Streaky Predators Showing They're Still Learning to Win Consistently at Midway Point

The halfway point of 2023-24 is almost here, and the Nashville Predators hold the top wildcard spot in the West while still learning to find more consistency.
Jan 2, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) makes a save
Jan 2, 2024; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) makes a save / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We have just about reached the midway point of the 2023-24 NHL season, with the Nashville Predators having played 38 of their 82 games. They sit at a 21-16-1 record, which is good enough for 43 points in the standings and a wildcard playoff spot at this time.

They are five points behind the Dallas Stars, who are in third place in the Central Division, although the Stars have two games in hand on the Predators.

At this point in the season, it has honestly been hard to get a full grip on how exactly the Predators have faired. They started off 5-10-0, then went on a 13-3-0 stretch, but have recently cooled down a bit and have fallen farther behind a top three spot in their division.

Streaky is the best way to describe the Predators so far, rather than good or bad, but it also says a lot about where they are as far as contending status.

We might have gotten excited during the month-long winning streak, but we have to realize that it is more about the journey than the current state, and patience will still be required with this team.

Predators are Going Through Growing Pains of Youth & Inexperience

From just the fact that the Predators have been so streaky, you can tell that they are still a team that is learning to fully win. The 5-10-0 start made complete sense, as most of the players, coaches, and front office had virtually no experience working together, and teams typically struggle when that is the case.

But then the Predators started winning, and winning a lot, and you could tell that their confidence was sky high. That was huge for them to be doing that so early in the season, but they then went 1-3-1 after a 13-3-0 stretch, so it seems pretty clear that confidence and momentum, whether good or bad, really impacts this team that does not have much NHL action under their belt.

Additionally, the way the Predators were losing the games in the 1-3-1 stretch showed how raw they truly are. In the first game of that losing skid, which was against the Vancouver Canucks, they looked at multiple times like they could take it, but had two bad sequences of negative momentum crush them and their chances of winning.

The next loss during that stretch was the blown 2-1 lead in the final 13 seconds of regulation against the Dallas Stars, which, the less said about that disaster the better.

The next game after that was against the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Predators honestly looked pretty good at 5-on-5 in that one. Unfortunately, multiple instances, most of which were penalties, derailed any chance they had to win in a 5-2 loss that was basically over by the end of the second period.

And the following game in Detroit, the Predators were effective in a lot of areas and especially offense, as they scored four goals and won the shot advantage 37-23. But they still found a way to lose the game, which at that point felt like a continuation of a stretch in which they were unable to take advantage of opportunities.

The Predators have now won the past two games, but even then, have not done so very convincingly. The first of which was a win in Washington, in which they blew a two-goal lead and nearly lost it in the very last minute, but got bailed out by a goaltender interference call that followed a penalty on the same play.

And in the Predators' latest win against the Chicago Blackhawks, they did get a 3-0 win, but between some untimely penalties and inability to finish some prime chances, it felt for awhile as if they were going to let it slip. It honestly felt like if they were playing most other teams, they would have lost.

Predators Have to Stop Blowing Leads if They're Going to Take Next Step

And seeing how ugly the latest two wins were brings up another point; the Predators' inability to keep leads in games. In eight of the games they have played, they have blown two-goal leads, and in one of those games they blew a two-goal lead twice.

They have lost five of those games, and one of the wins was the one in Washington: a game where you can make the case that the Predators should have lost. Lots of people would think such a problem is due to coaching, but the truth is that knowing how to win includes knowing how to hold leads.

Teams like the Predators do not just learn to play consistently complete games overnight, it is an acquired skill, and that is not just totally ok, it was expected this year.

How they have looked overall is indicative of a team that is on the right track and playing in a good system, but it will still be some time before they realize their full potential, and the recent few weeks are proof of that.