Despite all of last season’s success, there were a couple of things the Nashville Predators were lacking that held them back from making a deep run. One of the major red flags were problems on special teams, especially its power play.
That lack of making the other team pay when the Predators had the advantage caused a lot of aches and pains later on in the season. It was one of the reasons that Nashville didn’t finish strong and was eventually overtaken by the St. Louis Blues for the Central Division title.
However, things could be starting to turn for the better as the Predators have been deadly when it comes to the power play. Keep in mind that it’s only preseason, but a revived power play could be what Nashville needs in order to be in the mix deep in the postseason.
Power Plays of Predators’ Past
The Predators haven’t been known for having a great power play since the days the club had Paul Kariya. There was hope that the change from the defensive-minded Trotz to the offensively friendly Peter Laviolette would be a boost to the PP unit. The power play should have flourished with the great group of puck-moving defensemen like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and Seth Jones, along with the shooting prowess of Shea Weber.
Nashville also tried getting some forward scoring by trading Patric Hornqvist to the Pittsburgh Penguins for James Neal, in order to get a bonafide sniper. However, the loss of Hornqvist may have hurt a little more than let on as he was a big body that was hard to move from the front of the net. This allowed Weber to use his booming slap shot and cause chaos.
Neal also had his worst season in 5-on-4 situations with only three goals and one assist and only supplied 1.32 P/60 5v4 minutes. That is down from averaging over 5 across the last three seasons.
All of these problems resulted in the Nashville power play finishing 25th with a 16.7-percent efficiency. That along with bottom-six scoring and potential depth issues at center were things that Predators fans had to worry about in the offseason.
Preds’ PP Showing Potential
This Predators power play in the preseason has already started off at a blistering pace. Nashville may have found the formula to become predatory in extra-man situations. The Tennessean’s Predators reporter Adam Vingan pointed this stat out during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For a team that was just terrible on the PP last year, the Predators have six PPG in four preseason games. Wonder what that's about.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) September 24, 2015
This stat is an encouraging sign considering the Preds’ woes last season. It was also great to see Weber pick up a power-play marker in Wednesday’s game against the Lightning. Weber’s shot is a great weapon that can free up some space for other forwards, and allow for more puck movement.
So what was the issue? Was the power-play setup too complex or was it something else? Weber told the On the Forecheck blog that it has been just getting more familiar with each other.
“Last year we had a lot of new guys come in and didn’t have chemistry with one another at the start,” said Weber. “We were trying to change a bunch of things and get used to one another. I think now that there wasn’t a lot of changes, we all kind of know each other’s tendencies and it’s kind of like we’re clicking already.”
Filip Forsberg potted a couple of power-play goals in Sunday’s preseason début against the Florida Panthers, and that’s a good sign if the forwards are starting to score. The key is to translate this early success into the regular season.
Let’s all remember the familiar refrain of “it’s only preseason,” but this is an encouraging start to one of the major issues that the Predators had last season. A strong power play won’t mask some of the problems up the middle, but it will make them more of a force if this team wants to make a long postseason run.
Covered hockey since attending SUNY Oswego in Upstate New York in the early 2000s. Has written about college, major junior and professional hockey for the last five years.
Resides in Watertown, NY.