The Nashville Predators can’t seem to catch a break. Whether on the ice or off it, it’s been a tough season as they approach the midway point heading into the NHL mandated three-day Christmas break. After Monday night’s loss to the Boston Bruins, Nashville has dropped four straight, three of those coming at home.
What’s worse is that this isn’t the Predators first losing streak of four or more games this year, nor their second. It’s the third time in their 37 games so far this season that they’ve had a losing streak of at least four games. Fingers can be pointed in so many directions that one would ultimately have to wonder how many fingers are on the hand that’s pointing. Ultimately, though, it can all be boiled down to one ultimate problem: consistency.
“We can’t give up the first goal on the first shift again. We can’t take penalties or do something inconsistent after we score. That happens over and over and over and that’s why we’re not winning any games right now,” said Predators forward Patric Hornqvist. “We have three days here to think about it and we really have to get back on the horse and get back. We have to put these games behind us. Those mistakes that we’ve been doing over and over and over and over, it’s cost us a lot of hockey games. We know what we’re doing wrong, but we have to find a way.”
Laying the facts down to the simplest common denominator, as most players and coaches will try and do especially after tough losses, when Nashville scores at least three goals in a game their odds of winning increase near exponentially. When they don’t? The results are downright disastrous.
What doesn’t help the Predators situation is that every mistake they appear to have made during the course of their losing streak seem to all end up in the back of their net.
“I think that’s been happening to us for the last five or six games, it feels like. We still have to play hard. We have to execute some of our chances. Obviously, we are going through a really tough time right now, and that’s what happens when you don’t have confidence. Bad luck is a bad word, but everything feels like it’s going into the back of our net,” said Hornqvist. “We come back in the game and shoot ourselves in the foot again. They score on the powerplay twice when it’s a one goal game. When you don’t play that well, that can’t happen.”
What’s could be more disturbing is how the statistics line-up for the Predators in terms of how they win games and how they lose them:
When scoring three or more goals, Nashville is 14-0-2. When scoring less than three goals, they are 2-17-2.
When scoring at least one powerplay goal, Nashville is 13-3-2. When going scoreless on the powerplay, they are 3-14-2.
When perfect on the penalty kill, Nashville is 14-5-3. When allowing one or more powerplay goals, Nashville is 2-12-1.
Numbers are numbers, but if you read between the lines it’s very clear cut that Nashville lives and dies by these simplest measures of statistics. Craig Smith, talking to reporters after Saturday night’s overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens, echoed the same frustrating sentiments. Quite simply, the Predators need to “outscore the other team.”
While the statement and approach are quite simple, those four words describe how frustrating the season has been for Nashville up to this point. Yet, among the losses that continue to pile up for the Predators, the message stays the same: work hard and stick to what makes them successful when they’re winning. The problem? How do you find what your recipe for success is when you are consistently losing more games than you are winning?
“Everybody wants to win in this room and when we get back in the game everyone wants to do a little too much out there. We get away from our simple game plan and you can’t do that in this league, there’s way too many players around here and they’ll execute on our mistakes,” said Hornqvist. “We just have to play simple, and hard, and believe in each other. I think that’s the way right now for us.”
Regardless, one wonders how the Predators can break out of their first-half funk and recover through the second-half of the season. Having a healthy Pekka Rinne, whenever he approaches 100%, will definitely help. Yet, without a measure of consistency, Nashville has to be nearly perfect night in and night out as mistakes are slowly taking their toll.
“Every mistake does get in the back of your head. That’s the psyche thing about it that plays on your mind a little bit. Are we strong enough to get through that? Yeah, absolutely. I believe that room is strong enough to get through it. But reality is we have to play almost a perfect game,” said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. “We have a very, very young goaltending team that is trying as hard as they can. They care and they do everything.”
“We have a very young D-core, one of the youngest in the league. So right now, we almost have to play perfectly. You not only don’t have room for error, but you also have to play really good and really smart. I thought we played really well, and our scoring chances were very even in the first. We gave them really easy goals. But the frustrating part was in the third when we had the momentum. You have to stay deliberate and stick to the game plan.“
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