The Nashville Predators bad start to the season continued on Tuesday as they blew a 3-1 lead late in the third period to lose 4-3 in a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings.
There is no doubt that this was a game that the Predators should have won, but they every bit as much deserved to lose with the way they fell apart.
At this point, there is justified concern and some panic considering how improved the Predators were supposed to be.
During the past few years, you could at least make the excuses that they did not have a complete roster under Head Coach John Hynes. Even though it is only five games into the season, the current state of affairs is unacceptable, and we cannot just chalk it up to bad nights anymore.
Let’s take a look at areas that have been killing them over the first five games.
Penalties, upon penalties, upon penalties
If we had a dollar for every time we brought this up as an issue for the Predators, we might be about as rich as some NHL players by now. Ok not really, but I mean seriously, how many times do we have to circle back to this?
We could go on and on and talk about last season and even the first five games of this current season, but instead let’s keep things simple and only focus on Tuesday night.
If you thought you had seen it bad with this Predators team in terms of trips to the penalty box, on Tuesday against the Kings they committed nine penalties.
To put that in terms of numbers, that is equal to eighteen minutes served, which is just two minutes shy of a third of a regulation hockey game. So yeah, the Predators spent just under a whole period of one game short-handed, which was spread throughout the entire contest.
No team can win that way, and how could you not expect the Predators to be on their heels defensively for long periods of time given the situation they put themselves in? These penalties not only put you at risk of giving up goals, but the way they force you to play destroys momentum, which certainly showed on the ice on Tuesday.
There was no bigger example of that than their third goal against, and even though it came at four-on-four, it was still obvious how badly the team was reeling right after negating their own chance to end the game on a power play.
These penalties also are destructive to the guys trying to kill them, and how could spending eighteen demanding minutes doing that not hurt their five-on-five effectiveness? They are absolute killers, and needless to say, they can kiss any chances of a deep playoff run goodbye if they do not fix it.
It is what everyone has been saying for so long now, the Nashville Predators have not at all found a way to be aggressive but still disciplined.
Predators Power Play Woes Returning
Remember when the power play took a huge step going from a major liability to sixth in the entire league? Well let’s just say that has not continued.
The Predators have been abhorrent, scoring one goal on 21 tries with the man advantage. Oh and that goal came immediately after a five-on-three expired, so just imagine if they had not even scored on that.
The increased production on the power play last year was not even a fluke. You could tell they put in some serious work with the passing and overall puck movement that was unrecognizable to previous years.
For some reason, the Predators have done almost none of that in the first 21 chances that they have gotten. It’s been a combination of timing just being off, unforced giveaways, and some quality goaltending on the other side.
The only time we have actually seen them run an efficient power play was actually in Tuesday’s game, as they were able to move the puck to the high-percentage areas, even though they did not score any goals.
Other than that, it has mostly delivered momentum to the other teams, as it did in the years before last.
How is it going to change? One adjustment that would make sense would be putting Nino Niederreiter on the top unit in place of Mikael Granlund, and vice versa. With the way the current groupings are constructed, all of the top offensive talent is on the top unit, while the net-front threats are on the second unit.
Why not add a little bit of everything to both units, especially when they are in as much of a funk as they are? It is also worth noting that there are not many experienced players on that second unit, so putting an experienced distributor like Granlund on there could do wonders, and ultimately help everyone else.
To be fair, it is hard not to think that the power play, especially the top unit, will improve given their track record under Dan Lambert, as it really cannot get much worse than it is right now. That being said, the Predators are not maximizing their potential on the man advantage, so some changes would be good to see.
Stop Trying to be Fancy
Let’s be honest; the Nashville Predators under Hynes are not a team that has been known for their flash and pizazz. They definitely have some highly talented players, but overall, when this team is truly clicking, it is due to their tenacious energy down low in the offensive zone and their ability to outwork the opposition.
This is yet another area that has been lacking. Instead of forechecking and doing what they do best, the Predators have been trying to make big plays happen and wait for the perfect opportunities instead of creating their own.
Tuesday night was a perfect example of that, and it was evident even when they had good shooting opportunities. Several times they had two-on-one breaks or close to it, and instead of just taking the shot that was presented to them, they would wait to find the right passing lane and completely miss it.
The exception is Cody Glass’ goal to open the scoring as he pinpointed an accurate shot up top. The Predators need more of that kind of decisive, but simple approaches to scoring.
There was actually one time when the Predators had a two-on-one and Niederreiter decided to shoot it for a change, and he hit the goal post. No, it did not count as a goal, but nine times out of ten, that shot is going in.
That very sequence showed what the Predators need to be doing in those situations. They need to be decisive, be assertive, and ultimately play the style of hockey that best suits them.
The Nashville Predators will try to address these three areas of concern and get back in the win column on Thursday when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets (1-3-0) for only their second true road game of the 2022-23 campaign.