. This is a chunk of the schedule where hopefully they can string together some wins at home and get in a groove. They need one of those winning streaks as the Blues are starting to pull away and some middle-of-the-pack teams aren’t too far behind.
My verdict from all of this is yes, absolutely the Predators have a good enough roster to win a Stanley Cup this year. But something is holding them back that has them trending towards another early playoff exit. They have time to correct it, but it better happen soon before they start sliding in the standings.