Nashville Predators Coming Back Down to Reality at Worst Time

Mar 24, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) loses an edge in a game against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) loses an edge in a game against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

We wondered all season just how long the Nashville Predators could keep overperforming to the point where they were even challening for first place, albeit for a very brief time.

Now we’re in crunch time for the playoffs, and low and behold the Nashville Predators are fading fast. Suddenly they look like an average team, much like the team most expected heading into the 2021-22 season.

To steal a line from the great NFL Head Coach Dennis Green, the Nashville Predators “are who we thought they were”.

Does this mean they’re a hopelessly terrible team and that this season has been a waste? Absolutely not, but it will be heartbreaking if they fall short of the playoffs after watching them do basically nothing at the trade deadline to get better.

The Predators are narrowly hanging on to a wild card spot after dropping a dissappointing effort against the mediocre Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. A game they needed to take care of businesss in and get the two points, because now the schedule really gets difficult again.

Some negative trends for the Nashville Predators

What’s really sticking out recently about the Predators is their lack of aggression and focus, something that wasn’t an issue before the All Star break. They’re getting beat to a lot of loose pucks, commiting a bunch of avoidable penalties and opening up games with poor play all around.

The Predators have given up the game’s first goal in each of their last six games, and seven of the last eight. During that stretch they’ve gone 4-4-0, but were fortunate to get wins over Ottawa and Philadelphia in that span.

We’re seeing problems with consistency that plagued this team last season and the season before. They’ll open the game full of mistakes, but then come together to finish strong. That’s not a sustainable winning formula, and we’re seeing that now.

There are defensive issues galore, and much of that is due to injuries that’s forcing a shuffling of the deck of defensemen. Dante Fabbro is the major missing piece currently, and it’s really showing.

Fabbro is still listed as week-to-week with an upper body injury and hasn’t played since March 21. He’s desperately needed back, but it’s still unclear how many more games he’ll miss.

Mark Borowiecki has also been out and has struggled to be available all season. He’s played in just 44 games this season, forcing the Predators to dig deeper and make a trade deadline move for Jeremy Lauzon to get more depth.

The Predators have tried to piece it together in this department, but it’s really become the sore spot of the team. This isn’t a playoff-winning defensive lineup, and they’ll likely have to once again rely on elite goaltending from Juuse Saros to get them past the first round, or even to the playoffs altogether.

As for Saros, he truthfully hasn’t been as stellar as we know he’s capable of being. It’s definitely not all on him, but he has let some uncharacteristcally bad goals by over the last few weeks. You have to wonder if he’s worn down with 57 starts out of the 68 games. That’s second-most in the NHL, only behind Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 58 starts.

Is there any reason to keep hope?

I’ve been saying this for a while that it’s going to come down to the final week of the regular season. The standings are a cluster as they usually are, and one decent winning streak or losing streak will dramatically sway it one way or the other.

The gap has widened for the top-three in the division, so it’s starting to become far-fetched that they sneak into that third place over the St. Louis Blues.

There’s a couple reasons I still have hope that they can at least get one of the wildcard spots. This team has shown they can be streaky, and all they need is a hot streak to stay ahead of Dallas and Vegas. They only have to finish ahead of one of those two teams.

Vancouver and Winnipeg are fading as well, so really it comes down to Dallas and Vegas as the main competition to scoreboard watch. Vegas plays Vancouver and Dallas plays Seattle on Sunday.

Perhaps the only saving grace to this three-team battle for a wildcard spot is the Predators will have three games in hand over Vegas after Sunday’s action. The Predators don’t play again until Tuesday against Minnesota.

I still have confidence that this team can pull together over their final 14 games to get a playoff spot. It’s a tight knit group of players that play for each other and know they have to finish the job that they’ve worked so hard for all season.

Next. Why the Predators Need More Consistency from 2nd Line. dark

After all, it was a originally tagged as a “retool” or “rebuild” season where we just wanted to see the young players develop, but players like Filip Forsberg, Tanner Jeannot, Roman Josi and Matt Duchene had other plans in mind.

We’d much rather see the Nashville Predators hit their stride late in the season than going through this severe rough patch now. However, there’s still time to push through it.

If you’re being honest with yourself, you would’ve taken the Nashville Predators being in the first wildcard spot with 14 games left if someone offered it to you back in early October.