It didn’t take long into the 2022-23 season for the Nashville Predators to turn in a couple concerning performances, the latest against division rival Dallas Stars in two resounding defeats.
Look, these things are going to happen throughout the course of an 82-game season. What amplifies these two losses is the team it comes against, which has haunted Predators fans since the 2019 first round shocker.
These two games were infuriating and tested my patience to say the least. The home opener for the Nashville Predators on Thursday was quite literally just utter domination from the Stars.
The rematch on Saturday night back in Dallas saw the Predators get their chances, but just not have that finishing ability.
The end result is two losses a division opponent by a combined score of 9-2, and Vezina Trophy hopeful Juuse Saros getting roasted in the process. He finished with a negative 2.07 Goals Saved Above Expected and finished in the negative in both games against the Stars.
There are 78 Games Left for the Nashville Predators, so let’s take a deep breath
As bad as it seems, I’m here to tell you everything is going to be okay. I would much rather see this occur in Games 3 and 4 of the regular season as opposed to in the last two weeks of the season when the team is battling for playoff positioning.
Obviously, this is a time to seriously go back to the lab and figure out what went wrong if you’re Head Coach John Hynes. I’d start with addressing why the power play has connected just once through four games, and that one goal was as a 5-on-3 power play was just about to expire.
Don’t forget that this Nashville Predators team that everyone agrees is better than last year on paper, finished sixth in the NHL in power play percentage. I have to think that they’ll start showing improvement in this area and start finishing some of these high danger chances.
Furthermore, there were just too many critical, self-inflicted mistakes that the Predators committed. To the Stars credit, they made them pay with quick odd man rushes that Saros just couldn’t stop.
In the two losses to Dallas, the combination of Filip Forsberg, Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene managed just one point. An assist from Granlund to Nino Niederreiter on the 5-on-3 power play goal.
I refuse to believe that this top line that had so much success last season will continue to be ghosts offensively. They have to bounce back in the upcoming games or “forget about playoffs, I just hope we can win a game” will be the new quote around Nashville. A nod to the classic Jim Mora “playoffs” rant:
In all seriousness, part of my optimism coming out of these two ugly losses to Dallas is I think this line will eventually start clicking again. The Stars just had a great defensive gameplan, so tip your cap.
This comes down to execution on the players’ parts. Hynes and his coaching staff can’t go out there and keep them from avoiding costly errors. It comes down to these veterans executing much better in scoring situations, whether that be crisper passing or better decision-making.
Oddly enough, the Predators actually won the high danger chances and won the Expected Goals For in the second matchup with the Stars. But you have to finish, and the scoreboard that tallies the goals is all that ultimately matters. Not all of these underlying analytics.
Sometimes hockey is just cruel. When the Predators did have some opportunities to keep the score close, Jake Oettinger was there to put up the brick wall. Again, you have to give all of the credit to the Dallas Stars for executing in the moments when the Predators didn’t. That’s what good teams do.
The Nashville Predators are now 2-2-0 on the season with the Los Angeles Kings up next. Another difficult opponent that has opened up with a 1-2-0 record but did just put up seven goals on the Minnesota Wild for the win.
This will be an early season test of will for the Nashville Predators. They were visibly frustrated on Saturday. The leaders of the team have to come together and flip the script against the Kings on Tuesday back in their home building. You can’t let this linger into lengthy losing streak.