Like the weather in most of North America, the Nashville Predators offense has gone cold. The Predators have been shutout the last three games and are in the midst of a three-game losing streak. The franchise has gone a club-record 213 minutes and 47 seconds without a goal. The scoring-drought has caused Nashville to tumble into a tie for third with the Minnesota Wild in the ultra-competitive Central Division.
It may be early in the season, but the lack of scoring is a cause for concern. The Predators hit a wall near the end of last season and that cost them the division title and a shot at avoiding the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.
What’s behind the lack of goals? The dip in scoring can’t be isolated to just one thing. Nashville is throwing pucks on the net, but they’re not going in. Here’s a list of reasons why the red light hasn’t come on for the Predators as of late.
The Nashville defense is probably one of the best all of the National Hockey League, but they can’t do all of the heavy lifting. A good team needs its forwards to shoulder the scoring weight. James Neal has gotten off to a great start, but the other forwards have struggled to find the net.
Filip Forsberg and Colin Wilson have gone double-digit games without scoring. Forsberg is the midst of the dreaded “Sophomore Slump” that has seen him gone goalless in 16 games, while Wilson hasn’t potted a goal in an unlucky 14 games. Veteran Mike Fisher hasn’t tallied in eight games, and other top centerman Mike Ribeiro only has two goals this season.
The fourth line has more than held its end of the bargain despite injuries. The return of Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom should help the team out, but more is needed from the top two lines in order for Nashville to kickstart its scoring.
The Preds may not be scoring, but sometimes a team runs into a good goalie. In Nashville’s case, they’ve run into three of the best.
Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets may have struggled at the start, but he’s finding his form under new coach John Tortorella. “The Number One Cop in Town” has been the spark for the Jackets turnaround since Torts’ arrival. Bobrovsky made 39 saves in Columbus’ win over Nashville, including this gorgeous stop of James Neal.
Tortorella may micromanage many aspects of the team, but he let’s the goalie coaches handle the netminders. Benoit Allande was behind the success of the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist,and Jacket’s goalie coach Ian Clark has helped Bobrovsky regain his confidence.
The second goalie in the shutout streak was Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild. Dubnyk is starting to play like the man who got nominated for the Vezina Trophy last season. Dubnyk has helped the Wild get on track as they sit tied with the Predators for third. Minnesota has been downright unbeatable at the XCel Energy Center. That was the worst game of the three-game stretch.
The latest shutout was at the hands of the world-class Lundqvist of the Rangers. The King made 31 saves in the Blueshirts victory. However, the Predators did have some chances to finally break through. Forsberg had a great chance, but former Predators defenseman Kevin Klein made a beautiful recovery to bail Lundqvist out when the goalie was out of position.
The shutouts are disappointing, but it’s not like they happened against bad goalies. These loses happened to three of the best goalies in the league.
A team that has gone goalless for an extended stretch usually is not carrying the run of play. However, the Predators are doing pretty well in the advanced statistics categories. This article from the fellows at Predlines.com details as much.
According to war-on-ice.com, the Predators out-chanced their foes in those three shutout games by 64-40, outshot them 93-64 and had more attempted shots 158-86 at even strength.
Nashville is also seventh in Corsi and second in Fenwick according to the site Puck on the Net. Sometimes a team just has a bit of bad luck. Nashville is still eighth in the overall standings and has the tools to turn it around with its great goaltending, defense and a power-play that is faring better than last year.
This is also the same team that scored 18 goals in four games, including reaching seven goals two separate occasions. The scoring potential is there, but the well is just a little dry at the moment.
There are some Predators fans that are starting to worry a little, but it’s not time to panic. At least not yet in my humble opinion.
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Nashville next faces the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers, who have young defenses that are ranked in the bottom-half of the league. This cold be a chance for the Predators to gain some momentum before heading a December schedule that’s’ heavy on divisional opponents.
GM David Poile knows there is a need to bulk up at center, but he won’t panic by giving away the bright future this team has.