Nashville Predators Will Have to Primarily Win Games the Ugly Way

Nashville Predators right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators right wing Viktor Arvidsson (33) Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s becoming more and more apparent with each game that offensive outbursts are going to come at a premium this season for the Nashville Predators.

If the Predators are going to string together some wins in the upcoming stretch of games and avoid slipping further down in the Central Division standings, they’re going to need to win games the ugly way.

Maybe ugly isn’t the right word. Instead, I’ll use the “old fashioned” way. For fans who love a lot of flashy offense and lots of goals, the Predators might not be the team for you this season. But then again, let’s hope you’re not bandwagon jumping either.

With that said, the Predators are 4-5 on the season and showing us that against the cream of the crop of the division, they’re a long ways off from competing. A big reason why is they just can’t match the offensive firepower of those teams.

Nashville Predators just don’t have many weapons

Sure, the Predators have some playmakers. Roman Josi is at the top of the hill for the Predators, followed by Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Ellis and sometimes Matt Duchene.

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That’s just not a lot of offensive weapons, and even those weapons are spotty and proven to be unreliable in big moments. Hence why you see the Predators where they are now, which is painfully average at best.

Can the Predators still find a way to win games with this deficiency? They can, but it’s going to be a much tougher hill to climb and one that probably won’t end in them going much further than a first round playoff exit. But how about they get to the playoffs first.

I need to see Josi start taking over offensive rushes again, which is sometimes criticized because it puts his linemates in a bad spot if a counter attack is initiated.

Still, the offense has to come from somewhere, and Josi has proven time and time again that he’s one of the best at that.

Forsberg has some pretty goals already this season, but his efficiency has to be at a career-high this season to offset the other offensive deficiencies.

Arvidsson is getting plenty of shots on goal, but many of them aren’t high quality with his shooting percentage way down below six percent.

Live off your strengths

The Predators have to preach defensive discipline at this point. As they continue to work on fixing the offensive troubles, the Predators have the defensive pieces to be a team hard to score on when there’s not a parade to the penalty box.

This is where the Predators can make some hay in the upcoming schedule against middle-of-the-road teams like themselves. They have the necessary play personnel to be a headache for offensively challenged teams just like they are.

The Predators have actually already done that in their four wins this season against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks. Limited the shots on goal and thrived defensively at even strength.

The top-four teams make the playoffs, and right now the easy top-four is Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas and Florida.

The Florida Panthers, and to a degree the Columbus Blue Jackets, are the teams the Predators have to have enormous success against from here on out if they even want to think about a playoff berth. And to do that, it’s going to have to come from being a menace defensively by blocking a lot of shots, mashing guys into the boards and somehow figuring out a remedy for the penalty kill.

The penalty kill, believe it or not, did show modest improvements in the two losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning most recently. The Predators have the Florida Panthers up next, which is a huge back-to-back where all four points are desperately needed.

Sure, it’ll be a huge bonus if something starts clicking offensively and Forsberg and Duchene can recapture some success that they enjoyed together at the early portion of the 2019-20 season, but I’m not holding my breathe on that one.

There’s a glimmer of hope in what we’re seeing with Granlund. If he can even come close to being the offensive player he was with the Minnesota Wild, then the Predators can start finding something.

These are all big “ifs”, and that’s just not going to get it done in time to make a difference in a 56-game schedule.

The Predators are going to have to be that roughneck team that takes smart penalties when necessary, but finds that delicate balance where they’re not just goons on the ice constantly hurting themselves by being the penalty box.

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These guys are going to have to do things that don’t always get love in the box score. Make their goaltenders’ jobs a lot easier and keep the shots on goal down for the opposing team. Not to mention also the high-danger scoring chances.

The Predators have given up just 13 goals at 5-on-5 even strength through the first nine games. That’s something to build off of. When they’re at a 5-on-4 disadvantage, the Predators have given up 12 goals.

It may not be as entertaining or sexy to watch, but the Predators can have some sustained success when mucking things up and playing solid defensive hockey at even strength. They can be the team that wins games with three goals or less, especially against the weaker teams in the division.

Until something drastically changes for the better on the power play or on their offensive zone entries, the Predators are going to continue to find it difficult to get high-quality shots on goal.

Being a near-perfect team defensively is their only hope to turn this thing around. They’ve shown at times they can do that with the players they have.