Power Play: Preds' high-scoring offense steals show, defensive questions remain
NASHVILLE — It’s strange, but whenever Nashville needs a confidence booster at home, all they need to do is play the Anaheim Ducks. It’s a sure recipe for success.
With six different goal scorers, Nashville blasted Anaheim 6-1 on Tuesday night to move to 5-3-1 on the season. It was the second time this season the Preds recorded six goals (Oct. 10 vs. Washington was the other). What’s so important about that? Nashville couldn’t score six goals more than once last season. They only netted 240 goals last year as well, while this Predators team has 38 in nine games – putting them on pace to score 346 on the season, a vast improvement on offense over last year.
Respectively, they’ve allowed 32 goals in their nine games. Does that seem like a lot? Not really, until you average it out per game and multiply it by 82 and then it’s a bit concerning: 291. Last season, 346 goals for and 291 goals against would have put Nashville above Tampa Bay for goals forced (1st) and right behind Chicago for goals allowed (29th). It’s a stark contrast from the Preds teams that we’ve seen pride themselves defensively over the years, the same ones that would leave opponents feeling like they had walked through mud after playing against them.
While it’s not alarming now, it could become alarming as the season progresses.
It’s great being able to score four or five goals a game, but when you’re having to score more just to counter the amount you’ve given up, that’s an issue. Granted, it wasn’t necessarily the case on Tuesday night, but Anaheim had more than enough chances to make it an interesting game as opposed to a 6-1 drubbing. Defensively, Nashville’s been playing with fire down near the blue ice and it’s going to start seriously becoming an issue if it’s not already.
Luckily, Pekka Rinne’s been on fire to start the season. He’s 5-0-1 and among the top goaltenders in the high-danger department already.
If that were to change, though, and Rinne begins to falter? If Juuse Saros can’t improve then things could easily take a turn for the worse.
My whole point? The Predators should continue to try and generate offense like they’re doing right now, but if they don’t shore things up defensively and quit allowing so many things to happen low and in-between the faceoff circles, it’s going to slowly and continually become quite costly.
LOCKER ROOM SOUND
“I think everybody gets fired up against them. You know, going in, they have some individuals that play a very physical game and you have to be ready for that. I feel like even that aspect brings the best out of our team. At the same time, they were costing themselves by taking a lot of penalties. I felt like we did a really good job with staying cool.
“We have a lot of history between these guys. I also have respect towards them. It’s always a fun game, even for me as a goalie. I don’t get to join the physical game that much, but it’s still emotionally fun to be a part of.”
– Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne on why they’ve been so successful against Anaheim at home
“Sometimes that happens on the penalty kill when I get to play the right side. This time I didn’t have to knock it down or something, they just kind of floated it in the middle and I was off to the races. I haven’t had too many, but a few.”
– Predators defender Mattias Ekholm on his breakaway and how often that happens for him
1. Prior to Nashville netting two in the second half of the first period, I openly questioned to myself and those around me on press row as to how difficult it was for this team to consistently generate offensive chances without Forsberg in the lineup. Now, before we all just take the final score in this game and ignore everything else, I still feel the same way without Forsberg in the Preds lineup. Stop yelling, I know Nashville won 6-1, but this team without Forsberg is still a team without one of the more offensively gifted forwards in the league. They just benefited from facing the Ducks.
2. Speaking of facing Anaheim, the Predators have owned them in Nashville for a while now. Including Tuesday’s rout, the Preds have seven straight home victories over the Ducks, dating back to a 5-1 victory four years to the day (Oct. 22, 2015). In these seven victories, Nashville has registered five or more goals in four of the seven games and allowed no more than two goals in any of those seven.
3. One thing that I never, and will never, take advantage of is how down-to-earth and humble Pekka Rinne is when he speaks to us in the media. When he wins, his smile is contagious. You can vicariously live as a winning NHL goaltender just by talking to him and getting his thoughts on the game. If he loses? You can feel the pain that he carries all the same. How he carries himself when he’s conducting interviews, and even when he’s just shooting the breeze afterwards, is a shining example of how much he goes above and beyond to make sure everyone’s happy.