The agitation is escalating quite rapidly in Nashville. The last defeat to the Blackhawks saw the locker room begin to express their own dose of frustration. The puck isn’t finding the opposition’s net. The penalty kill is faltering to an anemic low. Pekka Rinne isn’t Superman right now.
Adding to all that, the Predators seem to run into a hot goalie everywhere they turn. Some feel the walls are starting to cave in, and a drastic change needs to be on the horizon. Not just yet…. there are legitimate concerns with this team, but the negative outcomes of the recent games have more to do with a string of bad luck than an indictment on Nashville’s team as a whole.
First, despite the drought in the win column Nashville finds themselves firmly in a wild card spot as things stand now. The Pacific division is struggling with only three teams over .500 and would be hard pressed to regain a wild card berth from the Central.
With that, the Predators would only need to beat out Winnipeg and Colorado to see themselves playing playoff hockey. All reasonable logic will point to them accomplishing that feat. However, expectations have exceeded “just getting there” in terms of the playoffs for Nashville.
Are they good enough for a playoff run? Only time will tell, but a few stats can cast away the notion they are as bad as the recent results. Their PDO is a league low of 94.2 in the 3-6-2 run the team has been on, according to war-on-ice. This save plus shooting percentage stat doesn’t take into account the quality of the goalie or talent of the shooter, but logic says it’ll level up to around 100 over the course of the season. That will put more W’s in the win column.
Building on this, the OnTheForecheck crew wrote an outstanding column on the struggles of Rinne and outlined how the team is second in Corsi For %. That stat can go to deaf ears when it’s not helping the team put the goal light on, but it can’t be ignored. The team is suppressing the opposition while peppering the opponent’s net.
The Kings and Blackhawks have rode this strategy to multiple Stanley Cups. The blueprint for success connects to being a Corsi leader. Yes, Nashville lacks in the amount of elite scorers who can convert these numerous opportunities into goals. It’s not enough to just give an effort at the goal, but even the eye test can see the Predators getting snubbed on certain goals by a sprawling goalie making a highlight save.
The penalty kill has to be restructured in a quick manner. Everyone can see that. Rinne may not be able to carry the team on his back anymore, but he won’t be the reason the team loses games the rest of the way. Also, Nashville needs to focus on increasing the quality of chances they see to up their likeliness of converting them.
The team has flaws, but the panic should be shelved while Nashville continues to outplay most of their competition on a nightly basis. If that tide turns or these struggles continue well into the new year, then by all means slam the hand against the button, but that time isn’t here yet.