Nashville Predators Stuck in the Proverbial Mud, How Do They Get Out?

Nov 14, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Radko Gudas (7) and left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after a goal against Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) during the third period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Radko Gudas (7) and left wing Alex Killorn (17) celebrate after a goal against Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) during the third period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Well you heard it bluntly from Nashville Predators first-year head coach Andrew Brunette; his team is “in the mud” but also thinks the team will be better for it in the end.

Brunette had some candid words in his assessment of another brutal loss for the Predators which stretches their losing streak to four games, and most frustrating, in games they could’ve won. But that’s becoming a tired thing to point to.

Quite frankly, this team doesn’t know how to win right now. You don’t win games by winning just one period and then taking the next period off.

The Predators have lost two games in a row, to Arizona and Anaheim, where they had two-goal leads and then just unraveled at the seams. In the 7-5 track meet loss to Arizona, the Predators actually had leads of 2-0 and 4-2 and then came back to tying it at 5-5.

This latest loss to the Ducks felt like an awful rerun from Saturday, but the game did go a little differently. The Predators did actually put a lot of pressure on the Ducks defense in the first half of the game. They pressured hard, had the Ducks chasing the puck, and forced goaltender John Gibson to be at his top level.

It’s a long game. Brunette has harped on playing a 60-minute game, and after the Predators took their 2-0 lead on a Roman Josi blast for his third goal of the year, it’s like they flipped the switch to auto pilot.

Many fans aren’t going to like the Captain’s optimism in the midst of a four-game losing streak, but he sees the team doing positive things and just needing to learn how to finish games with a win.

Are the Nashville Predators Really This Bad, Or Can They Reverse Course?

We’re 15 games in. The Predators weren’t much better off at this point last year, with a record of 6-8-1 and already having suffered a five-game losing streak. Eventually things got clicking and they almost rallied to sneak into the postseason.

“I think we’ll be better for it. We’re just in the mud right now, and it’s self-inflicted mud… I think we’ve all gone through stretches like this. I think I felt a lot worse at different times. At least I feel pretty good about our game most nights…” -Brunette Told Emma Lingan of Predators Website

There’s two glaring issues with the Predators that are feeding off of each other right now; below average goaltending from Juuse Saros combined with massive defensive breakdowns that’s allowing the opposition to easily counter attack and skate freely.

In the past we’ve seen Saros be the ultimate neutralizer when these things happen. He spoiled us for a few years. He would just step up and make an incredibly difficult save look routine, and despite the juicy scoring chance, the opposing player would just shake their head in disbelief.

Many factors could be in play here, but Saros isn’t making those big time stops currently. He did make some very difficult saves in the early moments of the game, but the Ducks weren’t managing a high volume of shots on goal, either.

It’s a tad bit misleading to see the final score and think that Saros gave up just three goals. Still, he finishes with another game in the negative in Goals Saved Above Expected. The Ducks managed just 20 shots on goal to the Predators’ 31.

Goals Saved Above Expected- Ducks vs. Preds (Per MoneyPuck):

Juuse Saros: -1.11

John Gibson: +1.6

Gibson saved an extra goal on the Predators, while Saros finishes in the negative. Unfortunately, it’s your difference maker in the 3-2 final score.

Until the Predators get Ryan McDonagh back, who I think would fix a lot of these defensive lapses, the defense is going to keep getting shredded in transition.

Of all players, how are you going to let Radko Gudas skate freely into the slot like it’s a highway on ramp? Sure, you’d like Saros to step up and make a clutch save in a high danger situation, but in that instance, it’s more on the defensive awareness.

This is also a product of Brunette’s system. They cheat up ice, they push the pace, and in return an off pass or unlucky puck bounce quickly leads to the action going the other way, forcing Saros to step up and make the save.

The Predators Have This Homestand to Show us Where They’re Going

This homestand is already two games in and is off to a horrific start. Three more at home before a single road game against the surprising St. Louis Blue before coming back for four more games at home.

How the Predators come out on the other end of this stretch at home will be really telling on where this team is going. You can’t pull the plug 15 games in. They can play their way out of this with a winning streak. That’s going to take Saros, or maybe even turning to Kevin Lankinen, to get hot and win some games on their own.

It’s also going to take some adjustments in how this team attacks. They’re getting exposed way too much. Brunette has to be willing to fine tune some things, They can’t keep reacting to a loss with “well we did a lot of positive things”. That’s going to drive this entire fanbase into madness.

The depth scoring has dried up a bit as well. Filip Forsberg had six shots on goal, and even forced Gibson to the bench on a laser that hit the goalie mask and put that piece of equipment out of commission.

There was very little offensive pressure from the depth, aside from Juuso Parssinen who drew two penalties on some excellent puck handling. Three forwards (Luke Evangelista, Liam Foudy and Cole Smith) had zero Expected Goals. Particularly alarming to see Evangelista in that.

The crushing injury to Thomas Novak really hampers the offense that struggles to find consistency. Aside from Forsberg and Rya O’Reilly, Novak is your most reliable offensive producer, and now he’s out 4 to 6 weeks.

3. 105. 2. 151. Final

Call me blindly optimistic, but I do see the Predators getting back on track and showing steady improvement. My expectation was always that this team was going to battle through adversity and growing pains in the first 10 to 20 games. But they’re definitely running out of time, and there are some very alarming trends (goaltending, defensive breakdowns, inconsistent power play).

The next three are at home against Chicago, Colorado and Calgary. Two against division opponents and all three against Western Conference opponents. You absolutely have to win at least two of three here, and take points in all three.

So if we’re in “self inflicted mud” like Brunette says we are, you’d like to think they can climb their way out, wouldn’t you? But the clock is ticking. 82 games goes by fast.