Last season, like many seasons before, the Nashville Predators found themselves in the bottom of the league when it came to the powerplay and the rate at which these opportunities were converted.
While taking some liberties (with a small sample size) this season has proved to be a turn around for the PP unit on the ice, but the strides made on the man advantage have come at a cost and the even strength that used to be the Predators staple has gone by the wayside over this four game stretch.
Power Play Goals For: 41 (28th in NHL)
Power Play Conversion %: 15.2% (26th in NHL)
2011-2012 (4 games)
Power Play Goals For: 4 (Tied for 7th in NHL)
Power Play Conversion %: 30.8 (2nd in NHL)
It looks like the addition of Lane Lambert and an offensive, puck moving philosophy has been the answer early on in the season for the Nashville power play. Coupled with the influx of youth with players like Colin Wilson and Craig Smith not being afraid to shoot the puck and David Legwand tied for the league lead in total points, this should be a highlight of the Predators that should be getting more attention from the media and NHL Network, but alas, it has gone unsung.
The reason being that the Predators 5 vs. 5 play has suffered over the first four games. Against Phoenix, the much touted Smith/Legwand/Wilson line was a combined -8 and the defensive pairing of Klein and Blum also went -3 individually.
Even Strength Goals For/Against Ratio: 1.16 (6th in NHL)
2011-2012 (4 games)
Even Strength Goals for/Against Ratio: .62 (25th in NHL)
Another head-scratcher is the fact that Nashville is ranked 25th in Giveaways (bottom third of the league) and rank in the top ten in Takeaways and Blocked Shots. Yes, the sample size for the beginning of this season is exceptionally small, but that does not discount what many fans and Coach Trotz has seen from the players over the first four games of regular season hockey.
The question now lays in how the Predators will respond on the upcoming Western road trip, which many believe including coaches and players, helps to build team chemistry on the extended time away from home. The answer to this quandary of how to rebound from the back-to-back home losses (although the Predators got one point with the shootout loss: 2-1-1 record) is can the Predators muster the drive to clamp down when the game is very much in their hands to win?
Can the Predators play a consistent three period hockey game?
Can they wrestle victory from the jaws of defeat or will Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver prove to be the team that wants it more?
The answers to these many questions will be answered by week’s end and the anticipation alongside the ominous task of a long road trip to the Pacific Time zone should ramp up to a nail-biting conclusion. Be sure to check back for our pre-game prognostications and our post-game wrap-ups for all your Predators news, notes and opinions.