Sitting 10 points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference after their 1-0 loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening, Nashville seems to slowly be heading to a second-straight year without a playoff birth, something that hasn’t happened since making their first appearance in the playoffs in the 2003-2004 season.
What may be more frustrating, though, is that Nashville has played fairly well over the course of their four-game losing streak. The Predators have gone 1-4-0 since the end of the Olympic break, all of this coming during a pivotal stretch which saw Nashville start four points back of the final wild card spot. Yet, after their previous four games, Nashville’s frustrations show clearly on the scoreboard. Close games against Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Columbus have seen the Predators score three goals in that span, but not for a lack of trying.
“We should’ve won the last three or four, we’ve been playing well. We’re just missing plays. We need one of those posts to go post and in,” said Predators forward Eric Nystrom.
Nashville has had plenty of opportunities to bury their shots, but there’s almost a sense of unluckiness surrounding the team over their recent stretch. Instead of a shot beating a goaltender and going into the net, it ricochets off a post. The Predators had more than their fair share of opportunities to tie their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the final minutes of regulation, but nothing they threw at the net would cross the goal line.
“We’ve hit so many posts and generated chances. My goodness, that last flurry: post, through the crease, the other way, we had one go through the five-hole and wide, and hit another post. And we give up one goal? [Pekka Rinne] plays great the last few games, we haven’t given up much,” said Nystrom. “That’s what is so frustrating. We’re giving up one or two goals and we’re playing so hard, it’s not right.”
“It feels like we’ve hit 10 posts this home stand–not 10–but a lot of posts. We’re not getting the bounces right now, we’re playing great hockey and getting the chances. We’re getting a lot of offensive pressure and it’s just not going in the net,” said Predators defenseman Seth Jones.
The hope is that maybe once the Predators start scoring a few more goals than they have recently, the proverbial “floodgates” will open. It’s something Nashville could use in their final stretch of 18 games. However, the fact remains that Nashville’s offense has hit a dry spell at the worst possible time.
“We have a lot of guys, including myself, who haven’t scored in a while and it’s not good enough. We need production. It’s not working harder, it’s working smarter and bearing down,” said Nystrom.
As Nashville heads out on the road for seven of their next eight games, this may be a good opportunity for the Predators to re-group and collect themselves. Nashville has nearly the same record away as they do at home, but being at home for nearly an entire month, regardless of the Olympic break, could possibly serve as a measure of complacency.
Could it be too little, too late for the Nashville Predators? It sure seems that way with only 18 games remaining in the 2013-2014 season. Yet, there is still a glimmer of hope in the locker room, even in their darkest moments.
“You never know. You go on a streak and it’s amazing how those come together, but at the same time, we can’t be gripping the sticks tight,” said Nystrom. “We have to be even looser now, be relaxed, be confident. We have to want the puck. Just routine plays. Maybe the road will be a good thing for us.”