Adversity has Arrived
Fans of the Nashville Predators are experiencing something for the 1st time this season. Adversity. Back to back regulation losses have been rare for the Predators, even rarer would be back to back shutout losses. As great as the week may have began vs Anaheim, it went south quickly in the Friday/Saturday set. I’ll look a little more closely at the adversity in the Fickle Five but first the recap of last week in case you missed something.
Tuesday night featured the only home game of the week and was also the regular season finale for the Preds vs Anaheim Ducks this year. The Ducks have turned things around and while not scoring a ton have found ways to win regardless. Things started off chippy. Mike Fisher and Kevin Bieksa wasted little time and had a fight just 6:56 into the 1st period. The highlight of this one has to be when Bieksa lost a tooth mid fight. Go find the slo-mo highlight if possible. Then things went as needed when Shea Weber let off his patented cannon shot for the power play bomb goal. The Ducks answered right back, but then James Neal was the lucky recipient of a gift goal he scored from beyond the blue line. It highlighted the importance of getting shots on net. Up 2-1 and things got a bit chippy but the Preds did not let the Ducks game get to them. Miikka Salomaki sealed the deal with his 1st goal of the season. A great battle back and forth that the Preds hold on for a 3-2 win.
Then the back to back games began and the train went off the track a bit. The 5-game road trip the Preds are in the middle of began in Columbus. The Blue Jackets quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 1st and that was all she wrote. Despite the Preds pouring on the shots and traffic nothing got past the CBJ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. A goal and empty netter later it was a 4-0 win for the Eastern Conference team.
The very next night was a Central Division matchup in Minnesota. Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette elected to play Pekka Rinne in net again after only having to stop 17 shots the night before. The Wild wasted no time scoring on their first PP of the game in the 1st period. Unfortunately this again was all she wrote. 2 even strength and another PP goal later the Wild sent their fans home quite satisfied with the 4-0 win.
So things aren’t quite where the Preds want them to be with 3 road games left. Let’s dive into it a bit.
Felder’s Fickle Five:
Respond or react using the #PredsItC5
1. So Many Shots and Not Nearly Enough Goals - This space last week talked about how many goals the Preds were getting. Hockey is a fickle game and just like that a week later the Preds can’t buy a goal no matter how many shots they’ve put up. The truth is yes, it’s very hard as a fan to watch the goals suddenly stop. The reality is the Preds game hasn’t changed, the results of their style have. It’s a temporary problem. The concern is you can’t get too frustrated with it if you are the players. Beginning to grip the stick tighter and get down on yourselves are where the damage is done. All it will take is one goal to get some confidence back and get those goals back into the net again.
2. Defensive Woes - One area of the Preds game that is needing some quick improvement is the Preds D. They are not as situationally aware as they were just a week ago. One of Terry Crisp favorite sayings is “head on a swivel”. This is an area the past week that has been lacking. Too often the D is not picking up on opponents camped in the crease, driving the net, or simply executing the PP. Anytime a goalie like Rinne gives up 7 goals in 2 games there will be underlying reasons to it. I’ve seen moments this past week where the D is a bit too casual with breakouts or simply D to D passes. There’s a lack of urgency and intensity in my opinion that needs to return to the D-corp.
3. Penalty Kill Problems - Here’s a problem that’s been brewing for more like 2-3 weeks. The PK has been missing Paul Gaustad and Eric Nystrom, but even with them in things still aren’t quite working. They’ve fallen to an 82.1%. This past week they gave up 2 goals on 10 PK chances. The deceiving part is 5 of those came against Anaheim who has a very poor PP unit ranked 24th with a 15%. So, much like the D things have become a bit too stale in that department.
4. Don’t Tinker if you Don’t Have To – More often than not I think Peter Laviolette makes great decisions throughout the year. This past week there was a few instances in which I found some choices curious. The first one was the decision to tinker with the lines following the win over Anaheim. Generally you see a coach roll the same lines when they garner a win. Lavy tends to follow that mode but for some reason didn’t headed into Columbus. The other move is one I never agree with. That’s playing a goalie in both games on back to backs. The short term view says you can get some extra points perhaps. The problem for me is this is being short-sighted. The issue last season for Pekka Rinne appeared to be fatigue towards the end of the regular season. If that was not the case the Pred could have held onto their Central lead and perhaps worn the crown for the 1st time ever. I know the thinking this week was that Rinne only saw 17 shots, wasn’t busy, and it is early in the season. I get those points but for me you want to take all back to backs from the standpoint that it’s a built in rest for your starter in 1 of those 2 games. Hutton can’t get better without opportunities. It’s a controversial decision every time a goalie starts twice in 2 nights, and I have never found a reason for it to be proven to work consistently.
