They need to rely less on shots from the point
Nashville depends on its defensemen to contribute heavily to its offensive totals. They've been that way for quite some time, because historically the Predators have never truly had the elite talent to score at will or create plays down low.
That's always been a problem for Nashville. It's even more glaring when it nearly costs them a double-dose of a five-on-three power play.
What stands out to me the most during these sequences isn't the amount of open ice and time the Predators have to figure out how they're going to put it behind the opposing netminder, but the true lack of pressure in the radius of five to ten feet surrounding the goalmouth.
We have two such cases to analyze on this one from Saturday night's game against Minnesota.
Nashville scored both of its first period goals off Shea Weber deflections via players who were within two to three feet of Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
During the ensuing power play after Mike Ribeiro tipped home a Weber blast, Ribeiro ended out on the ice for the remainder of the balance.
Along with Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Craig Smith and Colin Wilson, Nashville circulated the puck around the boards and back to the defensive pair before running out of time and ending the opportunity -- this included Ribeiro electing to pass back to the defense while skating down past the left faceoff dot with no less than five players between him and Dubnyk.
Ribeiro has never been one to shoot first and ask questions later, but you have to almost question why he decided not to shoot into a traffic-laden netfront during a power play chance when you have a perfect opportunity to do so.
Later, Nashville earned another man-advantage in the second and failed to drive any traffic towards Dubnyk. The Predators spent the first 90 seconds trying to find a perfect lane to the net, circulating the puck around in what seemed to be a 2-1-2 formation -- earning only a single shot on goal, which came off a Jones pass that missed its point and was tipped on Dubnyk by Calle Jarnkrok.
I've never played a minute of professional hockey in my life, but I know for a fact that you're not going to have sustained offensive success relying in shots from the point. Eventually the forwards are going to have to find a way into the picture.
"We knew that [Minnesota] was one of the more aggressive penalty kills in the league," said Jones. "You make one or two passes, you're still looking at them and they're still coming at you. We knew we had to be prepared for that.
"I think we do need to get more shots to the net with screens and taking the goalies eyes away."
Shea Weber is going to shoot when Shea Weber wants to
There's no reason to question that Weber is one of the better defenders across the league. He may be in the discussion as one of the best 10 defenders in the league.
Also something that isn't outside of the truth: when Weber decides he's going to have a night of shooting the puck as much as he likes, he's going to do just that.
By the end of the night, Weber had accumulated three official shots on net, two that were blocked and three missed. That's a grand total of eight shots attempted.
"Most of the time, they're going to go in," said Jones. "It helps our team dramatically when he's shooting the puck. He's had nine or 10 goals this year already. He's obviously a huge part of our team offensively and defensively, especially when it comes to the power play."
Two of Nashville's three goals were directly related to shots that Weber sent towards Dubnyk.
Sometimes, Nashville's captain seemingly takes a "somebody has to do it" mentality on the ice -- which usually bodes well for the Predators, such as the case against Minnesota on Saturday night. Granted, his job as captain is to lead by example.
Winning is one thing, consistently winning is another
The Predators won only their third game in the month of December, breaking their second three-game losing streak of the season thus far.
Nashville's biggest issue so far this year has been stringing wins together in a consistent fashion. Outside of a handful of players, the entire roster has had major issues with burying chances. Putting shots on goal? Not really, Nashville is one of the best teams in the league at shot attempts.
The problem, though, is finding the same level of offensive contributions every night. Saturday night was the first time in over a week that Nashville scored more than two goals, to which the Predators boast a 12-1-2 record this year when they do so.
That's what it's going to take to win every night: at least three goals scored.
To earn those winning streaks, though, the Predators will then have to find a way to eliminate their opposition from climbing back into the game late in regulation. Minnesota nearly clawed back and tied the game, as Nashville backed into its shell for the majority of the final 10 minutes of regulation -- seeing the Wild score their second goal and nearly forcing a third before the final horn.
"I think everyone is trying to do the right thing out there," said Jones. "You're up 3-1 with 10 minutes left and you're trying to be safe. Sometimes that's a bad thing. The message is to keep attacking, keep attacking and sometimes you want to sit back. You have a two goal lead with 10 minutes left against a good team and you want to play defense, but most of the time that doesn't work.
"They keep coming at you and keep coming at you and skilled players find a way to score for them and they found themselves back in it. I think we have to keep attacking when we're in those situations."
It's nothing outside what has been normal, though, for Nashville. They've played tight and conservative once gaining a goal or two advantage, as opposed to continually pressing the offensive play.
There's a lot that Nashville did right against the Wild, but in the same respect there still is much to be worked on.
"There's been a lot of consistent things we've done," head coach Peter Laviolette said. "I've said that, I've never wavered from that. There's been some games where we haven't played up to our potential, but there's a lot of games where we have and the results haven't come our way. We need to continue to work on the process and be good with what we're doing on the ice.
"I do believe that will lead to wins and lead to winning games consecutively and maybe getting on a bit of a roll where you get away from what's gone on in the last 12 to 15 games is in the rear view mirror."
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators -- Forsberg had himself one of his better games in about a month. His opening goal less than a minute into regulation helped lead Nashville to its win over Minnesota, not counting his nine total shots towards the net.
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators -- The Predators have one of the more active defensive units in the league, especially with Weber leading them on the attack. Both his assists came from decimating point shots that were redirected into the net.
Mike Ribeiro, Nashville Predators -- Solid night from Ribeiro who recorded a goal and an assist on nearly 20 minutes of ice-time. Nashville needs more contributions from him and they benefited from it tonight.