Even after an overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild tonight, the Nashville Predators have returned to the strong play we’ve seen in past years over the last five games. Following the first six games of the shortened season, there was a significant amount to worry about for the different looking Predators. Trouble finding an offensive spark, although not something entirely unusual in “Smashville,” was not the only issue, as questionable defense and goaltending marred the start to the season for the Predators.
The Offensive-Minded Predators?
Over the last five games, the Predators have scored 14 goals, while only scoring 13 over the previous six games. While that difference may seem minute, those goal-scoring paces are the difference between winning and losing, especially for a team that is not known for their offensive capabilities.
During the last five games, in which the Predators are 4-0-1, collecting 9 points, the Predators are averaging 2.8 goals per game, while during the previous six games, in which they went 1-2-3, collecting 5 points, they averaged 2.2 goals per game. Although 11 games isn’t an entirely significant sample of games to pull from, the 0.6 disparity in goals is a considerable discrepancy.
So what’s happened to make the Predators a much more offensively dangerous team in that time? There’s a few things that have helped to change the Predators offensive fortune, and the first thing, strangely enough, is the improved play of goalie Pekka Rinne, which has given the Predators opportunities to keep games close, making it easier for the offense to have an impact on the game.
Although the two forwards tied for leading scorer on the Predators only have 7 points through 11 games, it is still an indication that things might be looking up for the team as the point leaders are sturdy veteran Martin Erat and young gun Colin Wilson. For anyone who has watched the Predators for a while, seeing Martin Erat have an impact offensively, especially on this team, is not surprising, but always welcome. The more impressive feature of the Predators offense is the emergence as Colin Wilson as a forward that can provide the more than occasional offensive flare that the Predators have so badly lacked.
With plays like this below, getting players like Sergei Kostitsyn on the scoreboard will be a key to keeping the Predators winning:
Getting to Their Game
In true Predators fashion, the team has begun to win games in the way that they’re most accustomed to, which is through a solid team effort. When it comes to offense, the Predators have always relied on a well-rounded forward lineup to contribute points, while strong defense and goaltending always play an important role. Only two players who have played all 11 games have not contributed a point, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, as those two players are defensive stalwarts Hal Gill and Scott Hannan.
With the absence of Patric Hornqvist due to injury and a slow start to the season for Shea Weber, the Predators have had contributions from players throughout the lineup, including defenseman Kevin Klein, winger Brandon Yip, Gabriel Bourque, and Ryan Ellis.
Even though none of the Predators have lit the lamp like Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres, which has 21 points so far, they are starting to find their groove offensively, without sacrificing defense. Once Shea Weber gets going offensively, the Predators could become a truly dangerous team within both their division and conference, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks that are currently undefeated in regulation at 9-0-2, by only 6 points.