The start of the 2022-23 season for the Nashville Predators has been underwhelming, to put it mildly. Not a full on, unmitigated disaster, but certainly not according to plan.
At 2-2-1 on the young season, the Predators have been their own worst enemy over their current three-game losing streak that culminated most recently with a 3rd period two-goal blown lead against the LA Kings on Tuesday.
Before that, the Predators have two unimpressive wins over the lowly San Jose Sharks, and two decisive losses to division rival Dallas Stars. Yeah, not ideal.
The Predators really have to get back to the basics. The eyesore is obviously the inexcusable number of trips they’re taking to the penalty box.
Did we learn nothing from last season?? I’m starting to feel like obsessing over this area is pointless and to just live with it.
Nashville Predators are Beating Themselves
Here’s where it really gets detrimental for the Predators. They’re keeping their most talented and effective offensive players out of their wheelhouses. Instead of focusing on creating offensives chances, they’re living on the edge on the penalty kill.
For instance, the best forward line by far has been some combination of Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, and honestly take your pick. It looks as of now it’s Eeli Tolvanen’s spot to lose, but we know Head Coach John Hynes always keeps you guessing.
I’m not touching the Johansen line if I’m Hynes. As long as you keep it at 5-on-5, then this line is your bread winner, while you have to assume Filip Forsberg’s line will also begin to kick it into gear. You’ll be cooking again if that happens, and at least temporarily we saw that against the Kings when Forsberg scored an emphatic goal on assists from linemates Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene.
Unfortunately, you wouldn’t have gotten a chance to see that effective Johansen/Niederreiter line on Tuesday unless you kept your eyes glued to the screen uninterrupted. If you had to leave to let the dog out, cook dinner, or even go get the mail, you may have missed the Johansen line at 5-on-5 play. Just 6:32 of ice time, per MoneyPuck.com.
It’s just not winning hockey, and it’s kind of a mini miracle the Predators escaped with a point in that game. It went to a shootout, and much credit is owed to Juuse Saros who made 32 saves and finished with a positive Goals Saved Above Expected.
Even trusted veterans are taking questionable penalties. Duchene had a lazy tripping penalty that looked like his frustration was boiling over, along with a slashing penalty when the Kings comeback was in full swing.
Duchene has just one goal over the first five games, and it was an empty netter, so I get his frustration. Don’t make it worse by throwing your stick out there to give the referee an easy call.
You can’t stop at the penalties, though. You’re seeing way too many situations where the Predators are just pressing. I don’t know if it’s just a case of playing out of frustration, overthinking it, or just lack of focus. Maybe it’s a combination of all three, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to beat anyone in the league if this trend continues.
This bad combination is spilling over into a power play that ranked sixth in the NHL last season but has stumbled out of the gate at a 1-for-21 clip, including 0-for-5 against the Kings. Connect on just one of those five and you get the two points and the conversation isn’t nearly as grim today.
This team just needs to simplify things and let it all play out. Their talent, which a part of it was acquired over the offseason, needs to override some of these upcoming opponents. It starts against the Columbus Blue Jackets (1-3-0) on Thursday.
We’re going to learn what this team is made of on Thursday in Columbus. Just the second true road game of the 2022-23 campaign for the Predators. The crowd will be hostile, and the Predators have to come out focused on simplifying the gameplan and just making the smart hockey decision.
It’s not always trying to make the highlight reel pass hoping you end up on SportsCenter Top 10. Sometimes it’s just making the wise decision, wearing down your opponent and letting your play dictate the pace of a 60-minute game.