In many ways it’s been the perfect storm this month to halt the Nashville Predators unexpected success this season. They’ve just looked competely out of sorts lately.
The Predators have hit a major roadblock in their season that is actually threatening their postseason hopes, which was at one point not too long ago over 95 percent by many playoff prediction models including MoneyPuck.com.
As of now MoneyPuck has plummeted the Predators’ playoff odds to just over 62 percent, which still is way better than any of us probably would’ve predicted back in October before the season started.
So what really has happened to this team to make them suddenly look like just another average, middle-of-the-road squad? Is it just bad fortune that happens to almost every team in an 82-game season, or are the Predators just coming back down to reality that they’re not as good as we thought?
Nashville Predators can’t get into a groove
Hockey players, like most high level athletes, are creatures of habit. This month has been a disruption to the momentum that the Nashville Predators were building through the first four months of the regular season.
The Predators last won on February 1 against the Vancouver Canucks, which was just before the All-Star break. It was an impressive win for the Predators as they came back to win 4-2 after initially giving up the first goal.
Since then, the Predators just can’t find a complete 60-minute game and work out some of the kinks in their game. Their next game against the Stanley Cup caliber Florida Panthers on Tuesday will be just their fifth game in three weeks.
You appreciate the extra rest to get healthy, but I’d be willing to bet the players aren’t crazy about having so many days off between games. Especially when you’re losing tough games and having trouble finding the back of the net.
Good news is that March and April ramps back up, and hopefully the Predators can start cooking with gas again.
Extremely tough opponents have exposed them
We could’ve seen this coming before the calendar flipped to February quite honestly. In fact, contributing writer Max Greenberg pointed out how difficult this month was going to be as the Predators came out of the All Star break.
When you see Stanley Cup caliber teams like Carolina, Washington, Florida and Tampa Bay on your schedule along with so many days off in between, it really tests the fortitude of a team like the Predators.
So far, they haven’t passed the test that they’re ready to hang with these top tier teams. Throw in two losses to Central Division opponents in Dallas and Winnipeg, and you got yourself plenty of reasons to be worried.
The Predators got to find a way to pull off wins against some of these teams remaining in February. A win over the Panthers would be extremely impressive and go a long way into getting positive mojo flowing again.
You really can’t afford to take another loss to the Stars later this week, a team that will be battling the Predators more than likely for a wild card spot down the stretch.
Consistent scoring has gone dry
This team is having trouble finding consistent scoring yet again. Old problems have creeped back up. Filip Forsberg, their most reliable scorer who for most of the season has risen to the occasion in critical moments, has just one goal in his last four games.
The Predators have given up the first goal of the game in four of the five games this month, going 1-3-0 in those matchups. In the one game they did jump ahead to a 2-0 lead over Winnipeg, penalties unraveled them and things fell apart quick.
It’s just a matter of coming out focused and disciplined and avoiding digging yourself in a hole early on. Especially against these elite teams you’re facing.
Another player that once again is hitting a dry spell at the worst time is Ryan Johansen. Just three points in his last eight games and just a measley three goals since a New Years Day win over th Blackhawks.
Eeli Tolvanen is another offensive player that’s just not finding the back of the net like the Predators need him to at this point in his career. He’s dealth with the bad fortune all season with just seven goals and a 6.4 shooting percentage. Better late than never if he suddenly starts finding his shooting touch.
The power play has remained in the top-10 all season, and they draw the second-most penalties per 60 minutes. You would think that would lead to more scoring success, but it’s being cancelled out by also being the most penalized team.
There’s just some clear adjustments that need to be made overall in their play, and for a couple players to find their scoring touch again. You can weather this storm if that happens.
Should we still have confidence in a playoff berth?
We should definitely not be mashing the panic button just yet. It feels like it’s been longer, but really the Predators have lost four in a row and can just easily turn around and win four in a row and get everyone excited again.
It’s likely going to come down to the wire on if the Nashville Predators make the playoffs or not. The law of averages have caught up with them a bit, and they had a lot of extra games in hand that gave them an extra cushion in the standings for a while.
The preseason predictions might end up coming true after all. My ceiling for this team in the preseason was always figruing out a way to make the playoffs for an eighth-straight season, but certainly not a team that’s ready to go deep and push for a Stanley Cup.
If the Nashville Predators miss the playoffs altogether, it’ll be a tough pill to swallow because they were outperforming expectations before the All Star break. Unfortunately, we might be seeing them show the true colors of what many predicted before the season started.
I still say they creep into the playoffs with a wild card spot narrowly over teams like the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and LA Kings. They’re also still just four points out of the top-three, so all is not lost here if they turn things around quickly.
Keep the hope alive, and it’s Pekka Rinne week! Let’s focus on the positive and honor what a historical week it will be for this Nashville Predators franchise, including the Stadium Series game on Saturday at Nissan Stadium.