By: Marcus Williams, Freelance Writer
The Nashville Predators have started off on the wrong foot this season. They were just 3-5-2 over their first 10 games, and fans were starting to panic a bit. You can’t blame them. That is a very poor start for a team that took the San Jose Sharks to a Game 7 in the second round of the playoffs last season. However, after the slow start, the team is showing signs of life. They have won their last two games to climb back up to a .500 record at 5-5-2. Here is a look at what this year’s team is all about and an examination of why they have started slowly.
An Adjusted Defense
After the acquisition of P.K. Subban during the offseason, Predators fans may have expected the defense to be one of the strength of the team. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. They have been giving up lots of goals, and part of that is because it takes time for defenders to learn how to communicate and play effectively together.
Roman Josi and Mattia Ekholm were late arriving to camp because they were playing in the World Cup. Ryan Ellis and Subban both had minor injuries that limited them in training camp. With the top four defensemen missing time in training camp, it is no wonder that it took some time for them to gel in the regular season. The Predators have held their last two opponents to a single goal apiece. Look for them to continue to improve and the defense to stiffen up as the season progresses.
Struggles of Pekka Rinne
With the defensemen needing time to learn how to play together, the Predators could have wished for a better start from their goaltender. Unfortunately, Pekka Rinne has been very inconsistent this year. One game he will look like he is among the best in the league, and the next night he will get lit up. The team needs him to find some consistency to help slow down opponents’ scoring. Hopefully, his performance in the last few games bodes well for the rest of the year.
One of the biggest issues for the Predators this season has been their performance on the road. To open the year, they have a road record of 1-4-2. That is simply not good enough. They need to find a way to win on the road. The biggest way to neutralize a team’s home-ice advantage is to play good defense. As the defense and goaltending improve, Nashville’s road record should improve as well.
Penalty Kill Problems
Nashville has been one of the worst teams in the league against the power play. They are ranked 25th in the league, killing only 78 percent of power plays. The team needs to focus intensely on fixing this stat if they want to get better.
The bottom line is that the problems the Predators have are all fixable. Keep in mind that it is very early in the season. Pittsburgh started out 15-14-3 last year, and they ended up winning the Stanley Cup. Nashville will keep improving and should give fans another exciting playoff run to watch this year.