The hole the Predators are digging themselves is getting a little deeper each day. The inability of the forward group to produce offensively on a consistent basis is, among other factors, plaguing the team from attaining desired results.
The notion of them not being potent enough up front is not a breaking news alert. They are better as a group than what is being displayed right now, but it’s fair to suggest the success of the forwards last year may have been at a peak with players having huge bounce back years in Wilson, Ribeiro, and Fisher. Those numbers are just not there to start this season.
If the notion that everything was just “clicking” at the right time last season turns out to be true, where does the team turn? Obviously, the trade market is at the forefront of most fans’ minds, but Nashville has to work with what they currently have to turn the tide back in their favor.
That starts with maximizing their potential on the man advantage. The power play is by no means losing the Predators games, 10th in league at 20.6%, but there’s an opportunity for it to be the main reason they come away with a win. It starts by having arguably the second best PP weapon, behind Ovechkin, in Shea Weber’s slapshot. That alone pockets a handful of goals for the team each season.
This season is no different. Look no further than hat trick spectacle he put on against Detroit on special teams. That reaffirmed the rest of the league that the onus is to stop Weber from releasing that deadly shot at all costs. The rest of the team can capitalize on that strategy by using Weber as a decoy at times. It’s the same as a safety in football shading his coverage to the opposition’s best receiver. The other receivers are expected to take advantage of the defense overplaying to one player.
The same concept can be used in hockey on the power play. As we’re about to see by a couple of screenshots below, the Predators are starting to exploit teams that try and make anyone besides Weber beat them.
Here is the team’s last game against St.Louis where Nashville deployed an umbrella style set up that features Weber at the point in the middle with Josi and Forsberg flanked on either side. This causes the top player on the PK to push up towards Weber in order to prevent him from bombing a slapshot. Thus, it acts as 4 on 3 situation for the Predators and gives Forsberg an easier play to slide a pass to Josi for a one timer goal.
On this power play later in the game, the umbrella formation is still in place but with a slight tweak in Weber moving to the wing and Josi on the point. In the case, the puck carrying Josi attracts the top defender with the other penalty killer leaning heavily towards Weber’s side.
Then, Josi has the room to pass it to the high slot where Jarnkrok can quickly shove it over to Forsberg with an immense about of ice to skate in and make a play.
When you are struggling to produce in an even strength format, other solutions have to be found. Although it’s a very small sample size, Nashville looks to have found something that is leading to a lot of dangerous scoring chances. If the opposition begins to see shadowing Weber is not effective and they change, then hello here comes the Weber blast over and over again.
Continuing to dictate how the the PK sets up by moving Weber around can take Nashville from an efficient power play to a juggernaut man advantage and likely a climb in the standings.