Nashville Predators: How They Pull Off the Unexpected vs. Tampa Bay

Nashville Predators right wing Mathieu Olivier (25) and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) exchange punches during a fight in the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators right wing Mathieu Olivier (25) and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) exchange punches during a fight in the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Nashville Predators are slowly seeing their playoff chances slip away.  Almost a month into the season, they rank second to last in their division and have seen the same problems persist the entire year.

It only looks as if they will continue their losing ways tonight, as they complete the second half of their back-to-back series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Predators have lost their first three meetings against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, who have won five in a row and are comfortably in the driver’s seat of the Central Division.

The most recent loss for the Predators saw them battle hard defensively, but couldn’t manufacture any type of offensive firepower against Tampa Bay’s stout defensive front.

A key injury to Ryan Johansen that could last over a week has the Predators leaning on some younger players to take charge.

Hope is fading for the Predators, as their reoccurring issues look like they are just a part of the team at this point.  They are easily the inferior team in tonight’s game, but bad teams best good teams often in the sport of hockey.

Here is how they can pull off the unexpected tonight.

Roll the Dice, Nashville Predators

There is no need to further discuss the Predators’ offensive ineffectiveness so far this season. The effort has been there at times, but the results certainly have not, and whatever their approach has been is just not working.

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It definitely will not work against a team as defensively sound as the Lightning, meaning that it’s time for a full-scale adjustment by Head Coach John Hynes.  The Predators need to let loose and be more aggressive in the offensive zone than they have been the whole season.

Forechecking harder, crashing the goal, and getting a high volume of shots on goal will all be required for all 60 minutes.  The game plan for tonight needs to be centered around getting bodies and pucks down low and scoring goals in ugly fashion.

The Predators might surrender some counterattacks as a result, but that’s a risk worth taking. They have not had a good season, nor will they win this game with their current strategy, so they have to take a chance in order to get a different result.

They have been able to take control late in games due to their desperation efforts, so they must replicate that for full three periods.  It’s the only way they will be able to put the Lightning on their heels and put pucks in the net.

Sturdy Goaltending

Part of going all out and having players converge deep in the offensive zone is giving up odd-man rushes from time to time.  If the Predators decide to do that tonight, then they will need a superb performance in the crease.

Juuse Saros will likely get the start after sitting for the past two games, and should expect to be tested several times in this one.  Hopefully he can use the rest to his advantage and make some incredible saves.

His inconsistency has been slightly concerning, but he has shown flashes of being that franchise goaltender that the team wants him to be.  Let’s hope he makes the most out of this opportunity to further boost confidence that he could be that guy.

Prove Us Wrong

There are no two ways about it; the Predators have played poorly this season and look to be in deep trouble with the way they are playing.  Confidence within the fan base is getting lower and lower by the day, and they have every reason to feel that way.

There is no reason to think that the team will make the adjustments necessary to win tonight and moving forward, and the only way for the fans to believe it is if they see it for themselves.

Even if they still struggle, the only way for this team to get any better is if they show they can make changes from time to time, and the Predators need to show that they can do that from here on out.  Tonight is a start.

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Ground can be made up quickly in an all division schedule, so the Predators aren’t completely out of it yet. But serious adjustments to their playing style has to change starting tonight.