Waiting for the O
By: Miranda Martin
With tonight’s game against St. Louis, the Nashville Predators are trying to find a way to wrap up the road trip with two more points before coming home. But in order to win, you have to score.
One of the major issues of the first eight games was the lack of offense by the team. The team is at the cellar of the league with 12 goals in 8 game, averaging just 1.5 goals per game. This is very far from the 4.88 average of the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. With Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat still both out, there are significantly more offensive voids to fill, since both players, even with missed games, still lead the team in points (4 each). There are still ten players on the roster who haven’t registered their first offensive point.
So without trying to sound like an overused Wayne Gretzky quote, taking shots is an issue. The team is also last in the league in shots, averaging just 22 shots per game. Against the LA Kings last Thursday, the Predators went 16 minutes in one period without a single shot on net. Later in the game, they would have another 10 minutes without one. The team is capable of taking a good amount of shots. The very first game this season resulted in 34 shots on goal against Columbus. With many of the offensive drives starting with the dump and chase-corner method, opening up and taking shots toward the net for a drive may help. Who knows what could happen—does anyone remember former Predator Jordin Tootoo scoring from behind the blue line a few years back?
The power play also needs to be taken advantage of. Out of 27 power play opportunities, the team has only converted 4 into goals. Granted, that is one third of the goals that they have made this season, it still ranks them 21st in the league with 14.8%. The last power play girl was against the Minnesota Wild on January 22nd—the very first road game of this 7 game trip.
However, the games that the offense started, the team hasn’t finished. All five games where the Predators scored first have led to a shootout, and only two of them found victories. The team has not been able to find insurance goals to solidify victories or been able to convert after the opponent ties. Also, the Predators must take advantage of opportunities, such as face off wins. Contrary to other cellar-dwelling statistics, the team’s faceoff percentage is 10th in the league (4th in the conference) at 51.2%.
At this point, the team needs to stop trying to be fancy and pummel the net with shots. Eventually, one will go in, especially if the goaltender likes giving rebounds and the Predators jump on them. It’s crucial to start finishing the games before overtimes and shootouts, as well. Free hockey may be isn’t good on the conference standings, and the Predators have hit their quota.
Tonight’s game against St. Louis is the third this season. The Predators have been held to just 3 goals in the series, including a shutout by Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The next meeting between the two teams isn’t until April 9. Hopefully by then, the Predators have found their offensive mojo.