The Nashville Predators are having just about the worst November they could have hoped for.
After finishing October with an 8-3-2 record, cruising their way toward the top of the Central Division, the Preds have managed only a 1-4-1 record in the month of November. Now they find themselves closer to the bottom of the division than the top and are left wondering how they got here.
What has caused such a rapid spiral in the last couple weeks? Let’s take a look at the laundry list of problems that surround the Nashville Predators right now.
Preds down early, then defense breaks down
While it has been a bit better recently, the Preds’ overall defensive structure has been breaking down far too often. When things are going right, the Preds can put a 1-3-1 trap on opposing teams that is difficult to breach. With quality forechecking and stout defense, it works like a charm when the Preds are up a goal or two.
But lately, the Preds have been forced to abandon the structure because they’ve been down early in games. In fact, the opponent has scored first in five of their last six games, which is usually a key ingredient in any losing streak.
Because of the early deficits, the Preds have had to press too high, getting themselves caught in bad transitions. The best example from Saturday night’s abysmal game against Chicago is seen here:
Such a confusing play by Ryan Johansen here. He has the vision and experience to give Granlund a boost into the zone to get to Shaw’s cross ice pass (which Granlund nearly got a piece of) but then is clueless about Kampf coming up from behind. pic.twitter.com/069YxtqcC6
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) November 18, 2019
There’s no reason for Ryan Johansen not to see Kampf coming down the middle of the ice. But he just… doesn’t.
Johansen and Granlund were both pressing into the Chicago zone to try and score prior to this play. But they don’t score, transition goes the other way, and the Blackhawks score their fourth goal of the night. And the rout was on.
As Roman Josi said after the game, defense is a “five man job”. When the forwards aren’t able to come back and stop quality chances from the high slot, the blueline often gets the blame when it shouldn’t.
And speaking of blame…
The goalies are not pulling their weight
Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t understand goalies sometimes. It’s such a unique position in sports and it’s very difficult to dissect exactly what they are doing out there. Tracking pucks, reacting to plays, and basic save techniques are all things we can understand on a fundamental level. But at some point, it just becomes voodoo magic and we might as well just sit back and hope for the best result.
Or sit back and watch whatever the hell happened to Pekka Rinne on this goal:
Seriously, what in the hell happened to Rinne here? This is probably the slowest shot from that far out that he’s not been able to stop. Baffling, truly.
But it’s not just that play. Both goalies have not been pulling their weight recently. I’ll let their recent numbers speak for themselves:
- Pekka Rinne: 1-3-1 with an .821 save percentage (92 saves on 112 shots) in his last 5 games
- Juuse Saros: 0-1-1 with an .895 save percentage (85 saves on 95 shots) in his last 4 games
That’s awful. Below replacement level even. They goalies need to be better, there’s no way around it. Their below average play in net has been hurting the Preds and has contributed to the slump as much as anything else.
Line shuffling doing more harm than good
This one isn’t as important as the others, because the offense has still been putting pucks in the net, but I’m wondering if it’s affecting the overall structure I mentioned earlier.
Going back to the example above, ahead of the Chicago game, Mikael Granlund had only played about three minutes with Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson this season. Then they played over 10 minutes together and were on the ice for two goals against. They generated plenty of chances but just couldn’t get things figured out in the defensive zone.
The coaching staff has perhaps shuffled the lines one too many times. I get it, they are looking for combinations that work. But at some point you need to stick with something and let it ride.
Preds home dominance has evaporated
Long gone are the days of the Nashville Predators’ dominance at Bridgestone Arena. Though fans are still filling the seats (for now), the Preds have lost their edge at home. A record of 6-3-2 seems reasonable for most teams, but not for the Preds at home. Losing 5 of 11 at home? That’s not what we are used to seeing.
Saturday nights have been especially poor. As Adam Vingan points out, the Preds’ 2-9-1 record in calendar year 2019 at home on Saturday is flat out terrible. I really have no explanation for why Saturday nights have been so bad. But it’s a trend that the Preds cannot seem to buck.
The #Preds are 1-4-2 in their last 7, scoring 22 goals and giving up 32.
Their last two playoff series losses:
-2019 DAL: 2-3-1, 12 goals, allowed 18
-2018 WPG: 3-4-0, 19 goals, allowed 27
Not the playoffs obviously, but they would have been eliminated 2-3 games ago.
— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) November 18, 2019
If the Preds are going to get back to their winning ways (especially in the playoffs), they will need to find a way to get Bridgestone Arena back to being one of the hardest places to play in the NHL.
GIF Me That Good Stuff
This GIF is an accurate description of the last few games for the Nashville Predators.
Pekka you good dude? pic.twitter.com/ypkv68SR5o
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) November 17, 2019
Quote of the Week
“Ugly. Embarrassing in front of our fans.”
–Colton Sissons after the Preds’ 7-2 loss to the Blackhawks
Let’s Do That Hockey
- Tuesday November 19th vs Winnipeg Jets (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
- Thursday November 21st vs Vancouver Canucks (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
- Saturday November 23rd @ St. Louis Blues (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
On Sunday, the Predators announced they’d reassigned Miikka Salomaki to the Milwaukee Admirals. This puts their roster at 21 players, two shy of the maximum 23 allowed.
Though the Preds have often run with less than 23, I am curious if this move means another corresponding move is coming. In particular, I wonder if they are going to make a move to recall a defenseman to give the blueline a change.
The options are there. Both Frederic Allard and Jeremy Davies seem ready to try their hand. Matt Donovan and Alexandre Carrier are probably eager for a second chance at an NHL role.
And any one of those players has to be better than Matt Irwin, right?
Irwin’s turnover that led to the 2nd Chicago goal was merely another example of his ineptitude on the Nashville Predators. He’s done very little to prove he belongs in the NHL and done plenty to prove that he’s actively hurting the team with his play on the ice.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the Preds recall one of those four players and shake up the defense.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —