The Nashville Predators have had a slow start to their 2016-17 season and will need to get on track as we enter November if a return to playoff action is in their plans. After going 41-27-14 last season they finished the year with a wild card berth and looked to be a force to reckon with. The made it to the second round and nearly the Western Conference final after taking the San Jose Sharks to a game seven. One year later and it seems they have taken a step backwards in their first eight games of this season with their 2-5-1 record.
Their 14 overtime loses lead the Central Division last season and was certainly an area the team looked to address in 2016-17. If half those overtime loses were turned into wins they would have tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for third in the division. Getting to OT for the single point is nice, but the contenders find a way to put the puck in the net to get two.
Nashville Predators Slow Start Cause for Concern
They made a blockbuster trade for P.K. Subban in the off-season and so far he has been one of the lone bright spots on the team. He has five points through eight games and has quickly established himself as a fan favourite amongst Tennessee natives.
Another player that has started the season well for the Predators is second year forward Viktor Arvidson with his four goals and two assists. He is one of the few players that has registered on the stat sheet when the team is playing 5-on-5. The power play has been what the team has lived and died with this season, which clearly is not a way to work towards a winning record.
Top Six Issues
Filip Forsberg, James Neal and Ryan Johansen all have yet to score a goal for Nashville so far this season
The team is first in the league on the power play at 35.7% , but ranks second to last on the penalty kill at 66.7%. James Neal removed his name from the above trio with his first goal on Saturday in a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks. Mike Fisher has only been able to score with the man advantage and Ryan Johansen still hasn’t scored. It wasn’t long ago when he had a 33 goal season with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013-14. These two need to produce more, and not just on the power play for the team to excel though.
Perhaps this biggest disappointment to begin the 2016-17 season has been Filip Forsberg. After a 33 goal performance last season he has yet to register a goal in the first eight games of the 2016-17 campaign. Although he does have five assists he will need to start finding the back of the net like he did in his first two seasons for the Predators to return to the playoffs.
When a team struggles a lot of the blame will fall on the shoulders of the man between the pipes. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has had a dismal start to the season with a 3.21 goals against average. Although elevated, it is difficult for a goalie to give their team a chance at victory if he continues to get peppered with 33 shots per game, which has been the case in Nashville to begin the season. Their penalty kill is also horrendous and that is something beyond his control. At 33-years-old he is on the decline of his career but his career numbers (239-140-54, 2.39 GAA, .917 Save percentage) show he has been a top net minder over his eight plus seasons in Nashville.
The Nashville Predators have all the pieces to excel in the 2016-17 season, but if the trends the have been playing with continue, and they struggle to score, they will be on the outside looking in come March.