If you are one of those people who said that the Nashville Predators were going to significantly cool off as the season came to a close, it looks like you might be getting proven right by the day.
The Nashville Predators have been slumping hard recently, losing three of their past five, and not looking particularly good in any of the games they have played.
In this stretch, the Predators have not been able to excel at what they are best at. They have not been forechecking with nearly as much authority, the defense — most specifically the third pair — looks like a mess, and most importantly, Juuse Saros has been unable to be the difference maker he usually is.
None of this is a good sign, especially after the team appeared to respond well to a harsh, but motivational speech from John Hynes earlier in the month of March, per Alex Daugherty of A to Z Sports:
The Predators have more questions than answers at this time, but things might not be as down and complicated as they appear to be. If they can make one change from what has been during their most recent slump, it could make a very big difference in the outcomes.
Nashville Predators cannot come out flat early in games
One constant throughout this recent dark stretch for the Predators has been starting off games quite horribly. They have given up the first goal in each of their past six contests, and seven of their past eight.
It’s not just giving up the first goal that’s hurting them, but it’s also how badly they have looked while doing so.
In the games against the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights, those goals were just part of brutal 6-1 losses, they could not snap out of defensive lapses against the Philadelphia Flyers despite controlling the majority of play, they could not stop taking penalties early against the Ottawa Senators, and just looked lost at the start of the game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Playing a game from behind is never a good sign because more often than not, you have to adjust to the opposition and get away from your game.
Secondly, it just sucks the juice out of you, and taking penalties as a result of aggressiveness to try and get back in the game can further deplete a team’s energy.
A resilient team such as the Predators is unlikely to be out of any game from the get go, but we saw that even when they came back and made it interesting against the Sabres, it still wasn’t enough. And in the games against the Kings and Golden Knights, we saw that the holes they dug for themselves were insurmountable.
If I were Hynes, the main message I’m sending before tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild is to settle down and not try to do everything perfectly early on. There is no need to be aggressive to the point of taking penalties so early on or overcommit in the defensive zone.
The Nashville Predators just need to work on moving the puck smoothly, forechecking the way they know it, and staying calm in the defensive zone. That last part will especially benefit Saros, because if his defense is confident in their ability to neutralize the opposition, he will feel confident stopping pucks since he will not face many prime scoring chances.
The Predators need to just make sure they get out of the first period with a really good effort, preferably one that puts them ahead or even on the scoreboard. If they can do that, they will play the rest of the game much more relaxed, which could go a long way to flipping results back in their favor.