The Predators Prowl is a weekly post on how the Nashville Predators performed the previous week. Generally published on Tuesdays, Predators Prowl isn’t a recap of games, but rather a look at the themes, news and rumors that occurred throughout the week. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts on how the team performed this week, your views on the week’s themes and any other ideas or questions you have about the team.
Related: Last Week’s Predators Prowl
Due to Christmas being on Tuesday, I moved this week’s Predators Prowl to Monday, but will revert back to my normal schedule next week. To put it mildly, the Predators did not have a good week. They lost all three of their games, although two were by one goal and all three were on the road. Yet that’s not much consolation considering they’ve now lost four in a row and six of their last nine.
They haven’t really been blown out in the losses as their defeat on Dec. 22 broke a string of five straight one-goal games. But again, not much of a consolation. An accurate representation of the Predators’ performances the past week would close games, yet poor results. They’ve gone from first place in the Central Division and leading the league to four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the division lead in recent weeks.
The Predators were outshot in two of their games, against the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins, a rarity for a team that generally controls play. The disparity in play was at its worst in their matchup against the Bruins. They were outshot 32-30, although they did control five-on-five shots 29-24. However, in terms of five-on-five scoring chances, the Bruins dominated with a 29-17 lead, marking the Predators’ third-lowest control of scoring chances in a game this season.
Predators in a Giving Mood
There was a similar theme in the Predators’ losses this week, mainly giving up too many premium scoring chances. Against the Blackhawks, Pekka Rinne faced 25 medium or high-danger scoring chances, many of which came from down low and in the slot. Rinne bailed the team out early in the game, but a 16-7 second-period shot deficit was too much to overcome.
Against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 20, the Predators played a more sound game, yet the result was still the same. On the Flyers’ first goal, Rinne was responsible for the rebound he allowed, but it was the confusion between Ryan Ellis and Dan Hamhuis, not a normal pair, that ultimately resulted in the puck going in the net.
On the Flyers’ second goal, they had a two-on-one developing. Predators defenseman Matt Irwin was the only player back and went down to defend the pass rather than keep Claude Giroux to the outside, where he already was. Irwin going down allowed Giroux the time and space to rip a shot past Rinne.
Finally, in their matchup against the Bruins, there were many things that went wrong. Rinne may not have played well, allowing three goals on nine high-danger shots, but he was given nearly no help from the team in front of him. Once again the Predators allowed too many shots from below the faceoff dots. Roman Josi and Ellis were on the ice for four of the Bruins’ five goals.
On the first goal, Josi was out-muscled by Danton Heinen, which caused Josi to interfere with Rinne to a level that would have resulted in an overturned goal had Josi been on the opposing team. On the Bruins’ fourth goal, Ellis was left alone in the defensive zone after Josi pinched, which gave the Bruins a two-on-one with David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, as dynamic of a duo as there is in the league.
In general, the Predators took too many chances in all three zones this past week and looked out of sorts in the defensive zone. Rinne is a Vezina-caliber netminder, but he has to receive more help from his defensemen in order to give the team a chance to win.
Where is the Offense?
Of course if the Predators were generating offense, they could overcome their questionable defensive play. They were outshot in two of three games and the only game in which they did have a shot advantage, against the Flyers, their advantage was one. The Predators scored two or fewer goals and shot less than seven percent in all three games.
They had plenty of opportunities, including six power play chances in their matchup against the Flyers, but attempted just six shots on those opportunities and failed to convert. In fact, they didn’t score on any of their 10 power play chances over the past week and have only scored two goals on the man advantage in their past nine games. Something has to change with their power play setup. Using two defensemen simply isn’t creating enough high-danger chances and is costing the team wins.
Granted, the Predators have a lot of offense on injured reserve, 24 goals and 47 points to be exact, and it’s starting to have a major effect. The team may be generating chances, but the absence of enough talented players who can convert those chances into goals is alarming. Luckily P.K. Subban could be back as early as the team’s next game, but it goes to show how few trustworthy scorers the Predators have and why a trade for such a player may be needed.
News, Top Performers, and the Week Ahead
If the three players on injured reserve weren’t enough, Colton Sissons recently went down with an ankle injury that has prevented him from playing in the past two games. Placed on injured reserve on Dec. 21, his absence is a big deal as he’s currently averaging career-high scoring rates. In response to his injury, plus the holiday roster freeze, the Predators recalled Tyler Gaudet from the Milwaukee Admirals. He has five goals and 14 points in 27 AHL games this season.
- Roman Josi – 2 assists, played more than 24 minutes in all three games
- Ryan Johansen – 1 goal, 1 assist
- Pekka Rinne – 3 starts, 0-3-0 record, stopped 90 of 98 shots, .918 save percentage, 2.79 goals against average
The Week Ahead
- Dec. 27 – vs. Dallas Stars
- Dec. 29 – vs. New York Rangers
- Dec. 31 – at Washington Capitals
*All stats came from Hockey-Reference, Natural Stat Trick, and Corsica