Not the way you want to come out of the NHL All Star break if you’re the Nashville Predators as they lose to division rival Dallas Stars 4-3 that went back and forth and had plenty of dramatic momentum shifts.
This loss stings because you’re trying to further bury a division foe in the standings, but them getting two points keeps them alive in the division race as they’re only ten points back of Nashville, with three games in hand.
The Nashville Predators came back to tie it three time on goals from Eeli Tolvanen, Matt Duchene and Yakov Trenin. Four goals, two from each team, were seperated by less than four minutes of game clock.
I’m sorry, but this game was more about the Stars not taking advantage to build a bigger lead than it was the Predators tying it back up three times.
So what went wrong last night for the Nashville Predators in the Big D? Let’s take a look.
1. Nashville Predators were predictably sloppy after long break
This can happen to the best of them, and it happened to the Nashville Predators last night against a stingy and physical Dallas Stars team that’s already kind of entering desperation mode to their season.
I found the Predators to be sloppy and out of sync with each other, which I haven’t had to say every often this season. The excecution was poor, the passing was off and the zone entries were often snuffed out by the Stars defensive front.
Both teams made it difficult to get shots through as they had 17 blocks each. You wouldn’t know it by just looking at the final score, but this was a defensive grudge match for the majority of the game.
It’s a double edged sword when you get this long of a break in the middle of the season. You like for your players to get refreshed and healhty, but it also cools off your momentum if you were blazing through opponents like the Predators were leading up to the All Star break.
Hopefully the Predators can work on some things in practice and get back to playing their style. The Stars definitely gave them a taste of their own medicine last night.
2. Saros wasn’t able to make the difficult saves
Before everyone comes after me, I’m not puttig this loss solely on Juuse Saros, and furthmore he was put into precarious situations thanks to some defensive breakdowns and 15 giveaways.
With that said, sometimes you need your goaltender to make the key saves in these breakaway situations. The
goal to make it 3-2 Dallas was one that would’ve been a difficult save for Saros to make, but one I was hoping he could step up to deliver. Here’s a look at it:
Luke Kunin misplayed the bouncing puck near mid-ice, and Hintz sprung forward in open ice to pounce on Saros. Again, a difficult situation for your goaltender to be in, but one that was an opportunity for Saros to make a game-changing save.
The game-winning goal from Luke Glendening was another Predators defensive breakdown that required Saros to make another extremely difficult save. He tried to track the puck and get back over to make the save, but Glendening buried it past him.
These are saves that have a high degree of difficulty, but you’ve seen Saros and other great goaltenders make them in the past. Sometimes it takes a gladiator performance from your franchise goalie to push you over the top, and Saros wasn’t able to do that.
3. Fair or not, Too many penalties to kill
We can blame the officiating all we want, but in the end the Predators have this reputation and have been the most penalized team in the league for most of the season.
The Predators lead the league in total penalty minutes, penalty minutes per game and total penalties taken per game. It’s going to ultimately be their undoing, either in the playoffs or down the stretch of the regular season if they somehow fall out altogether.
The Stars entered the game with the sixth ranked power play in the NHL, and in return enjoyed six power play opportunities last night against the Predators. A recipe for disaster, and luckily the Stars had trouble finishing on some of these attempts.
Constantly killing penalties wears your team down and keeps your team from getting into an offensive flow. That was apparent despite the Predators tallying three goals. They couldn’t get comfortable. Head Coach John Hyens talked about the issues the team battled in the loss, per the team’s official website:
Quite frankly the Predators were lucky to have a chance to tie this game late. It even got to a buzzer beater style attempt off a Ryan Johansen faceoff win to a shooting Forsberg, but he missed the net wide.
“We want to be able to play a consistent game and a brand of hockey that gives us a chance to win every night, and we didn’t do that. I thought we played a volatile game, undisciplined, and we beat ourselves tonight” -Head Coach John Hynes on 4-3 loss to Stars
Just have to head back to the drawing board and not let this type of game become the norm. If it does then the over 90 perent odds to make the playoffs will drop like an anchor.
The Predators have responded to bad losses pretty well this season. With the exeption of a four-game losing streak in January, the Predators haven’t let losing streaks grow past two games.
To close out December the Predators had back-to-back losses to Washington and Columbus, but turned around to win five in a row. However, February is loaded with playoff caliber, and Stanley Cup caliber, team so the challenges only get stiffer.
The Winnipeg Jets, another division foe you’re looking to bury further in the standings, comes to Nashville on Saturday. Have to take care of business here and play a much cleaner game all the way around.