Saturday night should have ended in a win.
The Nashville Predators epitomized a Hanna-Barbera cartoon against the St. Louis Blues. One where the titular character is attempting to gain access to a locked safe. Imagine any type of MacGuffin you'd like, but our character really needs whatever is hidden behind the impenetrable walls of that safe.
The break in starts with a crowbar, graduates to dynamite, then a comically large bazooka, before finally the feisty feline (in the scenario, I imagine a cartoon cat) rides a bomb dropped from an airplane, Doctor Strangelove style, directly on top of the safe.
When the debris clears there's a monstrous crater, but the safe still remains nestled atop an ever strong pillar of Earth, without so much of a scratch, it's contents still safely nuzzled inside.
If at any point, the cat caught blowback from the safe, t'would be the story of the Predators and Jake Allen. No matter what they threw at him, no matter how hard they tried to score, he somehow had an answer for everything. 45 shots. Zero goals.
Nine times out of 10, those games end with a regulation win. Not a 4-0 loss. Nashville will be angry and determined to break their scoreless streak tonight. Bugs help the Ottawa Senators.
The Ottawa Senators
Somehow, the Sens are sitting pretty at 2nd place in the Atlantic division. They are a full 10 points behind the Montreal Canadiens in only two fewer games played, so that gives you an idea of how the season is going out that way.
They sport a 7-4-3 record in 14 games played, but have only won four of those in regulation or overtime. Maybe not something to worry about right now, but that could present some problems down the line. Especially if Florida, Boston and Detroit decide they want to compete for a playoff spot.
Ottawa has lost more than they've won in recent weeks, but are hoarding those extra points like Beanie Babies. Half of their games have gone extra time. Yet they are scoring goals (39 GF, 11th) as well as preventing them (40 GA, 9th). Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan are helping provide the goals, but the entire team is chipping in offensively. Only four players have four goals or more, while 11 have less that.
Yet Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson, Mika Zibanejad, Turris and Ryan all have broke double digits in points. They are helping spread around the scoring, and an integral part as to why they are where they are in the standings.
However, the Senators are 28th in the league in SACF%, with only Detroit and Colorado being worse. Is that going to be a problem in the future? History says yes, but with three of the Atlantic's teams being in the bottom 10 in that regard, and the overall lack of a powerhouse beyond the Habs (and Bolts, even though they're struggling)? It may end up not mattering.
The Nashville Predators
I don't want to spend too much time rehashing all the things we already know about last game. Lots of shots. Nots of goals. Allen good. Blah blah blah.
One thing I do want to point attention to is the failings of Nashville's special teams recently. For one, the Predators have been extremely undisciplined over the past few games. They've taken nine penalties in the last two games, and have only killed at a 56% success rate. Woof.
It's one thing to be on the wrong end of calls. It's another thing to constantly be taking dumb penalties. It's entirely another to not be able to stop the other team from scoring when that happens. The PK has plummeted to 80% on the year, the lowest point of the season and 17th in the league. Right around where they ended last year. For reference, they were 85.7% when they started their road trip, which would be tied for sixth with the Vancouver Canucks right now.
The power play is in a similar slump, only converting on one of 12 (!) opportunities the last three games. So for as much as Nashville is getting penalized, they are at least getting a chance to rectify those calls... but nothing is happening.
Yesterday, Caroline outlined how the power play can go awry by poor communication, lazy play, and ineffective movement. It's what we've seen recently, as well as poor zone entries that lead to turnovers and the other team sending the puck right back down the ice. By the numbers, they've sunk to merely average, though they've been hitting hot and cold spells since the last game against the Senators.
Early on, Nashville was a good special teams squad. Now they are merely average, teetering on bad. The coaching staff needs to identify ways to fix this soon, lest they fall into the problems that plagued them all of last year.
Apropos to Nothing
Actual conversation on the Predcast this week:
Link: "I mean we get to see David Legwand maybe skate into the wrong penalty box again."
Jon: "No, he's with the Buffalo Sabres."
Link: "When did that happen? He's so sneaky."
Jon: "He was part of the Robin Lehner trade, man."
Link: "That's how memorable David Legwand is."
You could also say the Senators are just as memorable.
Listen to the Predcast.
Reasons to Watch
- Stone's inclusion in the Calder voting was not underserved, but still questionable considering the year Forsberg had. In Ottawa, Stone is already off to the hotter start, nearly doubling up Forsberg in points and collecting a goal and assist when they played in October. These second years have a chance to put on a show, and The Prince desperately needs to break his scoreless slump.
- Believe that Nashville will start the game like goats on fire. They pissed.
- Eric Karlsson is pretty cool, I guess.
The Important Stuff
7:00 p.m. Nashville puck drop on FS-TN and 102.5 The Game.