The Nashville Predators, as a franchise, have been members of the National Hockey League since 1998. Over the course of their sixteen-plus seasons they have been a traditionally stingy defensive team that has had to earn every goal they score. This past week, the team’s earning power reached an all-time low as the Predators were shut out in three consecutive games.
For the last Preds score you have to go back to last Tuesday, when the Anaheim Ducks were in town, and Miika Salomaki scored the game-winning goal at 6:13 of the second period. Since that time, the team has lost by scores of 4-0, 4-0 and 3-0 at the hands of Columbus, Minnesota and the New York Rangers.
In all three losses, Pekka Rinne handled netminding chores for the Preds, with varying results. In Columbus, the team fired over eighty pucks in the direction of Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and came up empty handed. In Minnesota, Devan Dubnyk turned aside 23 shots.Last night at Madison Square Garden, Henrik Lundqvist was center-stage as the Predators outshot New York by a 25-7 margin through two periods but still found themselves down by a goal before giving up a couple more in the final frame.
At this point in time, it feels like nothing is going right for the team. This scoring slump has set a team record of 213 minutes and 47 seconds without a goal.
Of course, that number will increase to some extent on Wednesday as the five game road trip continues with contest number four in Buffalo. The good news here is the Sabres themselves have now lost five consecutive games. Some might say Buffalo is due for a win on home ice. Preds fans might say that it’s time to kick ‘em while they are down and start lighting the lamp… early and often!
Will changes be made?
Should changes be made?
What changes can be made?
After Salomaki’s goal vs. the Ducks, and the complete domination of the Blue Jackets everywhere but on the score sheet, the Predators then activated veterans Eric Nystrom and Paul Gaustad from injured reserve. Corresponding moves sent forward Colton Sissons back to Milwaukee and put Salomaki in street clothes as the healthy scratched forward. It seemed like a tough call to make at the time, with the youngsters really providing some zip, grit and scoring on the bottom two lines.
Now, the top two lines are still on the outs and the bottom two have joined them, rendering all twelve forwards either unlucky, snake bitten, or just downright terrible.
With all these zeroes on the scoreboard there has come a tremendous amount of team frustration, which has led to some ill-timed penalties of both the minor and major variety. The team has been unable to stay disciplined and out of the sin bin, and consequently has played from behind and short-handed for much of the past three games.
Rinne, as stated earlier, has not had to shoulder a tremendous amount of blame because in many cases he’s prevented goals, making terrific saves that would have rung the score up even further. However, one might shake their head and wonder why the Finnish goaltender was used in all of the road games so far.
With Carter Hutton available to lighten some of Rinne’s workload, the idea that come playoff time in April he is fresh and not overworked seemed to be the prevalent thought at the start of the season. Hutton has only appeared in two of the team’s games this season.
With Friday’s game in Philadelphia completing the road trip the Preds return to Bridgestone Arena for a Saturday game vs. the Sabers. Perhaps Hutton will draw either the road Buffalo game or the first of the back-to-back Philly game?
How much worse can we expect it to get? Let’s just say that we need not worry about setting an NHL record just yet. In 1929, your friends the Chicago Blackhawks were shut out in EIGHT consecutive games! And, they got two points over that period of time, as there was no overtime in that era and two of the eight contests ended in 0-0 ties.
Not much else to say other than Happy Thanksgiving and let’s give thanks for the upcoming slew of goals the Predators should serve up as they climb out of their slump and back into our good graces.