So in the first few games of the Nashville Predators’ season, the one thing that has usually been their biggest strength has so far been their biggest weakness.
I’m talking about their power play. There have been some major issues going on when the Predators get that man advantage, and they haven’t converted, as they are one for 11 (9%) on the power play. Although early, here are some bad signals of what is happening to Nashville through three games.
The (Lack of) Focus
In two of the first three games, when Nashville has had the man advantage, they have ended up committing a penalty and putting themselves in a 4-on-4 situation. This occurred once in the second game with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. A Nick Foligno penalty and a bench penalty for delay of game was called on Nashville, which killed any momentum for the Predators on the man advantage. Luckily for them, this didn’t affect the final outcome, as they ended up winning 5-2.
On Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, the power play barely got going; 19 seconds after Matt Duchene drew a penalty, he ended up committing a penalty, wiping out the opportunity. Just over 11 minutes of game time later, Ryan Johansen committed a penalty for the Predators, just five seconds after Carolina had a penalty called against them. Those two incidents really set the team back, and although they did net a goal on the power play in the third period of the game, it was ultimately not enough.
The Canes ended up getting a big 4-2 win on the road, handing the Preds their first loss of the season.
While you can tolerate gaffes, and you can also make the case for things “just happening,” you cannot tolerate when your power play has more penalties called against them while on the power play (three) than actual goals scored (one). The man advantage needs the mental focus and discipline to score goals instead of playing 4-on-4 hockey.
The (Lack of) Preparation
Some other observations with this power play: there has to be an issue with the initial planning of the lines. Although I have alluded to offensive-minded defensemen, like Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, who can get a lot of goals, the issue is that they are still defensemen. Instead of deploying two defensemen on the power play units, go to what most teams do and have four forwards.
Having defensemen when you’re trying to attack and score is similar to just going a step forward and taking a couple back. It’s not even being stagnant instead, it’s actually regression. Put your best four scorers and Josi on one power play unit, and then put your next four along with either Ellis or Mattias Ekholm. Or even mix up the units. Head coach John Hynes does have a thing for mixing the lineups, so why not do that with the power play to get it going again.
The team is scattered too. Very little organization in these first few games – it’s as if the guys are unsure of where to make entry passes, and when they try to force the issue, the puck usually ends up heading down the other way for the opponent to clear. There has to be better organization and strategy when getting to the net. Better entry passes, more one-timers, and better spacing if they want to make this weakness into a strength. I think if these things improve, the power play will too.
The (Lack of) Impact Personnel
Nashville has guys who can put the puck in the net like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, and Luke Kunin showed what he could do in the first couple of games. The Preds are missing an impact player, a player who can be a scoring machine. If they have a player who finds a way to be a scorer each and every night, then they would be improved on the man advantage. It has been a long time since an elite goal scorer has had their imprint in “Smashville”, but if Forsberg can continue to get a goal per game, he will be that guy.
In the end, there’s a lot to improve on this power play unit, and it will start with the X’s and O’s, and then it has to be executed on the ice, especially if there are no available trades for an impact scorer. If Nashville wants to continue to win games, they will have to improve this power play by leaps and bounds.