Recapping and Evaluating the Nashville Predators’ Performance

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 12: Nashville Predators winger Colton Sissons (10) congratulates Nashville Predators defenseman Samuel Girard (94) at the conclusion of the NHL game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators, held on October 12, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NHL season is just over a week old. Thus far we have seen some teams overachieve and others struggle. While the season has just begun, some key areas of concern have emerged in the Nashville Predators’ performance. 

Evaluating the Nashville Predators’ Performance

Nashville began the season with a 2-2 record. They dropped their first two games and bouncing back to win their next two. In this article, I evaluate the teams first four games. This includes key plays, areas of strengths and weakness, as well as highlighting some players to watch.

Nashville vs Boston Bruins

The Nashville Predators didn’t start the season well against the Boston Bruins. They were trailing by a goal at the halfway point of the first period. They were down three to one at the conclusion of the second. Heading into the third, the Predators ended up giving up a shorthanded goal to Brad Marchand to increase the deficit to three. Nashville would make a late push in the final minutes with a pair of power-play goals but it was too late. The Preds would drop their season opener.

Nashville vs Pittsburgh Penguins

The Nashville Predators didn’t fare much better in a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Final. Like their first outing, the predators would give up the first goal of the game to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This time, however, it came in the first two minutes of the game as Evgeni Malkin blasted a one-timer past Juuse SarosPontus Aberg would have a chance to respond minutes later on a breakaway, only to be stoned by Matt Murray. The Penguins extended their lead ten minutes later. Jake Guentzel found the back of the net and followed that up with goals in the second and third. Ultimately, the predators were simply out-chanced by the Penguins in this one being outshot 34 to 26.

Predators vs Philadelphia Flyers

The Predators put on a show on their home opener both on and off the ice. Thos show first started by raising their Western Conference Championship Banner. After the ceremony, the Preds started strong against the Philadelphia Flyers They notched three straight goals, including Nick Bonino’s first career goal in a blue and gold sweater. All was looking bright in Smashville. Then the craziness began. In the second period, the Flyers netted three goals in five minutes to tie the game.

The Flyers would continue to build on this momentum by scoring two more to take the lead just seven minutes into the final frame. Momentum would change again as the Predators would cut the deficit to five to four off of the stick of Filip Forsberg. Ultimately, they managed to score twice more in the final minute and a half of the third to steal the game. This would include Forsberg’s game-winner with 36 seconds left while on the power play. The Preds were gifted this power play after the Flyers were penalized for a delay of game. Flyers Coach, Dave Hakstol, unsuccessfully challenged the play leading to Scott Hartnell’s tying goal as offside.

Predators vs Dallas Stars

It was a game of firsts for the Nashville Predators against the Dallas Stars. During the contest, rookie defenseman Samuel Girard scored his first career goal en route to a 4-1 Preds win. The victory marked the start of teams first winning streak of the season. Like two of the Predators first three games, the team gave up the first goal of the contest. 

Pekka Rinne proceeded to shut the door from there on out turning away the next 30 shots he faced. In the second period, the Preds offense was on fire as Girard and Forsberg both found the back of the net. The Predators would add two more goals in the third in order to help them secure the victory. Predators win, 4-1! On the negative side, Yannick Weber left the game in the first period after taking a high hit from Martin Hanzal and he did not return.

Strengths and Weaknesses

After recapping the Predators first four contests, it is valuable to evaluate their performance to identify both strengths and weaknesses that emerged after the first four games of the season.

Areas of Weaknesses

To start, one area that the team definitely needs to improve on is their penalty kill (PK). Although it is early in the season, the Predators PK has been poor with a Pk% of 75%. The struggles in this area were evident in their game against Philadelphia. For example, the team allowed the Flyers to come back and take the lead after giving up two goals while shorthanded. Ultimately, the Predators need to tighten up their PK and overall team defense.

They can start to clean up their defense by limiting the number of times they turn the puck over. They’ve averaged over 8 a game. In the end, if the Predators want to find success this season they need to improve defensively in order to limit the number of goals they give up. In four games, the Preds have averaged 3.25 goals against per game. This number should start to reflect something closer to last year’s goals against per game of 2.68 as the team begins to find its footing and both goaltenders continue to improve.

Areas of Strengths

With a .500 record through in their first four games of the season, it might be hard to pick out a strength of the Predators. That said, the Predators have been impressive in two areas. To start, the Predators have been lethal on the power play scoring six goals with the man advantage in four games.

Most notably, the Predators showed just how dangerous their power play has been this year by striking three times against the Flyers in their late comeback win. Currently, their power play is converting at a clip of 31.6%, good enough for fourth in the NHL. If they can keep this up and they improve defensively, fans can expect to see more wins.

Aside from the power play, Predators have found some success to start the season is the face-off circle. The team has won 53.4% of the draws they’ve taken including winning 61% and 59% of the faceoffs in their two games against teams from Pennsylvania. From an individual standpoint, the success in the dot is very evident as well as Austin Watson, Ryan Johansen, Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok have won at least 50% of their respective face-offs.

Players to watch

Scott Hartnell

One player who has greatly impressed to start the 2017-2018 campaign for the Nashville Predators is Scott Hartnell. At age 35, it would have been hard to predict what kind of impact Hartnell would have on the team. That said, has he delivered thus far. In just over 16 minutes a game, Hartnell has notched 3 goals, two of which came on the power play. Indeed, if Hartnell can stay consistent all year long, he could be a major part in helping Nashville improve their power play conversion rate from last season.

P.K. Subban

P.K. Subban looks to be finding his game this season and has impressed. Like Hartnell, he too has been a major contributor for the Predators, showing just how good offensively he can be. In four games, Subban has recorded five assists, including notching the primary helper on Filip Forsberg‘s game-winner against the Flyers.

Filip Forsberg

One other player that has had a great start to the season Filip Forsberg. The 23-year-old has scored four goals, including three in his last two outings. Forsberg has been all over the ice to start the season and if he can continue to find the back of the net, it is definitely plausible that he eclipses his career high in goals of 33. Forsberg has also added two assists this year for a total of 6 points.

Next Game

The Nashville Predators will face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago on Saturday. The Hawks have had a solid start to the year with a record of 3-1-1. That said, they are coming off of a 5-2 drubbing at the hands of the Minnesota Wild. Looking ahead to the matchup, it will be interesting to see if the Predators can clean up their team defense. Roman Josi has missed the Predators last two games and is still day to day. If their power play stays, hot they will have a solid chance to win.

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