41 games into the 2011-2012 Nashville Predators season, there have been some definite ups and downs in the lengthy 8 months that makes up a regulation NHL year. Yet, as Predators fans go, there are more positives to look at then there are negatives. So, without further ado, let’s explain how we’re going to break things down here at The Predatorial for the midseason grades.
We’ll grade the following categories of the Predators season thus far:
Offense, Defense, Goaltending, Powerplay, Penalty Kill, and Coaching
How will we be grading? On a scale of 1-10 Martel’s (that’s me!). Now what is a Martel, you ask? THIS is a Martel:
We’ll also be grading in Half Martel’s as well, which is one of these:
Alright! Let’s get started:
Nashville Predators Offense
Nashville’s offense, albeit still not scoring as many goals as they COULD, has been very surprising this season in terms of what they’ve already accomplished.
The Predators currently rank 14th in Goals Forced and 15th in Goals Forced per Game. Nashville’s Craig Smith ranks 3rd in all rookie scoring with 26 points (9g, 17a) and they have 6 active players who have 20+ points already so far, including getting at least one goal from every player on the current roster sans two players (Francis Bouillon and Brian McGrattan)
Although, there have been quite a few lackluster efforts where we all know that the Predators could have scored more goals than they did (4-1 loss to Dallas recently is a good one to remember), their offensive has been more surprising than forgetful after the first 41
Nashville Predators Defense
We may have to group Nashville’s defense into the same category as the Penalty Kill in terms of what we are going to discuss here, but the Predators defensive prowess has been transformed from the Tyrannosaurus to a Brontosaurus. Still looks menacing and very large, however it’s not really aggressive and doesn’t fool anyone anymore.
Yeah, that sounds rough, however it’s pretty much the truth. Nashville’s defense last year was one of the stingiest in the league, allowing the 3rd least goals in the league, only behind Stanley Cup Finalists Vancouver and Boston. This year, though? With the integration of some of the young blood into the lineup, they’ve went from the 3rd-best defense last year to the 13th-best as of the writing of this article.
The Predators have allowed 113 goals so far this season. They only allowed 190 goals through the entirety of the whole regular season last year. So, unless Nashville can lock down and give up on average 1.87 goals per game for the remainder of the season, their defense will officially be worse than last years.
So far? They’re not up to par in my book, they could be doing a lot better. A LOT
Nashville Predators Goaltending
Pekka Rinne has been Pekka Rinne….and he hasn’t been…all at the same time. For a good portion of this season so far, Predators fans have seen the Rinne they’ve been accustomed to for the past couple of years. Yet, there have been flashes of something that many have not been accustomed to during Rinne’s tenure in net for the Predators: Inconsistency and Doubt.
There have been a number of games already this year where a stoppable puck (in terms of what Rinne has been known to have stopped in the past) has passed right by Rinne and into the net. He’s also had two separate 4-game losing streaks already this year, including having the 27th ranked GAA and 17th ranked Sv% in the league.
Now, albeit he has seen the 2nd most shots in the league, tied for 1st in the most saves, 5th in the league in shutouts, and 3rd in the league with wins, this is quite uncharacteristic for Rinne. I expect him to have a better second half of the season
Nashville Predators Powerplay
A perfect score? You better believe it. I predicted this one (prediction number 20) before the season ever started, and BOY WAS I DEAD ON CORRECT. Even though I said that the powerplay was going to be good this season and Lane Lambert was going to be one of the reasons behind it, the following thought did occur to me:
“They’re probably going to be 2nd worst in the league, just like usual”
Yet, let’s try 2nd best in the league. Surprising, eh? What doesn’t surprise me is how they’ve gotten to this point. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter have had years to perfect their powerplay quarterbacking skills and with Legwand/Smith/Wilson/Weber/Suter scoring 21 of the teams 31 goals on the man advantage, Nashville’s found the right formula to convert their powerplay chances to the best of their ability.
Worrying stat, though? Shea Weber has been on the ice for 90+% of Nashville’s powerplay goals. The Predators are very lucky that his concussion was as short as it was, or else their man advantage could have taken a serious hit.
Nashville Predators Penalty Kill
Pretty stressful, I’ll give it that much. After many seasons of having one of the best penalty kills in the league, year in and year out, the loss of Brent Peterson’s coaching experience is starting to show. Currently sitting in a tie for 19th overall in the league, Nashville’s penalty kill is one of the most depressing parts of their season so far this year.
I’m not sure if it’s a poor system, poor reads, poor coverage, or all of the above, however this side of the special teams has been one to forget. Hopefully the second half of the season will right the ship for Nashville
Nashville Predators Coaching
As usual, I would believe the Predators and their fans would have to be pretty happy with the results so far this season and the steady “stay the course” coaching of Barry Trotz has a lot to do with that.
Overcoming a team with losses to some of their key players throughout the first half of the season and still producing wins/points with a healthy lineup, Trotz continues to be a staple for the Predators. However, the second half of the 2011-2012 season may be the most important one of Trotz’ career with Nashville.
Trotz has a chance to seriously compete for a Central Division crown this year (only 5 points back of Central Division leading St. Louis/Detroit/Chicago, all tied with 53 points) and if he can get Nashville to the Western Conference Semifinals again, and possible a trip to the Western Conference Finals, he could get a lengthy extension to stay in the Music City for many years to come
Nashville Predators Midseason Grade
Nashville has had a good first half of the season, not a great one.
They’re 12th overall in the NHL, 6th in the Western Conference, but 4th in the Central Division.
They’ve lost games they should have won (New Jersey, Montreal, Columbus, Minnesota, Buffalo, Phoenix) and they’ve won games they should have most definitely lost (Columbus, Vancouver, Columbus, Detroit).
Their powerplay is unreal while their penalty kill is downright horrid.
Kevin Klein is magically turning into one of the Predators best defenders behind Weber and Suter, which no one would have thought.
And Nashville is still pondering picking up a Top 6 forward or some defensive help for the home stretch, but they still have to lock up Ryan Suter to avoid a possible loss during Free Agency this summer.
There is a LOT to look forward to over the next 3 months (or 41 games, however you look at it) and, like usual for Nashville, it’s going to come down to the final week to decide their playoff positioning