The Nashville Predators are in a world of hurt. Not just because of the players on injured reserve, but because of the results on the ice.
Riding a three game losing streak, they’ve also gone winless on the road in their last nine games. They’ve still managed to play above .500 hockey even without guys like Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, and P.K. Subban in the lineup.
But for this Predators team, above .500 hockey just isn’t good enough. These are still Cup contenders, right?
The #Preds are struggling.
While the obvious solution is to get their top players back, they also need to get their heads right.
Even with Forsberg/Arvidsson/Subban out (and Ekholm tonight) there’s a lot of good players not playing up to expectation.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) December 21, 2018
With that in mind, here are three players that are not playing up to expectation.
Simply stated, the Predators need a lot more production out of Ryan Ellis.
Sure, his underlying numbers aren’t bad. Over his last 17 games, he’s generating more shot attempts than he’s allowing, and he’s doing a pretty good job of preventing scoring chances and high danger attempts.
For Ellis, it’s just about production. Getting points on the board.
For an offensive minded defenseman, Ellis hasn’t been doing that enough recently. He has only managed 16 points in 36 games. He has only four even strength points in his last 17 games. And he has only one power play goal all season, despite being a regular member of that unit.
That’s not going to cut it.
This is the guy that the Predators just gave $50 million to be a consistent contributor in the offensive end. Ryan Ellis needs to be better than that.
The good news is that his frequent partner, Roman Josi, has been putting up points regularly. Perhaps Ellis just isn’t finding his way to the score sheet, but is doing other things well.
Either way, he needs to step up and starting putting points on the board.
Though Saros isn’t the #1 goaltender, and Pekka Rinne has been fantastic all season, the Predators need more from their backup goaltender.
In his last seven games, Saros is 2-3-1 with an .861 save percentage. He’s allowed four or more goals in seven of those games, including an awful effort in St. Louis where he allowed five goals on fifteen shots.
Like Ellis, that’s not going to cut it. Not even from a backup goaltender.
Pekka Rinne needs regular rest. We know that he’s a better goaltender when he’s rested. But the Predators are not going to start Saros as much if he’s not performing up to par. For the sake of the starting goalie, the Predators need more from their backup goalie.
I’ll point out that Saros played much better in his two most recent games, so hopefully that’s a sign that he’s turned things around.
For Pekka Rinne’s sake, let’s hope so.
This one is tricky, because for the most part, Johansen has had a great season. He leads the team in points and assists. It’s important to point out that he accumulated many of those points when Forsberg and Arvidsson were still healthy, but he’s still able to contribute offensively.
Putting it another way, Johansen is probably the best offensive weapon the Predators have right now. That’s not the problem.
The problem for Johansen recently has been at the other end of the ice.
Johansen has been on the ice for 13 even strength goals against and only 7 goals scored in his last 10 games. He’s doing his part to generate shot attempts, but right now opposing teams are getting more dangerous chances with Johansen on the ice. His high danger chance for percentage has dipped down to 49.3% in his last 10 games.
And his effort on this overtime winning goal by Thomas Chabot? Pitiful.
Ryan Johansen is a better defensive player than that. We’ve seen him fight hard for pucks in the corner. We’ve seen him regularly win possession of the puck when the game was on the line. He regularly gets time on the penalty kill because of his long reach and his ability to see the game develop quickly.
But he’s not been using his skills well at the defensive end of the ice recently.
If the Predators are going to dig out of this recent slump, they will need Ryan Johansen to play better in the defensive end.
— All stats via Natural Stat Trick and Hockey-Reference. Featured image via Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports —