It may only be seven games into the season for the Nashville Predators, but in addition to an anemic offense, the Predators have seen easy points slip away in the shootout. In three of the games so far, the Predators are currently winless in the shootout, which wouldn’t be as worrisome, if it wasn’t starting to become a bad habit.
Early Season Shootout Struggles
In three of the first five games of the season for the Predators, they lost in the shootout. At this point, usually the first thing someone would point at is the strong play of Pekka Rinne keeping the shootout close, without the offense being able to match the task. Unfortunately for the Predators, that isn’t the case. Yes, in 11 rounds, the Predators have only managed a measly one goal (David Legwand), but the usually sturdy Pekka Rinne has only made a save on half of the attempts.
Let me repeat that and let it sink in. The Predators are scoring at a rate of 9%, while giving up a goal on every other attempt.
The Predators have already lost 3 points in a shortened season where every point is exponentially more valuable than in previous seasons. Whether it’s a lack of practice, or the lack of offensive talent, the Predators have displayed a very troubling start to the season in the shootout.
Is History Repeating Itself?
With the season still in its infancy, a poor shootout record shouldn’t be one of the more pressing areas for a team to address. Some teams in the NHL focus on the importance of the shootout in practices and roster moves, while others have relatively ignored it. Although the Predators have recorded a winning record in the shootout since the end of the 2004-2005 lockout, the last few years have shown a steep decline in scoring percentage.
For example, the Predators went to 10 shootouts in 2011-2012, finishing with a record of 5-5, good enough for 17th in the league. Last season, the Predators scored at a rate of 20.7%, finishing third to last in the league, while stopping almost 73% of attempts, placing the Predators at seventh best in the league.
|Season||Shooting Percentage||Save Percentage|
|2012-2013||9% (1 for 11)||50% (5 for 10)|
|2011-2012||20.7% (6 for 29)||72.7% (24 for 33)|
|2010-2011||29.0% (9 for 31)||79.4% (27 for 34)|
|2009-2010||34. 6% (18 for 52)||76.4% (32 for 55)|
As the table above shows, the Predators have dramatically declined in their ability to score in the shootout, while hovering consistently between 72% and 79%.
The disturbing nature of this pattern is most likely the result of both a willful desire of management to focus on the shootout in practices or to not acquire players that could contribute offensively in the shootout. So far this year, the Predators who have attempted a shootout round are David Legward, Ryan Ellis, Colin Wilson, Martin Erat, Craig Smith, and Mike Fisher.
Although Colin Wilson (20%), Mike Fisher (24%), Martin Erat (32.6%), and David Legwand (36.4%) all have relatively decent shootout numbers in their career, the last few years have seen these players struggle after the end of overtime. Last year, in 4 total attempts, David Legwand was the only Predator to score more than one goal (2) throughout the entire season in the shootout. Only 4 goals were scored on the other 25 attempts, all by different Predators, including Alexander Radulov, who is no longer a Predator.
Seeking a Solution
If the Predators want to start gaining some “easy” points, they will need to focus more on the shootout. If they feel that shootout personnel is the problem, then there are two choices management will have; acquire through free agency, waivers, or trades a player who will contribute offensively in regulation and in the shootout or attempt to use new players in the shootout. In his entire career as a Predator, all-star defenseman Shea Weber has taken a total of one shot in the shootout. Additionally, teams that have been traditionally stronger in the shootout, even though more offensively talented, like the Penguins, consistently practice the shootout. Three points lost may not seem like much even a quarter of the way through the season, but with a shortened season, those are the points that the Predators will miss most.
Outside of working in politics, Nick also loves watching hockey at all levels. In addition to writing about the Nashville Predators for The Hockey Writers, Nick also writes for Faceoff Factor about his favorite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.