Predators host Senators with a sense of urgency
The search for consistency continues.
That's the Reader's Digest version of the Nashville Predators' 3-5-3 start, which is causing plenty of concern about a team which some thought could win the Stanley Cup this preseason.
Instead, they are sitting in the Central Division cellar and although there are 71 games left in the season, they can't afford to get too far in the hole.
So there figures to be some urgency for Nashville when it hosts the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena for the second contest of its four-game homestand. Then again, the same urgency existed Saturday night, but it lost 3-2 in a shootout to Carolina.
After converting only one of four first period breakaways, the Predators were blatantly outplayed in the second period, then coughed up a game-tying shorthanded goal in the third period to set the stage for their second straight shootout failure.
“There is no excuse for the effort in the second period,” defenseman Matt Irwin said. “We have to be better. We know it in here, and there's no one to point the finger, but ourselves.”
Nashville averages only 2.5 goals and allows 3.2, correctly reflecting the fact that it hasn't been able to consistently generate pressure or prevent opponents from doing the same. It's third from the bottom in Corsi at 46.23 per 100 shots.
While a strong Corsi ranking doesn't guarantee success — Toronto and Carolina rank in the top 10, for instance, and 10-1-1 Montreal is 24th — it usually tells an accurate tale over 82 games. The tale it tells for the Predators is of inconsistency.
“It's not good enough, and that's the bottom line,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Nobody is going to sit here and say that it's been good enough because it hasn't. We have to continue to work to get better. It's frustrating.”
Meanwhile, Ottawa (7-4-0) is off to a surprisingly quick start under first-year coach Guy Boucher. Although the Senators are coming off a 2-1 loss Saturday night to Buffalo, they have largely exceeded expectations with stingy defense, permitting only three goals in the last four games.
Boucher's point of emphasis has been improving the team's defense from last season.
“It starts with a mindset, which we have,” Boucher said. “We're asking our players to be reliable defensively, which they've bought into, which is very difficult to do in such little time. I've been very impressed.”
Despite dealing with his wife's cancer battle, goaltender Craig Anderson has been outstanding, going 6-2-0 with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Anderson, who will play against the Predators, has ceded three goals in his last 124 shots.
The one weakness of late for Ottawa has been burying its chances. It scored only four goals in three games last week, and the lack of offense finally caught up with it against Buffalo when goalie Robin Lehner outdueled Anderson.
“We were generating chances,” left wing Mike Hoffman said. “At the end of the day, that's what we want to do. Some days they're going to go in and some days, they're not.”