Predators fifth straight loss leaves room for speculation
What does it take to get out of a losing streak?
Nashville is in the midst of a five-game win drought that has left some of its regular-season goals in jeopardy. Anaheim has already eclipsed the Predators as the top team in the entire NHL. St. Louis sits four points back in the division after its loss on Thursday night, but still holding two games in hand over Nashville.
The rest of the Central Division -- and the league at that -- is climbing the ladder that the Predators are slowly losing their footing on.
After a late 4-3 loss against the Islanders last night in a Hoth-esque downtown Nashville, is it time to point fingers and place blame as to what the root cause could be for the late-season spiral?
If you ask those immediately responsible, there won't be anything but positive takes on the most negative note of the season. Take their latest defeat on Thursday evening. After scoring two quick goals to tie the game midway through the third period, another odd bounce would end up wrecking Nashville's night and send them to another loss.
The mood for the coaches and players afterwards? Somber, but surprisingly upbeat.
"The whole game you can take something out of," said Predators forward Colin Wilson, who scored his career-high 20th goal of the season. "There are things that we can do better, but we played hard and I think a lot of people played with aggression. I think we are in the right direction."
"I think there are a lot of positives, and if you go back and pull those positives, you can try to build off of that," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "The guys played hard and fought back. We wanted to play a solid game."
It is impossible to suggest that losing five games in a row will leave the psyche around the locker room intact.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne doesn't appear to be the same over the last two weeks, allowing 14 goals in his last four outings -- a full point over his season's goals against average (2.11). His Vezina and Hart-worthy campaigns have come to a screeching halt.
Nashville's leading goal scorers -- Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg, Craig Smith and James Neal -- have scored a combined three goals over the past five games, two of those came against the Islanders on Thursday night.
Newly inbound players Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli have yet to make an impact on the roster. Both have played decent hockey since their arrival over two weeks back, however neither can seem to replicate the same contributions they provided to the Maple Leafs.
Here's something to consider: when was the last time Nashville lost more than five games in a row? Two seasons ago when the Predators were fourth-worst in the NHL and collected Seth Jones as a reward in the subsequent draft.
Sure they may have dropped four or five games here once or twice throughout a season, but six games? It's a rarity.
Interestingly, one thing that each loss has had in common -- in fact, the same occurrence has happened for 10 straight games -- is that Nashville continues to allow the opposition to notch the first goal of the night. Is that a big deal? It hasn't been for the majority of the season. Laviolette has preached all year that his players aren't phased when they've allowed the first goal. The Predators continue to lead the league in wins after allowing the opening marker, so Laviolette could be right to an extent.
Yet when a team allows the first goal in 10 straight games, are players still not worried? Fighting back from a deficit every single game must be exhausting. In fact, it's not just the first goal that Nashville has allowed for the past handful of games, but also the second.
The Predators found themselves down 2-0 in their previous four games, all losses. They were able to fight back to force a tie at some point in two of those four games, but inevitably suffered the same fate.
Will scoring the first goal enhance Nashville's ability to somehow string together a handful of wins in their final 16 games of the regular season? Of course not. The Predators have definitely improved their quality of play over the past five periods of hockey, but the results have still been the same.
Since October, it's safe to say that many around the league have been waiting for the Predators to slip up and damage their seemingly invincible armor in a season that no one could have predicted. That time is here and Nashville could use a heavy dose of adversity.
It's more advantageous to experience a losing streak of this magnitude before the end of the regular season as opposed to the playoffs. However, the Predators had done a great job this season of being the team that found ways to win games when sometimes the only answer would have been a loss.
Facing only two teams who will not compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs over their final 16 games, Nashville needs to find that same tenacity now more than ever.