5. Time to Step it Up - There are a few players who quite frankly need to step up a bit to help pull the Preds out of this funk. Chief among them is Mike Ribeiro. He has gone from a revelation in the 14-15 season to an irrelevant thus far in the 15-16 season. 19 games in and his line reads 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 points. Now if you think that isn’t enough from him you’re right. But as you agree with my realize you are also saying that Filip Forsberg isn’t doing enough either. His stat line is the exact same as Ribeiro. Everyone is eager to avoid calling this a Sophomore slump for Fil, but truth be told he isn’t producing like he once did. Lastly, I need to see more from Colin Wilson in the goal department. He’s had chances but is not burying them. Just 1 goal this season which matches others like Barret Jackman, Miikka Salomaki, Colton Sissons, and Viktor Arvidsson. If those 3 start producing at a better rate things can get turned around in a hurry.
3 Stars of the Week:
1. James Neal – 1 goal, and 7 shots on goal.
2. Shea Weber – 1 goal and 3 shots on goal.
3. Miikka Salomaki – 1 goal and 2 shots on goal.
Pekka Rinne – C+ - Above average but not a great week for Peks. He’s going to play whenever given the opportunity so I can’t blame him for getting all 3 starts, but my sincere hope is that it doesn’t impact the week ahead. Last week Rinne gave up 9 goals. His totals for the week were 75 saves on 84 shots against.
Perilous Prediction – Last week my Perilous Prediction was that James Neal broke back out with 3 goals over 3 games. He registered 1 goal on the week.
This week I will go with all 3 players I mentioned in the Fickle Five getting a goal within the 4-game week.
Join in with your own Perilous Prediction by using the #PredsItCPP
The Week Ahead – The week ahead features 4 games to close out November, 3 on the road and a Golden Saturday to close out the month at Bridgestone.
Monday night the Preds head to Madison Square Garden to face the very talented New York Rangers. If you are looking to score more goals one of the last places you would want to go is to face Henrik Lundqvist. He’s having a stellar year and is going to make things very tough on Nashville. The Rangers have won 10 of their last 11 games and stand at the top of the Eastern Conference. Going to be a very tough game for Nashville. Puck drop is at 6 pm CST.
Wednesday the Preds travel to Buffalo for their 1st of 2 games against the Sabres this week. Buffalo is finally getting some healthy players back into the lineup including Evander Kane. The goaltending is the issue for the Sabres as their starter went down to an injury weeks ago. Losers of 4 in a row things are slowly turning around for Dan Bylsma and his new team. Puck drop is also at 6 PM CST for this contest.
After we pass Thanksgiving the Preds have another back to back set this Friday and Saturday. The Friday game is against the Philadelphia Flyers. Philly has had another bumpy season so far. With losses in 5 of their last 6 games things aren’t going as planned under their new head coach. 17 points in 20 games has the Flyers in 7th in the Metropolitan Division. This matchup will be a day game at 2:30 PM CST. I think this is the game we see Carter Hutton.
The month finishes with a “Golden Saturday” rematch with the Buffalo Sabres. Normal start at 7 PM CST in Smashville.
Last week I said the Preds would garner 4 points after going 2-1. They went 1-2.
This week my #PredsItCWAP is a 1-1-2 result for 4 points.
Feel free to add your own prediction for the week at #PredsItCWAP.
Thanks for reading PredNeck Nation. Want to talk hockey on Twitter? Follow me @brandon_felder and don’t be shy to join in the chatter. Remember it’s a year long conversation using the #PredsItC.
Also, this season for any game I’m watching live I will be using Periscope to do Intermission chats. If you’d like to see what that looks like you can go search BJFelder on YouTube to see the videos posted from this past week. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed to see which games that occurs and please join in and talk some hockey with me there if you’d like to ask questions about the game live or just hear some analysis that is not driven by Willy and Stu. Really hope you will consider joining me there.
Till the next time, take care and as always #WeWantWeber.