Three Reasons Nashville Predators Fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Nashville Predators came into Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on a four-game winning streak, and they had a huge opportunity to gain even more momentum with back-to-back coming games up.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, as the Predators fell 2-1 after a Maple Leafs goal from Mitchell Marner on the power play. Mark Jankowski had taken the crushing double-minor three minutes before the deciding goal from Marner.
This was just the second regulation loss for the Nashville Predators since December 17, with those two losses being decided late in regulation:
Last night’s loss to #LeafsForever was just the second regulation loss for the #Preds since 12/17.
Those two regulation losses were decided by goals with 53 seconds left and 1:15 left. Have to close out games in crunch time, but obviously still a promising trend.#Smashville
— Chad Minton (@chad_minton) January 12, 2023
It was close the whole way, and it certainly felt as if it was well within reach given how the Predators played. But it still was nowhere near enough, and if the Predators were going to win, it was going to be a usual situation where they would grind it out no matter how ugly it was.
Let’s get into the three biggest reasons for the tough loss.
1. Not enough offense from Nashville Predators
For as much of a struggle it has been for the majority of the Predators’ season, it has looked like they have been finding their way in the past few games. You would not have known that by watching this game.
The Predators could not generate much of anything in this one. Whether that be quality passing sequences, scoring chances, or sustained pressure. They were stifled throughout this one on the offensive end.
They did record 33 shots on Maple Leafs goaltender Matt Murray and got some opportunities here and there, but it was nothing like we have seen in the past few games, and certainly nothing good enough to consistently win with.
Also, it’s another game of the Predators power play coming up empty. That’s zero power play goals in nine attempts over the last three games.
Of course, you are going to have off games every now and then, so the Predators having an offensively ineffective game for the first time in several contests is not that concerning.
Let’s just hope it was just that and not a return to what has been the norm for most of the season. They have to turn the page quickly to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
2. Penalties wear down Nashville Predators
This is yet another Predators theme that just feels repetitive at this point, but certainly cannot go unnoticed in this one. They took some careless and costly penalties that did ultimately cost them a chance to win the game.
Their first three trips to the box were due to avoidable interference calls, and their last one was a high stick that drew blood with just over four minutes left in the game off the stick of Jankowski.
The Predators had to spend the last few minutes of regulation killing a four-minute penalty, and ultimately, they succumbed at the most critical time.
No knock on the killers whatsoever, as they did yet another admirable job as usual, but they ran out of gas since killing penalties is a highly demanding task that wears teams down before long.
I will say that the Predators got somewhat robbed by the officials, as the Leafs committed several penalties that were inexplicably missed. But it does not make the issues any less glaring, and there is a reason why they are consistently among the most penalized teams in the NHL.
3. Inconsistent play in front of Saros
Let’s begin this segment by giving some love to Juuse Saros, who once again was lights out and continued his recent tear even in a loss.
I will say that the Predators weren’t terrible in front of Saros, as for much of the middle portion of the game, the Leafs could not register many quality chances. But outside of that time frame, they did allow more open looks and some point blank chances in which he did have to come up big.
Even then, having your starting goaltender consistently make 30+ saves per game is not a great strategy, and the Predators gave up 35 shots. Keep in mind that the Leafs did not have Auston Matthews in the lineup, so it easily could have been worse.
The good news is that the Nashville Predators did not have many glaring defensive breakdowns in this one, and they have improved in that category and in structure as the season has gone on.
It would just be ideal if they could cut down the number of shots they surrender per game, which is fourth-highest in the NHL.