Kukla's Korner

A good start down a long road

Two short weeks ago, all seemed lost; an out-of-control spiral into the All-Star Break saw the Nashville Predators battered, beaten, and humiliated at times.  If you follow the projections over at Sports Club Stats, their chance of making the playoffs for the fifth straight season dipped as low as 13% after that 3-1 loss to the Devils on January 19.

But now?  A recent 5-2 stretch has brought them back into the Western Conference playoff mix, and the four-game homestand which starts tomorrow night against Detroit is the next step along the road to the postseason.  Interestingly, none of the four opponents coming up (Red Wings, Blues, Bruins & Senators) are among the teams they’re trying to catch; at this point, it’s always nicer to know that your victory is also a critical loss for the opponent.

So realistically, what do we need to see out of these next four games, as the Preds continue climbing their way up through the standings?

1.  Results - no matter how it gets done, Nashville needs to garner at least 6 points out of these 4 games.  The Blues and Senators are teams that they should beat at home, and they’ll need to spring an upset out of either one of Detroit or Boston games, or at least take them to OT.  One hopeful note there is that the Bruins will be coming to town after having played in New Jersey the night before.

2. Rewards - the decision on which players to dress and which to scratch has been constrained of late by injuries to Wade Belak and Jordin Tootoo, but even once both are ready for action, I’m not sure they deserve to play.  Having a knuckle-chucker who plays 5-10 minutes a night is a luxury this team simply can’t afford right now.  They have to focus on winning each and every game down the stretch.  Tootoo in particular has taken a major step backwards this season after he looked like a 15-20 goal scorer last year.

3. Discipline - the quality of the Predators’ special teams has remained consistent over the years; great on the PK, frustratingly bad on the power play.  While neither of those is likely to shift without a major personnel or coaching change, a focus on drawing penalties and not taking them might provide immediate dividends.  The table below lists some of the high-level special teams information for each team; how many opportunities they’ve had on the PP and PK, conversion percentages, goals for and against, and ultimately, a Special Teams Goal Differential that nets out the results of PP and PK work.  The fact that Nashville has been on the PK 25 times more than on the power play is perhaps the most “fixable” aspect of their play right now.

 Special Teams Opportunities and Goals For & Against
 San Jose Sharks2371855223.255785.427829
 Minnesota Wild219181382146286.724323
 Buffalo Sabres2352201520.44818533519
 Philadelphia Flyers202269-6724.349083.3451317
 Detroit Red Wings228225327.663177.850315
 Boston Bruins2101991123.349482.435414
 Chicago Blackhawks223218521.548481.241811
 St. Louis Blues232236-421.650582.24258
 New Jersey Devils188211-2318.63528238105
 Montreal Canadiens2482381016.541482.84195
 Calgary Flames2392281118.8451185.53334
 Los Angeles Kings225228-318.742482.54042
 Ottawa Senators215216-118.139382.43842
 New York Islanders213231-1817.838482.24192
 Washington Capitals229259-3023.654679.25460
 New York Rangers222216614.9331386.6297-2
 Dallas Stars2302032717.440177.8452-4
 Carolina Hurricanes2422014116.941679.1423-4
 Vancouver Canucks228244-1618.943379.1515-6
 Anaheim Ducks213271-5822.147681.2513-7
 Colorado Avalanche2192051417.438478454-7
 Nashville Predators215240-2513.529584.6376-7
 Florida Panthers201211-1016.433781.5394-9
 Phoenix Coyotes2332092413.732279444-10
 Pittsburgh Penguins2432311216.5401080.1464-12
 Toronto Maple Leafs2192041519.643474531-13
 Tampa Bay Lightning230266-3616.137580.8513-16
 Edmonton Oilers2372221516.940776.1532-18
 Atlanta Thrashers220227-719.142975.8552-20
 Columbus Blue Jackets226227-11227980.6445-21


Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink


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