Nashville Predators Problems Plague Playoff Run

It’s no secret that the Nashville Predators have been streaky since the end of February. They’ve had flashes of brilliance in a four-game winning streak that included wins over Eastern Conference contenders like Washington, Tampa Bay and Montreal.

However, they’ve had two losing streaks of four or more games. The Predators lack of consistency is troubling going into a potential first-round date with division rivals like the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks or Minnesota Wild.

Lack of Scoring Consistency

Nashville does boast one of the top defenses in the league, and we all know the adage about how it can win championships. Coming into Thursday night’s game versus the Wild, the Preds are tied for sixth in the fewest goals allowed with St. Louis.

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However, a team does need to score goals in order to win games. The Nashville Predators are 12th in the league when it comes to goals scored (223), but there have been plenty of woes on the power play. On paper, Nashville should have one of the better extra-man units with great outside shooters like Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Seth Jones. But that has not translated into man-up goals as the Predators are 24th in power-play efficiency with a 16.5 rating, and 19th with 42 extra-man goals.

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

The problem really came to the forefront after Nashville couldn’t cash in a five-minute power-play against the Vancouver Canucks when Alex Burrows was tossed for interference against Paul Gaustad.

The other problem Nashville has is a lack of bottom-six scoring. Most of the scoring has come from the top line of Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal. (Neal’s scoring is down because of playing only 65 games.) The  top defensive pair of Weber and Josi are right behind Forsberg and Ribeiro in points.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
(Gabriel Bourque and the rest of the bottom six will be needed for this postseason. Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The second line Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher and Craig Smith are next on the list, but there’s a sharp drop off in production after that. Taylor Beck is the next leading goal-scorer not on the top two lines with eight goals.

Many of the teams in the west carry at least three lines, and that lack of depth could come back to bite the Predators in the postseason.

Predators Preyed on in Second

One disturbing trend that I’ve noticed in the last few games is how badly the Nashville Predators has been outplayed in the second period. The Preds do a carry a positive goal-differential in the second period, but it’s a small margin of 71-67. It’s the smallest  goal-differential margin in a period.

The margin has gotten a lot smaller during the recent four-game losing streak as Nashville has been outscored by a total of 7-1. The Nashville Predators are a better in the first and third periods, but teams can’t afford to have a sub-par second 20 minutes when the playoffs start.

The problem has not been confined solely to losses, as Nashville has struggled in the second period of wins. The victory against Washington was a sure sign of that.

No Lead Has Been Safe

The other puzzling trend is the Nashville Predators have been scoring first more a lot during the recent losing spell. Nashville is usually pretty solid whenever they get the lead as they’ve got a .769 win percentage when leading after the first period and a .771 percentage after two frames.

That’s not been the case as the Predators have blown leads in one-goal losses to the Canucks, Stars and the Avalanche. They also scored first before the Flames turned up the heat to down the Preds, 5-2. For a team that prides itself on solid defense and goaltending, it’s a cause for concern.

What to Make of It?

The issues facing the Nashville Predators are nothing new. What could be wrong? Is the lack of depth taking its toll? Are teams starting to figure out Nashville under new coach Peter Laviolette? Are they not scoring enough?

Whatever the case, the Predators are going to have figure it out if they want to have an extended stay in the postseason.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

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Dan Mount is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanMountSports.