For the first time since October, things are looking quite bleak for the Nashville Predators. In a February with a brutal schedule and an opportunity to assert themselves, the Predators have failed to rise to the occasion, losing four in a row and looking more and more like a mediocre team that can’t hang with the top dogs in the NHL.
Things do not get any easier tonight, as they snap a three-day break to face a full-fledged Stanley Cup contender in the Florida Panthers.
A slumping team like the Predators shouldn’t have much of a shot to win this one, as they hardly registered any pressure in a must win game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
But as we know, this is hockey, and anything can happen on any given night, right? The Predators would gain a massive boost with a victory in this one, and here are three things they can do to get it done.
Nashville Predators need a great effort from Saros
We are almost beating a dead horse when we say that the Nashville Predators need high level performances on a near nightly basis from Juuse Saros for them to stay afloat. Tonight, they might need him just that much more.
The Panthers are netting an astounding 4.12 goals per game, which is obviously best in the league. With their talent and the amount of depth they have on their bottom lines, Saros has what should be his toughest test of February, which is frightening.
The Predators defense will have to help out too, as sitting back and forcing him to make save after save is not going to be sustainable. That being said, we have to assume that they will suffer at least one or two onslaughts to this loaded Panthers team.
Saros will have to be at his very best if the Predators want any chance of winning this game. And even then, it may not be enough.
Nashville Predators powerplay must get back on track
For as improved as the Predators power play has been this year as opposed to the last, they seem to either be clicking and scoring without much resistance, or completely lost and unable to set up whatsoever.
Since coming back from the All-Star break, it has gone completely in the latter direction.
It has taken a serious nosedive in the past few games, converting an egregious one out of 12 tries and seemingly giving fans flashbacks to the years in which the unit was among the worst in the league.
Yes, the whole team is in a slump right now, but the overall inconsistency plus the past history of the man advantage is not an encouraging sign.
Scoring a power play goal tonight would go a long way to helping them get a much needed road win. The Panthers penalty kill, which is ranked 17th at 79.3 percent, is not ridiculously strong either.
The Predators seem due for one of these, so hopefully it happens tonight.
Nashville Predators need to be aggressive, but smart
Everyone knows that the Predators are not going to win this game due to talent, so they will have to take some chances in order to come out on top.
Tonight would be a great night for them to get back to the identity that they always talk about, which is being physical and wearing their opponents down with their forecheck.
That being said, the Predators will have to find a way to do so while staying outside of the penalty box. Their aggressive nature is catching up to them fast, as they lead the league with 4.86 penalties per game, and their penalty kill is suffering because of it.
No team can win when they are spending valuable time short handed, and the Predators absolutely will get burned if they do so in this game. They will have to make sure to not put themselves in a position to rack up the penalty minutes, because even if you say that some of the calls against have been questionable lately, some of the hits they have made have been equally questionable.
That is not to say that they cannot stick to their identity, but they have to be smart and maybe more selective about throwing around the body.
The Predators have to find the right balance between being aggressive and being disciplined, which has been a challenge this season. Game time is scheduled for a 6 P.M. CDT puck drop and the two teams will meet again in Nashville on April 9.