In an article last week I broke down what I thought was ailing the Nashville Predators. At the time of publication the team was 14-11-4 and mired in the bottom half of the Western Conference. Although the team had won 2 straight, it appeared as if often stagnant offense was a virus that had also infected the defense and goalie. Since publication of that article, the Predators have won 3 more games (running their current win streak to 5) and are back in 7th place of the Western Conference (based off playoff seeding, they now have more points than division leading San José). In 2 out of the last 3 games, the Predators have beaten perennial Central Division powerhouse Red Wings and red-hot St. Louis Blues who have been almost unstoppable under Ken Hitchcock . Winning can hide many faults of a team; however, the Predators still have plenty.
During the recent 5 game winning streak the Predators have played 2 teams over .500. In addition to playing below .500 teams, 2 of their opponents are the Western Conference, basement dwelling, Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks. The schedule is the schedule, and Nashville deserves credit for handling their business against teams they should beat, while also beating Detroit and St. Louis. The problem has not been necessarily who the Predators have beaten, but rather how they have beaten them. There have been some disturbing trends in those games.
- The Predators have continued to be uninspiring on offense. In the 3 wins of the last week the Predators scored more than 2 goals in a game only once. Nashville already has 16 games on the season in which they’ve scored 2 or fewer goals. The continued pressure of the offense not being productive adds extra pressure on the defense and goalie to perform at extremely high levels.
- Puck control has haunted the Predators even during their 5 game win streak. They have averaged 9.8 give aways per game. Turning the puck over 10 times per game creates many odd man chances and only further limits your offensive chances. If the Predators had better puck control it would create more offensive opportunities for them while reducing their opponents.
- The Predators continue to give up an exorbitant amount of shots per game. Nashville ranks 28th in the league in shots allowed per game (31.8), a number which has sadly gone up in their last 3 games. Calgary had 36 shots on goal, while both Detroit and St. Louis had 40. The peppering that Rinne continues to take in the net only makes his work during the win streak more impressive.
The good news is that Pekka Rinne appears to have returned to the form he showed during last year’s campaign. He has been every bit of the brick wall Nashville has needed to put together this 5 game run. His G.A.A. during the 5 game win streak has been 2.00. He also kept St. Louis out of the net entirely during the shoot out on Saturday night. In the last 3 games Rinne’s save percentage has been 97%, 93% and 98% against Calgary, Detroit and St. Louis, respectively. Pekka Rinne has been the glue that has kept this team together, when they’ve needed him the most. He continues to be the band-aid that’s covering up poor play from both the offense and defense. It appears that as he goes, the team will as well. While a large burden for one man to carry, Rinne is currently proving he’s Super Man enough for the job.
Mike Finazzo has written for 411mania.com and writes for Freethesporstman.com under a pen name of R.C. Sutton. Mike currently covers the Central Hockey League for ArmChairReport.com. He also has 20 years experience with watching the NHL. Mike’s primary role with the Hockey Writers is as a Nashville Predators correspondent..