Every team has their particular style and how they want to dictate the game, and for the Nashville Predators it’s always been very clear; forecheck like your life depends on it and be the hardest working team on the ice for 60 minutes.
In other words, grind your opponent down and let your Vezina Trophy caliber goaltender in Juuse Saros do the rest. However, that formula hasn’t been found very often as despite the Predators winning four of their last six.
In these four wins, the Predators have done it by playing tight defensively and doing a better job of minimizing the defensive lapses. That can be combined with Saros beginning to get back on track, including the last two games where he has made 66 saves on his last 68 shots faced in a pair of 2-1 victories.
The Predators offensive output isn’t where it needs to be, but historically speaking that’s always been the case with the exception of last season when the power play erupted to finish sixth in the NHL and you saw career scoring years from Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Roman Josi.
What is the Winning Formula for the Nashville Predators?
The formula for success has never wavered for this Predators team. They’re always searching for that fine line of playing a hard-hitting style while avoiding gifting offensively potent teams with easy power play goals.
Always a difficult proposition for this team, and we all saw this coming before the season even began. Would this team be able to overcome a lot of trips to the penalty box with stellar goaltending, defensive upgrades and at least avoid a major offensive drop-off from some core veterans.
The major key that jumps out in the recent success that the Predators have found is they lock it down on the penalty kill. This is the equivalent of finding a lush and bountiful oasis in the middle of a desert. A team that plays a hard style that leads to a lot of penalties has suddenly become a reliable force on the penalty kill.
It was the exact opposite for me last season when the Predators had to kill penalties. It got to the point that I just expected a goal and was pleasantly surprised when they managed to kill one.
The Predators are up to sixth in the NHL in penalty kill percentage at 83.3, after being 18th in the NHL last season with a success rate of 79.2.
Additionally, last season the Predators led the NHL in PIM and penalties taken per 60 minutes, but they have slightly decreased that this season being 11th-most in penalties taken per 60 and 7th-most in PIM.
What you have is a much better penalty kill to go along with slightly drawing back on so many penalties and it’s allowing the team to get back to winning some of these low-scoring games like they have in their last two wins over the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild.
The Rangers went 0-for-5 on the power play, including a four-minute power play near the end of regulation while only facing a one-goal deficit. The entire Predators team left it all out on the ice, most notably a pair of blocked shots from Ryan McDonagh.
Preds Have Stopped the Bleeding in the Middle of Packed Division Race
You hear Head Coach John Hynes preach identity all of the time, and as tiring as it gets hearing him constantly use that word, he’s not wrong. He brings it up constantly for a reason because it’s valid.
This team has to win a certain way more times than not and getting into a track meet and having defensive breakdowns is going to get them beat often. They just don’t have enough offensive speed or talent to get into high-scoring affairs.
Fans seem a little underwhelmed by McDonagh so far, but they’re too focused on his point output. He has five points through 16 games, which is right around his point output game from last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning when he put up just 26 points in 71 games. He’s here to bring more stability to the defensive core, and although there’s more to be desired, he’s definitely making a major impact on the penalty kill.
McDonagh is 18th among NHL defensemen in blocked shots with 36, while his Norris Trophy teammate Roman Josi is 13th with 37 blocks. They are 12th as a team in blocked shots, and they need to remain above average in this department.
The Predators are also doing a fairly decent job at minimizing the amount of High Danger Shots they allow to the opponent, giving up the 10th-fewest. Another key area to protect their goaltender and making it more difficult for their opponent to pile up the goals.
It’s not a pretty formula for success by any means, but it’s one that can help right the ship for the Nashville Predators. Whether that’s sustainable for postseason success is a debate for another day, but for this team to remain relevant in the playoff race, they have to win games in a fashion that isn’t always pretty.
The Predators are seeking their first three-game winning streak of the season when they take on the New York Islanders. Another matchup where the Predators need to impose their physical will over an Islanders team who is playing very well with six wins of eight contests in November.
The Central Division is currently a logjam that the Nashville Predators are right in the middle of. Just seven points separates the first place Dallas Stars from the last place Arizona Coyotes.
For the Predators to remain in the middle of the pack and shouting distance of a top-three finish, they need to win games with this formula of success as the division takes shape as we haven’t even reached the quarter mark of the regular season yet.