Nashville Predators: Solid Penalty Killing Has Balanced the Scales

Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators pressures Warren Foegele #13 of the Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Roman Josi #59 of the Nashville Predators pressures Warren Foegele #13 of the Carolina Hurricanes (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Who would’ve thought that the Nashville Predators would be able to go toe-to-toe with the Carolina Hurricanes by becoming a reliable penalty killing team?

If you realistically predicted the Predators to pull off this upset over Carolina in the series, then maybe you did see this coming, but I can’t see I was one of them.

As the regular season progressed, the Nashville Predators gradually improved on their penalty kill, but it wasn’t necessarily enough to get them from still being one of the worst in the NHL at 29th overall.

It became a joke over the first two months of the regular season as the Predators were just getting gashed left and right again quality teams’ power plays. There was almost no doubt that the Predators undoing would come by way of having to kill off a penalty.

The Nashville Predators have appeared to fix a major flaw

Among playoff teams, the Predators are currently tied for 7th on the penalty kill at an 85.7 percent success rate. It’s a major factor into how the Predators have managed to claw their way back to tie the series at 2-2.

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The most obvious credit is owed to Juuse Saros making the saves and continuing to look like one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, but also a lot of credit is owed to the players in front of him. They’re playing a very physical game and not backing down to Carolina’s highly-skilled power play.

For perspective, in the six regular season wins the Hurricanes had over the Predators, they went 9-for-21 on the power play in what turned out to be mostly lopsided wins. The Predators have taken away that advantage through the first four games.

In the Game 4 win, the Predators had to step up to kill a huge penalty off in the first overtime after Nick Cousins was called for a delay of game. We saw a big takeaway from Mattias Ekholm in this sequence, and also a couple blocked shots from Erik Haula and Matt Benning.

One thing I’ve noticed about the Predators on the penalty kill is they’re blocking shots and clogging up lanes, which is critical to an effective penalty kill. They’re laying it all out there to aide Saros’ vision to see the puck.

light. Related Story. How the Predators Rallied to Tie This Series with Canes

Can’t revert back to old habits

A big reason I predicted the Hurricanes to win this series in six games was due to the major gap between their power play and the Predators’ shaky penalty kill. It could still end in six games, but I only see that happening if the Predators revert back to old ways in this department.

As much as I’m gaining confidence in the Predators penalty kill more and more, I still can’t fully trust it. The Predators still have to keep this at 5v5 hockey as much as possible. It’s a physical series so penalties are unavoidable, but they need to at least avoid the ones that are just sloppy and due to getting caught out of position.

If this team has a lapse that puts them back to the February Predators, then the Hurricanes will be too much to overcome and this will end in six games. However, this Predators team that keeps improving on the penalty kill and featuring an elite goaltender in the making gives them a chance to shock the Hurricanes and move on to the second round.